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The Road to Success: Building a People-First Culture in the Automotive Industry

In the world of automotive sales, we often declare that we're in the "people business." Our friends over at ASOTU | More Than Cars even go as far as claiming to love people more than cars. But do we truly recognize this sentiment in our daily operations? If we did, we would understand that our teams aren't motivated solely by perks like Pizza Fridays, winning WWE-style belts, or hitting a gong when a sale is made. There's something deeper driving their dedication, and as leaders, it's our responsibility to uncover and nurture these motivations.

From the time I entered this industry, rewards and incentives have been dangled in front of us like carrots on a stick. Achieve a hattrick and earn a spiff, top the sales chart and choose your demo, or sell old stockers for a substantial flat bonus. These incentives, much like the free lunch on Saturdays, have always been part of the landscape. But the critical question is whether they truly motivate or if they've become tired, old gimmicks.

Let me be clear; any recognition or reward should be appreciated, as it's not a requirement. However, can we do better? Can we strive to understand our team members' true motivations and focus our efforts there? This kind of empathy can build an unbreakable company culture far more potent than a slice of pizza could ever create.

So, let's explore how to foster such a culture—one that's recognized for its commitment, both inside and outside the dealership. It's about demonstrating that we genuinely care.

When it comes to identifying the "whys" behind our team members' dedication, there are various reasons why people come to work. However, there's one common denominator: responsibility. Whether it's for family, shelter, education, debts, or even mental health, every person has a responsibility. Allow me to share a remarkable story about Donald, a gentleman in his late seventies who worked at Buc-ee's, Ltd. His motivation wasn't financial gain; it was having a sense of purpose. He looked forward to replacing his plastic name badge with a metal one, showcasing his commitment and pride.

This story leads us to another inspiring example from Eric Barbosa sa, who shared the story of Cavender Auto Group giving away a Honda to a person in need—no strings attached. Acts of generosity like this, coupled with their Military program, foster a sense of community and pride within the group. It highlights their genuine care for the community and those who serve it, far more than any WWE-style belt ever could.

So, how can we uncover these "whys" within our dealerships and, more importantly, how can we recognize and reward them? It starts with getting to know our teams better, understanding their dreams, who they care for, and what truly drives them. We must allocate resources to facilitate and promote this recognition. For instance, a dealership selling 100 cars a month could invest $50 per vehicle, accumulating a trust fund of $60,000 by year-end—a substantial resource for meaningful initiatives.

However, recognizing "whys" is only part of the equation. We also need to set our teams up for success. Yes, we operate in a performance-based industry, but there are alternative ways to reward effort that can attract and retain team members.

Over the past year, in numerous meetings, the consensus has been clear: change is needed. The way we conduct ourselves in the business must evolve. While OEMs are trying to implement change, dealerships are uniquely positioned to lead this transformation. We are on the front lines, witnessing daily challenges and opportunities for improvement.

Consider the frequent posts about large group hires. These posts indicate a growing issue: turnover. If we genuinely care, let's demonstrate it by setting our team members up for success. My friend John Latka has a program that accomplishes just that. It teaches fundamentals and rewards effort. It guides new salespeople through processes while emphasizing the importance of effort—whether it's meeting someone, putting them in the system, test driving, or converting an appointment. This approach not only establishes good habits but also collects valuable data for the dealership, leading to more converted deals.

Let's take this concept further with career coaching. Imagine developing a transparent system that shows individuals exactly what they can earn and how to achieve more. We help them set goals from day one, monitor their progress, and provide guidance as needed. This approach truly aligns with our claim of being in the people business.

To sustain growth and draw the next generation of talented individuals into our industry, we must think beyond traditional boundaries. Innovative ideas like these can set us apart and demonstrate our commitment to being a people-first business. It's time to embrace change and create an industry known not only for selling cars but for valuing and uplifting the people within it.

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