We’ve all heard the sayings or read the articles about how company culture starts at the top. Companies like Apple, Zappos, and Amazon have been the subject of case studies that demonstrate how leadership at the upper echelon can translate into happier and more productive employees at every level of the company.

It applies very nicely for dealerships as well. The way that an owner, dealer principle, or general manager handles their day and operates their business can have a dramatic effect on how the store as a whole operates. I’ve worked at dealerships that get it and dealerships that don’t. The success level can show a direct correlation between the two ends of the spectrum.

Here are some things that I’ve found to work to improve the culture at the dealership:

  • Employees first. There’s always the argument that the customers come first, and that’s truly the case when it comes to the people at the dealership working with them on a daily basis, but the top leadership can more easily promote that type of mentality amongst the employees when they personally adopt an employee-first attitude. Defend your team. Empower them. Make them know that you care about their well-being.
  • Get involved. There are a lot of owners, DPs, and GMs in our industry that aren’t actively involved with their staff. They aren’t aware of what their team does in their off time. They don’t know that Bob’s wife is pregnant or that Sally is running in a marathon. They don’t realize that their parts manager is tending bar at night to make some extra income. This is a mistake. Take a proactive view of your team by asking them what’s going on in their lives.
  • Notice the little things. It’s easy to give kudos to the salesperson of the month, but what about the salesperson who worked with a difficult customer for 5 hours, only to have them walk out over price? Those things that happen at the dealership, the ones that don’t appear on reports – those are the things that the leaders at the dealership must notice and help with in order to keep their team fully engaged.
  • Compliment publicly, scold privately. This should always be the case, but all too often we hear about insults being flung by leaders at the dealership during public meetings, while kudos are given out in one-on-one settings. It should be the other way around.
  • Learn from other industries. We’re car people. Many of us have had very few jobs outside of the automotive industry. There are great things happening in other industries that you won’t hear about at 20-group meetings. Learn about them. Read about them. Take them into account and mold them into things that you can apply at your dealership.

Improving the culture at your dealership is one of the easiest ways to move the needle on profits. An unhappy team won’t produce as much as a happy one.