This is the age of the dealer group. Size brings economies of scale and all the advantages that go with it. So, it follows that the single point dealership should be on its way out in Canada. But it’s not. And it’s not just hanging on. It’s thriving.
Why? One reason – perhaps the reason – is the relationship between staff and dealer. Product quality may vary. This year’s models may not be as sexy as the ones in store across the street. The economy may be off. But staff and dealer working together as a team can surf the ups and downs to keep and capture customers – new and old. And the store will not only survive, it will thrive.
One sterling example is Dale Wurfel Chrysler Dodge Jeep, one of the winners of this year’s Canadian AutoWorld Dealership Employer of Choice award.
The Chrysler store opened its doors in 2009 in the southwestern town of Strathroy, Ont. It could not have been a more challenging time and situation. The economy was in recession and the new store stood on what had been Dale Wurfel Pontiac Buick GMC for seven years.
Now, the dealer and his staffers had to roll up their sleeves and convert General Motors’ customers into Chrysler customers.
They did just that. Dealer Wurfel told the Globe and Mail that he and staff ed 5,000 customers to spread the word that they should now make the switch to Chrysler.
Not an easy job since, like GM, Chrysler had also needed a bailout to survive.
Wurfel looks back at those challenging times and gives a lot of credits to FCA. He also extends a lot of the kudos to his staff.
“We were able to rebound because of our previous success and branding and strong staff we already had in place,” Wurfel told Canadian AutoWorld.
A Family Affair
Dale and Cindy Wurfel, spouse/vice-president, opened the GM store in 2002. The second generation are now being ushered into the ranks of management.
Their son Jordan Wurfel, a NADA Dealer Academy graduate, is store GM. A second son named Josh, a current NADA Dealer Academy student, manages the used department, while son-in-law Ricardo Di Nucci, another NADA Dealer Academy student, is chief financial officer.
Daughter Olivia Wurfel is the store’s sales/service concierge and social media director.
Strathroy is a town of 20,000 people located 35km west of London, Ont. The lion’s share of local employment comes from farming and manufacturing. This town is also a bedroom community for many residents working in nearby London.
Wurfel says that staff turnover is low. One of the reasons is that working hours are flexible. There’s always time off available for a child’s school activity or a trip to the dentist.
Some staffers work rotating shifts – morning, afternoon, evening.
“We create the schedules a month in advance to allow employees to plan their lives, and if something doesn’t fit the employees schedule, we are more than willing to accommodate most requests for a shift change or day off,” Wurfel said.
Staffers also gets to see their efforts valued in the Dale Wurfel Deferred Profit Share Plan. The DWDPSP grows yearly. Each staffer’s interest is based on their training level, performance and years of service. Maturing yearly, the employee chooses to how to make it grow for their future returns.
Goals and objectives are tracked regularly via the dealership’s Financials and Social Media Board; tracking boards on view in each department and boardroom display daily, weekly, monthly and annual targets which help to motivate.
But devices like these and email may be useful; however, Wurfel insists that nothing beats face-to-face communication at weekly meetings and performance reviews, which are used to highlight star performers and provide a boost for those who have room to improve.
“Face-to-face communication at weekly meetings also allows for a personal experience that email cannot provide. For example, employees can distinguish tone, facial expressions, etc. The speaker may also, in turn, correctly gauge whether their audience is receiving the message as intended and whether it is being heard,” he explained.
Managers communicate goals to the employees regularly, such as Internet leads, response times and the effectiveness of their closing rates. Managers also provide mentorship to employees so their personal targets, as well as dealership targets, are met consistently.
The dealership also holds several employee incentive and appreciation events. One of them is the employee lunch on the first Monday of each month. At the luncheons, management celebrates accomplishments.
The monthly lunches are paid for by the company; however, three employees from different departments are selected each month to organize and prepare the lunch.
The morning of the luncheon, those three employees are given the morning off, with pay, so that they may prepare the lunch and promote teamwork within the dealership.
Wurfel said he is no stranger to staff. Every department can expect a daily visit from the dealer, who is happy to discuss business, personal and current events.
“Our executive leadership relates to the employees. They do not act like they are above anyone else. They relate with the employees by showing their own vulnerabilities and imperfections, and helping them overcome their challenges,” he added.
Wurfel said management always tries to be real and transparent with staff.
“When an employee asks a question, leadership provides them with genuine feedback. Our state-of-the-art dealership is designed for transparency with glass-walled offices and our open-door policy.”