Mini of Stevens Creek, Santa Clara, Calif.
Automotive News -- October 18, 2012 - 12:01 am ET
Before a new store opened in January 2011, employees at AutoNation Inc.'s Mini dealership in Silicon Valley acted like they were working in Sleepy Hollow.
That was General Manager James Cheatham's assessment when he arrived the prior December at the Mini store, which was then paired with a BMW dealership. But after the move to a stand-alone location 15 minutes away, workers came alive.
Now called Mini of Stevens Creek, the business is selling many more vehicles, employees are making more money and everyone is having more fun, Cheatham said.
"They have gone through some real challenges: moving ... having to adapt to a much different way in which they were viewed and how we operate as opposed to when they were the umbilical stepchild to a big BMW store," Cheatham said. "Now they've spread their wings. It's a remarkable thing to watch how they've progressed, and the numbers bear it out. I'm real proud of them."
The store went from No. 18 in the country in new-Mini sales in 2010 to No. 7 in 2011. The 2012 target is the top five. Through September, Cheatham said, it was No. 2.
Employees are making more money: easily 30 percent more in sales and closer to 40 percent more for service advisers, he said.
And Cheatham has worked to encourage a fun atmosphere. The staff has frequent cookouts, and free lunch is brought in on Saturdays and Sundays. Four plastic pink flamingos dot the dealership's rose garden, and a service adviser decorates them with seasonal costumes.
Dogs are welcome, and Cheatham's own Boston terrier Starbuck comes in every Saturday. Customers and other employees bring their dogs in to stage a weekly doggy tug of war in the showroom. "We don't want it to be like we just drilled you with no Novocain while we were yanking your teeth out," Cheatham said. "It needs to be fun."
-- Amy Wilson