Bill Gatton Honda, Bristol, Tenn.
Automotive News -- October 18, 2012 - 12:01 am ET
Trace Bratton: "We realize that people have personal lives, and a happy home life is important to our people."
Great employees like family and promote from within. Those are the management mantras at Bill Gatton Honda, a 40-year-old Honda store in Tennessee's northeastern corner. Bill Gatton, who also sells Chevrolet, Cadillac, Mazda and Acura in the area, avoids micromanaging the stores, and his store-level managers take the same approach.
The dealership is flexible with employees who need to take time off for family and school events or for personal issues. When one employee was laid up for six weeks after breaking her foot off-duty, the store patiently waited for her return rather than filling her job. To avoid causing family strains, there are no after-hours staff meetings. Meetings are held over breakfast when necessary. General Manager Trace Bratton walks around the dealership daily to hear what's on employees' minds and to help problem-solve as needed.
"We realize that people have personal lives, and a happy home life is important to our people," says Bratton, who worked his way up the ladder with Gatton after starting as a salesman 29 years ago. "It's good for our business."
At the same time, to keep the store hopping, Gatton offers sales and service personnel year-end productivity bonuses of up to $2,000. Management keeps staffers focused with personal time-management training. One of the dealership's salespeople is a time-management instructor who conducts ongoing workshops.
The atmosphere helps keep morale high and turnover low. In the past year, the 52-employee dealership saw less than 10 percent voluntary turnover and no involuntary turnover. The resulting stability has helped Gatton win the annual Honda President's Award nine times, a recognition for customer service and profitability that only 16 Honda dealerships out of more than 1,000 have exceeded.
-- Lindsay Chappell