Texas dealership steers clear of long workweeks

Every quarter, Park Place Lexus Grapevine puts on an employee luncheon at which the staff eats, plays games and discusses company issues.

Upon retiring from the Army after tours in Iraq and Germany, Greg Milner was looking for a job that would allow him to spend more time with his family.

And he found one at Park Place Lexus Grapevine in suburban Fort Worth, Texas, where he started as a salesman in 2007.

Park Place Grapevine is closed on Sundays, and all 199 staff members get a second day off each week, even if they're scheduled to work on Saturday. The dealership also schedules employees to work no more than eight-hour days.

"Where I came from," says Milner, "it was a little tough at times to have free time to spend with the family. But here, not only have you come to expect it, but you can count on it."

The commitment to a regular work schedule extends to employees who work on commission. Management also is committed not to pressure salespeople to work extra hours unless they want to.

"We're not one of those dealerships who is going to say, 'Hey, it's the last week of the month, don't take your day off,'" says Park Place Lexus Grapevine General Manager Gary Venner.

"It's just not even talked about -- working your day off," Venner added. "They're welcome to, but it's actually encouraged to take it off. They need to go home and be with their family and recharge. If they can't get it done in five days, then six probably isn't going to get it done either."

That attitude certainly is not the industry norm, as shown by the latest NADA Workforce Study. Among dealerships that participated in the study, conducted by NADA University for the National Automobile Dealers Association, sales consultants are scheduled to work an average of 46 hours a week. One third of the dealerships surveyed require 50 hours or more each week, and 60 percent of the dealerships surveyed require sales consultants to work four weekends per month.

Though Milner, who is now a Lexus technology specialist, appreciates the time with family members, he jokes that maybe they aren't as pleased that he's around more.

"My son just joined the Army so maybe I was spending a little too much time with him," he says.

There are instances when employees are needed for extra shifts. But when that happens, the dealership lets the employees and team leaders figure out the best way to arrange the additional shifts, says Scott Dearing, the master lead technician. The store pays them for the extra time they work.

"They've allowed us to figure it out on our own," Dearing says. "We know we need to get from point A to point B."

Dearing says younger technicians tend to volunteer to work on Saturdays or take extra shifts, thereby getting the extra pay, adding that "the group leaders know who those guys are, and we'll ask those guys to come in."

Saturday is the dealership's busiest day of the week, and all employees working that day get a free lunch.

The dealership, which sold or leased 2,279 new vehicles in 2012, also recognizes team members of the month and has an annual award banquet with music, food and games.

Each department picks 11 winners. Each winner gets a personalized prize valued near $1,000. The dealership keeps a file on what each employee would want to receive, so it's able to pick a prize that best suits the employee.

Park Place Lexus Grapevine also participates in Lexus' Master Lease Program, which gives qualified dealership employees $200 per month toward the lease of a Lexus vehicle. The dealership doubles the factory contribution, so any employee who has been with the dealership for longer than three years and meets Lexus' requirement can get at least $400 off their lease.

You can reach Joseph Lichterman at jlichterman@crain.com

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