Store's success grows from Yark's culture

'Do the right thing' satisfies employees and customers alike

Guests dressed up for last year's Yark Automotive Group holiday party, where the theme was the Roaring '20s. Photo credit: GIRL IN THE GLASS CITY

Yark Automotive Group has a simple philosophy that extends to its seven stores, including Yark Alfa Romeo-Fiat: hire the best people you can, treat them well and give them the tools they need to succeed. That's why Yark Automotive, of Toledo, Ohio, is adamant about giving back to its employees.

The dealership group's weekly newsletter is often a gateway to tickets for a variety of community events for employees to attend.

Yark Automotive sponsors the local zoo and the Toledo Mud Hens minor league baseball team, for example, so it always has tickets available for staffers, said John Yark, the dealership group's president.

Employees enjoy the perks, but Yark said it also sends the right message to the community when staffers are attending events around town.

In a photo posted on Facebook, members of Yark Alfa Romeo-Fiat's team and an Alfa Romeo 4C invited customers to the Toledo, Ohio, dealership.

Yark Automotive also donates tickets to the public. The group, as a sponsor of the University of Toledo football team, is giving away 500 tickets to each game this season to help fill the stands.

John Yark and his brother, Jim, now deceased, started the group with an Oldsmobile store in 1981.

Yark Alfa Romeo-Fiat, which opened in 2011, was one of the first Fiat stores in the country. It's ranked No. 1 among small dealerships on this year's list of the Best Dealerships To Work For. The small-dealership category includes those with 25-49 employees. Dealerships with fewer than 25 employees are ineligible for the list because the employee-survey sample size would be too small to be statistically reliable.

Yark: "Hire the best people."

Things such as the ticket giveaways let employees know "that you care about them, that you want to make their life better. The basic fundamentals of a job are the ability to make an income, but beyond that, all of the other different things are of value to employees," Yark said.

He added: "When they see you're giving them things you don't have to give them, that you value their feedback in terms of how to make an organization better and how to make everyone's job better -- when they see you're doing those type of things, they get more invested in your company. A lot of good comes out of that."

The Yark Automotive culture is so welcoming that some retirees don't mind coming back for another run.

Doster: Building relationships

Dave Doster, Yark Alfa Romeo-Fiat's sales manager, began his career with the group in 1988 working at its Oldsmobile store.

He moved to Yark's Jeep store in 1989, where he remained until 2013. In 2014, Doster cut back on his hours. He started doing dealer trades and working directly with manufacturers before retiring that year. But he returned to the Yark family in May to work for the Alfa Romeo-Fiat store.

Looking back, he said he feels he made the right decision. Doster said he knew Yark Automotive wouldn't hang him out to dry by not providing the resources needed to perform.

Doster said he enjoys how the group will procure donations for staffers with ailing family members. Plus, Doster said, the company's Christmas parties and luncheons are nice touches.

"I think it's an overall culture of the organization," Doster said, going back to Jim Yark. "He always said do the right thing with people. Whenever I have brought somebody on, I talked about that.

"I talked about always doing the right thing so that there's no question about anything. It will build relationships and trust from customers."

The Yark Alfa Romeo-Fiat store shares in the philanthropic attitude of its parent group. For instance, it has sponsored the Toledo Pride event for five years.

The store had a "rainbow of Fiats" on display this year and had giveaways for attendees.

"The basic foundation of our company," Yark said, "has been to go out and hire the best people you can possibly hire and give them what they need to be successful and create an environment that they're happy in. We're trying to do things to give our employees security [and] job satisfaction [so they'll] feel good about the company they work for."

He added: "No matter the individual [or] what his needs are, he should have something that makes him feel good about being a part of the Yark Automotive Group organization."

You can reach Vince Bond Jr. at vbond@crain.com -- Follow Vince on Twitter: @VinceBond86

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