Kalispell's population has doubled in recent years, to 22,000. The county has a population of 100,000, an interesting mix of non-native retirees, a diversified skilled/professional work force and young service employees attracted to the ski lodges and other outdoor recreation facilities.
Dowen says he sometimes has made the mistake of trying to replace an employee who has left by running an ad in the newspaper. It's not that ads attracted the wrong applicants, he says, they just didn't arouse any interest. The dealer's alternate plan includes keeping resumes of promising candidates on file, hiring trained temporary help and putting out the news that there is an opening.
Dowen has been in the business long enough to know that money is always important - to everyone from his reconditioners to top management. But having good, fresh product to sell at the best prices makes a huge difference in automotive retailing. And building a team of people who work well on behalf of the business is critical.
Turnover affects staff morale and customers notice, especially in a smaller town where people tend to know one another.
That's how it impacts the bottom line, he says.
Dowen cites the longevity of several staff: comptroller and general sales manager, 28 years; master technician, 28 years; parts manager, 15 years. But they haven't lost their enthusiasm for work.
"Sure, they love being at home," he says, "yet they are anxious to come in to continue building the business."