Jordan Case sat by the phone for more than an hour last Nov. 3, willing it to ring. The wait was worth it: U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez called to tell Case his Lexus dealership had won a 2005 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.
Park Place Lexus, which has two locations in suburban Dallas, is the first auto dealership to win the Baldrige award. The prize, which is administered by the Commerce Department and named for a former Commerce secretary, recognizes superior performance by businesses and health care and educational institutions.
Case, 49, says the award one of six bestowed last year belongs to Park Places 420 employees. You cannot reach this level without the entire support of every member at our Grapevine and Plano dealerships, he told Automotive News.
Like other contestants, Park Place submitted a 50-page application. A board of eight examiners made site inspections of the 14 finalists.
They live with you for four days, and they grill you, Case says. They interview at random 50 percent of the staff, asking if they know how to deal with an unhappy client and if they like working here and if they know the mission statement of this company.
Case recalls an examiner asking him: You have leadership meetings. What do you do with the notes? Do you have the notes with you?
Park Place won a similar award the Texas Award for Performance Excellence in 2003. That experience, Case says, helped prepare the dealership for the Baldrige competition.
The three years Case spent as a quarterback in the early 1980s with the Ottawa Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League have helped him to compete and to motivate employees as Park Places president, he adds.
A complaint from a customer in 1992 prompted Case to improve his operation. That customer was Raymond Marlow, owner of Marlow Industries Inc., a Dallas manufacturer and a 1991 Baldrige winner.
We decided to be different, Case says.
Case regularly surveys employees to make sure they are happy with their jobs. He tests them to ensure their personalities fit their jobs. He believes in constant training.
Case also provides special recognition to top-performing employees.
He gave an employee and his wife the Las Vegas honeymoon they had always wanted. The dealership gave a roomful of nursery furniture to another employee whose wife was expecting their first child.
To improve his operations, Case benchmarks other successful businesses.
He sent his service directors to the Four Seasons Hotel and Resort in Dallas for a weekend to observe its customer service techniques.
To upgrade management of Park Places 195-vehicle service loaner fleet, he evaluated major rental car operations, such as Avis and Hertz.
At a White House ceremony this month, President Bush is expected to congratulate Case and the other Baldrige recipients.
But Case says Park Places quest for excellence wont end with the national award.
We have raised the bar, Case says.When you are a champion, you haveto show people why you are.