Printed in Automotive News March 21, 2011
Paul Weller has sold trucks at the same dealership for 33 years. Colleague Pat Marshall has worked there 34 years; Venson Rickert, for 32.
Sound unusual? It's not at Bayshore Ford Truck Sales in New Castle, Del.
Of Bayshore Ford Truck's 95 employees, 17 have worked there at least 20 years, and a third 10 years.
In a high-turnover industry where dealerships struggle to keep their best workers, dealer Jerry Turnauer has crafted a compensation and benefits package to help retain his 198 full-time employees.
With lower turnover, he says, his dealerships have fewer costly mistakes and stronger salesperson-customer ties, spend less to recruit and train employees, and have a reputation for stability.
"Everybody who has a touch point with the customer makes my name," says Turnauer, founder of Bayshore Ford Truck, Bayshore Ford in Pennsville, N.J., and Tampa Truck Center in Tampa, Fla. "So I tell my employees, 'Your job is to take care of the customer, and my job is to take care of you.' "
The National Automobile Dealers Association says similar-sized dealership groups typically lose a third to half their salespeople a year.
He doesn't track turnover, but Turnauer says most employees stay at least three years and often leave only to move or retire.
Turnauer had worked for Ford Motor for 12 years before founding Bayshore Ford Truck. At Ford, he had had medical insurance, retirement plans and paid vacation and figured such benefits would help attract and keep employees.
Turnauer's employees get seven paid holidays a year, plus five days of paid vacation after a year, 10 days after two years and 15 days after 10 years.
NADA says 86 percent of U.S. dealers offer one week of vacation; 12 percent offer two weeks, and less than 1 percent offer three weeks.
Turnauer was among the first dealers in his market to offer a 401(k) and a profit-sharing program. NADA says 92 percent of U.S. dealers offer a 401(k). But a quarter don't offer a dental plan, as Turnauer does.
Weller says many benefits were a first for area dealerships. But that's only part of why Weller, the store's fleet manager, stays. "The other thing has been career movement," Weller says. "I've had other jobs and opportunities that arose here over the years, and I took them and got to master them."
Employee Marshall has been offered other jobs, but she's not leaving. "I believe you should do right by people," she says. "And Mr. Turnauer has done right by me."