D.J. Yark, the group's executive manager and head of Yark BMW, says treating employees like family has been a core principle of the group since his father, Jim, founded it in 1981 as a single-point Oldsmobile dealership.
"You're only as good as the people you have working with you," D.J. Yark says. "I've heard him say it as long as I can first remember."
It helps that six members of the Yark family are actively involved in the business. Jim Yark is retired. His brother John is president of the group and five of the brothers' children hold various sales, service and management roles.
The dealerships, which have about 350 employees and are on pace to sell more than 9,000 new and used vehicles this year, have extremely low turnover. Several years ago, officials from BMW visited Yark BMW to interview employees about how the store came to have such a high retention rate.
Managers have been with the company almost 20 years on average. The staff includes a number of husband-and-wife teams and employees who also have a parent working for the group.
"We've always had this philosophy where we try to get the best employees that we could possibly get and give them the tools that they need to be successful," John Yark says. "Having an environment that they're comfortable in and they feel good in ultimately translates into one where customers enjoy doing business. We start out working with our employees and keep them a long time and grow our business through that relationship."
As the walking path shows, helping employees to get and stay healthy is a priority. Yark partners with a local co-op farm to deliver fresh, organically grown fruits and vegetables directly to the dealerships. Employees who buy a share or half-share get a box filled with their portion of the harvest each week from June through October.
Employees are kept updated on happenings within the company through a weekly newsletter and frequently receive educational opportunities, such as CPR training, during work hours. This month, the company invited financial, legal and real-estate experts to offer a "legacy planning" seminar at which workers can get help creating a will and making other such arrangements.
When an employee underperforms, a manager creates what the company calls a "guarantee of action plan," committing to address any contributing factors that were out of the employee's control.
"We like to say we eliminate all the excuses," says Mike Williams, the group's general manager. "Other than landing a jet in front of the dealership to drop them off for work every day, we try to make sure they have all the resources they need."