It's no secret that dealerships can be stressful work environments, but many work hard to find ways to release that stress. A little friendly competition, one that isn't directly work-related, sometimes can be just what the doctor ordered. Here are examples of how a few of the Best Dealerships To Work For tap those competitive juices to build camaraderie and reduce stress.
Let the games begin: Employees blow off steam in friendly competitions
At DCH Montclair Acura of Verona, N.J., employees from across the store compete for foosball dominance on a table in the basement, away from ringing phones and customers. Once a month, or maybe twice in slow seasons, "Managers will put out a little contest; we'll keep a grid and a chart and basically have fun with it," says Ruben Arcila, general sales manager at the dealership.
"The truth of the matter is, we wanted to do something that lets everybody take off their work hat and just kind of be themselves," Arcila adds. The only prize is bragging rights, but Arcila points out that employees are very competitive, with sales often facing off against service, both teams equally matched.
The competitions happen during work hours, but as the goal is relieving stress, sometimes after dealing with a difficult customer, other staffers help make time available for competitors. Games are relatively short, and the table is always there if a staff member needs to blow off steam.
"We try to buy them some time and give them some space so that they know that, yes, even though they're still working, even if [they] have a delivery, everybody will help them out if it's their turn to go downstairs and have some fun," says Arcila.
Once a month, service technicians at West Herr Mercedes-Benz of Rochester (N.Y.) race souped-up lawn mowers before crowds of their co-workers and their families.
Jonathon Suhr, diagnostic technician and team leader in the dealership's service department, organizes the races and introduced the idea to his fellow techs after trying his hand at mower racing during a local charity event.
"Being mechanics," Suhr says, "we thought it was kind of a neat idea, so we started picking up lawn mowers and racing them." The modification of the lawn mowers is a technical challenge that's sometimes more interesting than regular car repairs, and the racers are highly competitive.
Five techs in the service department, and one at a sister store, race their lawn mowers -- the mowers belong to the techs -- at three makeshift tracks at their homes, with spectators invited. The races sometimes draw more than 100 people, mostly from the dealership's extended family.
There are no prizes besides glory, and the mower races are purely extracurricular and always held on weekends. Most prefer racing on Saturdays, but Suhr, who administers the schedule, adds that Sundays are sometimes required because of work conflicts. "I try to make it so everybody can participate."
Not every service employee is into this type of racing, so the entire department competes on a more conventional track twice a month, when they burn off steam at a go-karting facility a couple of miles from the dealership.
"A lot of people don't like to rematch us," says Chuck Coia, general manager of Valencia BMW of Valencia, Calif. He's referring to the AutoNation dealership's softball team, the Bad News Beamers. The team was undefeated in 2016.
The dealership draws most of its opponents from the five other AutoNation stores in the vicinity, but it also sometimes plays non-AutoNation stores from the area. Not all stores participate, but three or four are frequent competitors.
Though the structure is loose, the games aren't entirely ad-hoc. Coia, who moved to Valencia BMW from frequent opponent AutoNation Chevrolet Valencia in 2015, was well aware of the team when he was at the Chevrolet store. "If there was a game coming up in two or three weeks, we'd form a team and try to get a couple of practices in."
Not every dealership's team is as organized as Valencia BMW's, which has a couple of strong advocates -- General Sales Manager Mike Murray and sales consultant Buck Geyer -- anchoring the team. Nor can everybody make it to each game, but the Beamers are eager to play, and there are 18 employees who regularly participate, which makes for a big bench should a few not be available.
There isn't an official league or ranking, and games take place off-hours, usually in the evening at a park that's convenient for both teams. "It's a good friendly rivalry between our stores out here," says Coia. "It's bragging rights, it's stress relief, it's fun."
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.