Your dealership has won Automotive News' Best Dealerships To Work For award five times. What is your goal for employees and customers?
Culture is the most important thing to us. We want to be a workplace family.
We all work an enormous amount of hours. We work in retail with the public. And not a lot of people necessarily want to sign up for that. So I think the environment inside needs to be one that we all understand each other's pressures from the public or from manufacturers. We need to take care of each other.
We believe the company has to survive, the employee has to be happy, and we have to have customers. If employees take care of employees, and employees take care of the customer, and the company takes care of employees and the customer, it will be a great place to be.
We don't split deals in sales. It's all about the team. If someone came in yesterday and you spent a couple hours with them, and today is your day off and they came back, somebody else is going to sell that car for you. And then they expect that to be returned at another time. And I think we have been lucky enough to have some long-term employees in the back that have constantly tried to coach and make all of our new employees feel welcome.
What is your hiring philosophy?
We want to hire the best we can. I know we can't always hire better than the rest, but then we can train and develop folks to be better than the rest.
Our hiring process is very extensive. We do phone screening, testing, behavior testing, skills testing -- usually two to three interviews. As we've grown so much, I don't get to interview every single person, but 99 percent of them. We just want to make sure that the manager believes and I believe and the other staff believe that this person can come on board and be part of our culture first, and then secondly, be a performer for us.
When we hire someone, we're making them a promise. They promise us that they are going to come here and do great things, but I think we've got to remember our promise -- that we need to develop them, give them the tools and resources to succeed. If we invest upfront and give them that training and give them those tools, then they will be, longer term, a better employee, and I think my return on investment is significantly higher as opposed to putting someone in a sales position, showing them their desk, a couple videos and hoping they last.
When we hire a salesman, it is about three months on average before they ever touch the floor.
How is the store growing?
I'm a huge believer in you either grow or you die. And we're way too invested now to die. So growth is something we talk about in every meeting in the dealership, certainly manager meetings.
We are constantly hiring. We're trying to hire more [business development center] people here; we are trying to hire more sales staff here, more techs, more service advisers.
We've grown significantly every year, which is a blessing for us. We are not going to slow down. I am very blessed to have a lot of great employees right now. And so acquisitions certainly come to the forefront. If we could acquire some more dealerships to put these folks in and continue growth that way, it is certainly an option for us.
You want to place bright employees in new roles?
If we can keep developing those folks and keep the opportunities flowing, we'll definitely look at acquisitions.
Would you acquire local stores?
To wait for a store in your market could be a long wait. You try to keep your feelers out and let people know. But reality is, we need to look in the state and maybe even regionally.
Is it harder for a smaller company to acquire dealerships, vs. giants such as AutoNation?
A smaller group or certainly an individual dealer is at a little bit of a disadvantage, at least in the beginning. If you put yourself in the position of a seller, and this large group comes in, I think you think, "Large money, easy close." A single dealer comes in, and you need to make sure he has the money and the resources, and will there be a lot of headaches?
I don't think all of the large groups necessarily want every market in Iowa, or every market in the country for that matter. I think if sellers look at folks like me, that aren't a huge group yet, and give us a chance, [they will] realize we can close quick, we can come with the resources, and we might be a little bit easier to communicate with as opposed to a large organization.