San Juan Capistrano , CA
Overall Rank for 2012: 69
Black Friday is a big event at most car dealerships. But Capistrano Volkswagen celebrates Purple Wednesdays.
All employees wear purple every Wednesday, and anyone who shows up at the dealership wearing purple gets a free car wash, even for a vehicle purchased elsewhere. The tradition began by accident soon after Miles Brandon bought the store in 1997, after several employees wore purple at the same time on a few occasions.
It's among the many things that help Capistrano Volkswagen live up to its slogan, "smileage guaranteed," which applies to staff as well as customers, Brandon says.
"We just try to keep it light and have a little fun," he says. "We spend so much of our awake hours at work that I want people to enjoy it. I don't understand people that hate their job. That means they hate most of their life."
Management measures employee satisfaction through a confidential survey each November. Based on last year's survey, Brandon posted a list of 30 suggested activities and agreed to do the three most popular. As a result, he treated employees and about 150 of their family members and friends to a San Diego Padres game, began offering monthly free lunches and promised a holiday party in December.
The dealership sweetens Volks-wagen's standard employee lease program by covering all upfront costs and further subsidizing the monthly payment. More than 125 Volkswagens are currently leased by the store's 90 employees and their families.
Capistrano Volkswagen had 20 employees and closed just 35 sales a month when Brandon arrived. The store sells about 200 vehicles a month today, ranking among the brand's 20 largest retailers, without running any TV or radio or newspaper ads.
"The only way we've been able to get the sales that we've got in the area that we've got is with our employees," Brandon says. "We have to provide a great experience and we can't do that if we don't treat our employees well. It all starts with building the best team possible and taking care of them."
-- Nick Bunkley