In  automotive retail, where every moment counts and every sale matters, it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of day-to-day operations. 

We all know that the dealership business is about selling cars, servicing vehicles, and maximizing profitability while maintaining top-notch customer satisfaction. 

But what if we told you that there’s something equally, if not more, crucial to your dealership’s success? 

Something that goes beyond the numbers, the transactions, and the long hours? We’re talking about your dealership’s culture – the heart and soul of your organization.

So, what’s the scoop on dealership culture? 

It’s more than mission statements and office decor. It’s the vibe that runs through your organization’s veins, the values that bind your team, and the very air your customers breathe when they walk through those doors.

In today’s world of customer retention and reviews, your culture plays a starring role. It’s not about what you sell; it’s about how your team delivers it.

Let’s take a moment to delve into what dealership culture really entails. It’s more than a set of values and norms; it’s the essence of your organization, the philosophy that holds it together. It’s the sum of the experiences your employees and customers have every day.

It’s the expectations, shared values, and the unique atmosphere that defines your dealership.

In an industry where customer retention is now the focus, it’s vital to understand that true customer loyalty isn’t solely based on the products you offer; it’s about the everyday interactions your customers have with your business. 

And who is responsible for creating those interactions? Your employees. They are the face of your dealership, the key to delivering the exceptional experiences your customers deserve.

In this blog, we’ll explore the tangible ways in which dealership culture can shape your financial outcomes, both directly and indirectly. Let’s read on!

Why Do You Need to Care About Your Dealership Culture?

You are very skilled at what you do, have a good deal of experience doing it, and are undoubtedly saddled with all manner of other daily responsibilities that make it difficult to find time for even a frequently interrupted lunch.

So why am I bothering you with something like company culture (an organization’s expectations, experiences, philosophy, and values that hold it together)? You have better things to worry about, right? 

What if I told you the answer to that question should be, emphatically, NO? What if I suggested that you stop everything you’re doing right now (even if you’re finally getting a small break to eat) to take a long, hard look at the culture of your organization? 

Would you think I was nuts? Out of touch? I would absolutely understand if you did—but hear me out.

I’ve worked in dealerships for 17 years as a sales person, finance manager, sales manager, BDC manager, and ultimately, as an executive-level director for a 26-store dealer group. In that time, I have learned (often the hard way) that culture is directly linked to dollars.

“Typically, companies with a strong culture tend to produce superior results as compared to those with weaker cultures. When a culture is strong, it leads to motivated employees and high performing managers,” states Peter Ashworth, CEO at BrightCoach, in his Linkedin Pulse article from November 10, 2015, Why Company Culture is So Important to Business Success

“Strong culture leads to ongoing involvement and participation by a company’s employees, and can predict current and future financial performance.”

Think of your dealership’s culture as a living, breathing organism that is always there, whether or not you are conscious of it, not just impacting, but dictating customer experience, efficiency, employee morale, and ultimately, profits and losses. Shouldn’t that be the very first area of the dealership we work on?

There are several areas of culture that are impacting your bottom line as we speak.

For now, let’s just take a look at the foundation of your dealership culture: your core values. In a future post, we’ll explore the impact of accountability, communication, and employee satisfaction on your company culture as well.

Why Are Core Values Important?

Core values are the compass guiding a company’s journey. They’re not just fancy words on a poster; they’re the lifeblood of an organization, shaping its philosophy, mission, and culture. 

Core values are not just for show; they’re a practical guide for decision-making, creating a roadmap for how your team should treat customers and each other.

The question is, are you walking the talk? Do your core values breathe life into your dealership, or are they just words on paper? 

If you’ve defined your core values, it’s not enough to let them hang on the wall like artwork. Your leadership team must embody these values in their daily interactions with both employees and customers.

For example, if “customer first” is a core value, your employees should feel empowered to put the customer at the forefront, no approval needed. And when they do, they should be celebrated for it. That’s how core values transform from mere concepts to the beating heart of your dealership’s culture.

Now, let’s talk about honesty. If your dealership claims to be the “honest” one in town, every member of your team, from the principal down to the service technician, must live and breathe that value every day. 

If you claim to be honest but a sales or service manager advises an employee to mislead a customer, it sends a dangerous message. It tells your employee that honesty isn’t as important as profit, and that’s a slippery slope.

If a manager can mislead customers, the employee might think it’s okay to do the same. It doesn’t stop there; if the manager is being dishonest, employees might reciprocate in kind. It’s a chain reaction that can erode trust and tarnish your dealership’s reputation.

Key Benefits of Having Clearly Defined Core Values in Car Dealerships

You see, even if you haven’t formally defined your core values, your dealership already has a values-driven culture. The question is, are these values the ones you want steering the ship? 

Without clearly expressed values, your culture can inadvertently become a mishmash of different beliefs held by individuals within your organization. 

In such a scenario, your dealership’s culture can be swayed by the strongest personalities, making consistent behavior a Herculean task to manage. Your employees and customers are quick to notice this inconsistency. It can tarnish your brand and leave both staff and customers dissatisfied. That’s where clearly defined core values come to the rescue.

When all members of an organization know and understand the company’s core values, they have a compass to guide them when making decisions, interacting with customers and co-workers, creating leadership priorities, and establishing career goals. 

When leaders demonstrate the values-based behavior you expect, you will find that employees will begin to emulate that behavior as well.

This new consistency will give you a powerful tool for attracting and evaluating potential candidates to join your staff and an even more powerful tool for deciding what behaviors you will tolerate from your current staff. 

What’s more, you will now have a brand statement that you can share with your current and prospective customers.

How to Define Your Core Values

Crafting core values for your dealership is a dynamic and ongoing process. It’s not about creating a static document but nurturing a living, breathing culture. 

How do you go about defining these essential values that will shape your dealership’s culture and pave the road to long-term success? We’re here to guide you through the process.

1.Identify Your Mission and Vision

Your mission and vision statements are the compass that points your dealership in the right direction. They lay the foundation for your core values. Ask yourself, what are the overarching goals of your dealership? What’s the grand vision you’re working towards? Your core values should align perfectly with these guiding stars.

2.Analyze Successful Behaviors

Take a closer look at what behaviors and actions have led to success in your dealership. What are the qualities of your top-performing employees? These successful behaviors often provide clues to the values that are already working for you.

3.Assess Personal Values

Reflect on your own personal values. What principles do you hold dear in your professional life? Your personal values often overlap with the values you’d like to see in your dealership.

You might identify numerous values that are important, but not all can be at the forefront. Prioritize the core values that will act as guiding principles for your dealership. Remember, it’s quality over quantity.

4.Survey Employees

Your employees are on the front lines, and they play a pivotal role in shaping your dealership’s culture. Conduct surveys or interviews to understand what values are important to them. Their insights are invaluable.

5.Consider Industry Standards

Benchmarking your values against industry standards is like finding a well-maintained road in your journey. What are the values that are commonly associated with successful dealerships in your sector? This benchmarking provides valuable insights into what has been tried and tested. 

It can also give you a sense of what customers and employees in the automotive industry commonly value. It’s a practical way to ensure that your values align with the expectations of your audience.

6.Write Clear Definitions

Imagine your core values as signposts along the road, guiding everyone in your dealership. It’s not enough to have them in place; they need to be crystal clear. Each core value should have a concise definition, specifically tailored to the context of your dealership. 

What does “integrity” mean in the world of your business? How does “customer-centric” translate into your daily operations? 

Clarity ensures that there’s no room for interpretation. Everyone should be on the same page, understanding exactly what each value entails.

7.Communicate and Train

Once you’ve defined your core values, the next step is effective communication. Share them with your team in a way that’s not just a memo but a call to action. Make sure your employees know these values inside out.

Training and continuous reinforcement are essential. Core values should become an integral part of your dealership’s culture. They should be integrated into every aspect of your operations, from the hiring process to daily interactions. When you’re recruiting new talent, assess how well candidates align with your core values. In daily operations, make sure employees understand how their actions can reflect these values.

By consistently reinforcing and integrating your core values, you’re nurturing a culture where they’re not just words but the driving force behind every decision and action.

Strategies for Enhancing Core Values

In the dynamic landscape of car dealerships, core values are your North Star, guiding every step of your journey to success. They’re more than just words on a wall; they’re the driving force behind every choice and decision you make. 

But how do you go about enhancing and nurturing these core values to make them a living part of your dealership’s DNA? Here’s 10 key strategies:

  • Reflect on Your Dealership’s Identity: Take a step back and think about what truly matters to your dealership. What principles define your business? Start by brainstorming values that resonate with your mission and vision.
  • Consult with Your Team: Your employees are invaluable resources. Invite them to share their thoughts on what values should guide your dealership. Their insights can provide a fresh perspective.
  • Strategic Synergy: Your core values should seamlessly align with your business objectives. If “integrity” is a core value, ensure it’s reflected in your goals, such as transparent pricing and honest customer interactions.
  • Regular Check-Ins: Business goals evolve over time. Make it a habit to revisit your core values, ensuring they stay in sync with your dealership’s mission and aspirations.
  • Team Empowerment: Involving your employees in the core values development process not only strengthens their sense of ownership but also ensures that the values resonate with those who’ll be living them every day.
  • Open Dialogue: Foster a culture of open communication. Encourage employees to provide continuous feedback and suggestions regarding your core values. This ongoing input can help fine-tune and reinforce these values.
  • Lead from the Front: Your leadership team must be living embodiments of your core values. When employees witness these values in action at the top, it sets the tone for the entire dealership.
  • Integration is Key: Core values should be integrated into daily operations. They should guide your decision-making processes, from handling customer interactions to employee relations.
  • Define KPIs: Establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to gauge the impact of your core values. For example, if “customer satisfaction” is a core value, measure it through customer surveys and feedback.
  • Feedback Loop: Develop mechanisms to collect input from employees and customers on how well your dealership is embodying its core values. Use this feedback to make continuous improvements.

Wrapping Up!

Core values are the driving force that unites your team and fosters a shared understanding of how to behave and what’s expected. When employees not only embrace but genuinely feel good about your dealership’s values and vision, it creates a sense of purpose that guides their every action. 

This alignment is a powerful tool for ensuring that everyone, from sales to service, knows how to take care of the customers.

In fact, a values-driven culture can be the most effective customer retention program you can have. 

When your employees are not just following a script but embodying the core values that put customers first, you’re creating a memorable and trustworthy customer experience. This, in turn, builds loyalty and keeps your customers coming back.

It’s time to take action and proactively assess and cultivate a culture that positively influences your dealership’s every aspect. Define your core values, align them with your business goals, and involve your team in the journey. Create a culture where your values are not just words but a way of life, from leadership to daily operations.

Author

Mark Begley

Mark Begley

About Mark Begley About Mark Begley

Author

Mark Begley

Mark Begley

About Mark Begley

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