Dealership Family Values
General sales manager offers three tips for treating employees like family — without all the drama.
In our business, employees are like family. We enjoy victories and suffer defeats together. We celebrate new additions and grieve when loved ones are lost. We eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together, and we talk about our personal lives, our hopes, our dreams. Even when we’re not at work, social media and text messages ensure we are always connected.
Many dealers take tremendous pride in the fact that they have a high percentage of long-term employees. In those stores, the family dynamic is even more apparent. But as much as the dealership is like a second home, it is still a business. People get hired and then quit or get fired or laid off, sometimes without warning.
With all that in mind, let’s discuss some ways to stay close — but not too close — to our dealership families.
1. Watch the Level of Personal Talk.
We all have our kid issues, spouse issues and housing issues, and they are bound to reveal themselves at work. It’s only natural to want to lend a sympathetic ear and share advice. But as writer and radio personality Earl Nightingale once said, “You are what you think about.” The more focus you put on discussing personal problems, the less likely you are to have a successful, productive day.
This is not to say that you should cut people off mid-sentence. The next time an employee unloads on you, be sympathetic, find a positive note, and walk away. You want to be known as a good listener, but you’re not a therapist, and you cannot afford to spend your work hours trying to solve other people’s problems.
2. Build a Team, Not a Family.
Getting people together outside the store for fun and food is a great way to build comradery. Whether it’s an after-work drink, a baseball game or a company picnic, treat your staff to a good time, and remember: the more the merrier. The bigger the group, the fewer chances for deep, personal conversations. Whenever possible, ask everyone to bring their real families.
3. Make Social Media and Texting a Safe Zone.
Most of us have a large Facebook group, and most dealers encourage activity that generates “likes” for the company pages. But employees must be told, in no uncertain terms, that they must post responsibly to protect the dealership’s reputation, even when they’re off the clock.
We all know how much easier it is to send a text message than it is to make a phone call. If your employees want to text each other at all hours, there isn’t much you can do about it. But you don’t have to participate. The next time you get a drunk text or any other after-hours message, just ignore it.
A dealership family is not unlike any other family. There are ups and downs and even the occasional drama. It is OK to laugh, joke, cry and even vent. Just remember that our income is based solely on productivity and profitability. So enjoy those relationships but keep them professional and positive. Got a problem? Go sell something.
Jason Heard is the general manager at Lee's Summit (Mo.) Honda. He is a 20-year industry veteran with extensive sales and sales management experience.