Keith started his career driving a Volkswagen Thing from Tennessee to Texas to interview for a job in the car business. Securing a job at a prominent Cadillac dealership, he became one of the youngest salespeople they had ever hired. It wasn’t easy at first though. While working long hours struggling to get his career started, there were times that he would run out of money and have to sleep in his car. It took hard work and desire to succeed, but he was able to progress and become one of the top salespeople at that dealership.
Over the eighteen years he worked in the automobile dealership environment, he’s had the chance to work in nearly every role: Salesperson, Sales Manager, Finance Manager, General Sales Manager, Service Advisor, and General Manager. As a General Manager, he improved the business along with employee satisfaction. This continues today in his belief that happy employees drive the business.
Thinking Outside the Box
“One of the actions we took on a regular basis is ensuring the community knew they could use our facility to do charity car washes.” says Keith, about when he was the General Manager of a car dealership. “I supplied the water, they supplied the volunteers, soap, and sponges. We had great success with creating good will in the community and more traffic coming into the store.”
Making a positive impact in his community through community events were something he always worked hard on in their dealership. “One event we targeted teachers and had a ‘Teacher’s Night’ at our dealership. We gave away prizes, and provided them a view of an actual 24 point inspection done by our technicians and made sure they had plenty to eat. The impact was huge, as I later was able to be ‘their dealership’ and display some cars at their events on campus.” Keith firmly believes that teachers do a wonderful job, and get very little appreciation for their efforts, so it was important to him that they got recognition for their efforts. “We built the relationship with them by providing select pricing in service, parts, and sales.”
The basis for good service is to make the employees feel welcomed and supported, Keith stresses. “One area I continue to see not being focused on by management is employee morale. You have to work hard every day as a General Manager to show you care, and to show you have the employee’s best interests in mind. Having employees happy and wanting to come to work, along with feeling of being in on things is the best way to insure the client’s experience was exceptional.”
“These photos are of an employee get together I had often throughout the year. We had the employees’ children be at the event to have fun with us.”
Thinking outside the box is not just a term thrown around by some speaker at large event, but is truly a way to find new solutions to problems you have had for days, weeks, or months. Keith wasn’t afraid to get creative in this pursuit: “In order to bring more people in the dealership, I bought a horse from my receptionist, and had a raffle for someone to win the horse. The requirement was they would have to come through the entire store and sign up for the horse in the back area of our service department where one of our employees would sign them up along with escorting the person around our dealership. We had a huge amount of people who signed up, and this ensured me of more people knowing about us, and what we had to offer. People came from miles around to see the horse (we had a temporary set-up for it to be at the dealership) and spend time with us. These were mostly clients who had not bought our product but now knew us!”
Ensuring the employees were involved, and would endorse the dealership after hours, was very important to Keith when he operated the dealership. The dealership had an employee council that assisted in constant improvement at the dealership. Along with that, Keith was a big believer in having employee functions on a regular basis where they could bring their family members to participate.
“We all know employees drive the dealership, and if they are happy and involved in the dealership, the dealership will have a greater chance of success.”