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Five Tips for Better Employee Management

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Del Grande Dealer Group has been recognized at the top workplace in the San Francisco Bay Area for six straight years by Bay Area News Group’s Top Workplaces—in a category that includes all your favorite tech companies run by hoodie-wearing, millennial CEOs.

With 13 locations and more than 1,000 team members, those dealerships (each with a service drive and parts department) pushed 31,000 vehicles through the front end and grossed a total of roughly $40 million in total service labor and parts in 2016.

All of that growth has been strategic and due to creating a team culture that emphasizes the group's core values. Two members of its leadership team broke down the biggest keys to creating to an efficient team.

1) Recognize and Appreciate Good Work

Del Grande Dealer Group (DGDG) has a number of ways that it recognizes its team—starting with the “Happy Place” email videos that highlight individuals and what makes them stand out as people, not just workers.

But as training director Laurie Johnson explains, it goes far beyond that simple monthly video series.

“It carries through in everything we do,” she says. “It’s the daily interaction and credit and appreciation shown just through pointing out positives as you meet with people.”

DGDG also holds a holiday party, regular summer events and works with its team to formalize charitable projects that are initiated by team members.

“We want everyone to realize that we’re about far more than selling or repairing vehicles,” she says. “We want that understood throughout the company.”

2) A Gross Misunderstanding

Don’t lean too heavily on gross sales as an indicator of a service department’s performance, DGDG fixed ops director Tully Williams says. It can be misleading.

There are two main reasons for this: discounts and sales.

“Both can have a very heavy impact on gross sales,” he says, “making gross a poor indicator of how well your team is finding and selling work.”

Instead, focus on hours sold, which will not be affected by shifting prices and deals. (Williams also suggests keeping discounts and sales to between 5 and 10 percent of a ticket to avoid large discrepancies.)

3) What Makes a Good Service Advisor?

There’s a simple answer to this question, says Williams.

“Our goal is that they all care about their customers,” he says. “If they care about their customers, everything else falls in line.”

Then, it comes down to organization skills. A good writer must be an organized person.

“Being organized is the only way to give the customer proper attention,” he says. “If they have those two traits and they follow our processes, there’s an incredibly high chance of success.”

4) An Ignored Team Growth Opportunity

Johnson has nearly 26 years of experience in the automotive industry, and as the training director at DGDG, she realizes full and well that she is a minority in her leadership role.

“I think nationally, only 5 percent are women,” she says. “Until I worked in this industry, I didn’t realize what a lucrative career opportunity it was for women. And I feel a lot of women don’t understand that.”

Recruiting female employees is an enormous growth opportunity, Williams says.

“There’s no reason we shouldn’t have 50 percent of our service writers be women,” he says. “And in my experience, my female service writers are much more effective in their roles. It’s a huge recruitment opportunity.”

5) Service Writer-to-Technician Ratio

Williams has a strict 3-to-1 ratio in his service drives, and that’s based on an hours calculation.

“If you have three techs, and want them to produce nine billed hours per day, that would be 27 hours for a service writer to write up in a given day,” he says. “That seems to be a sweet spot for us with effective writers. I’ve heard some shops that do 5-to-1, but that’s just too many hours if you’re techs are productive. Then you start missing things or not giving enough attention to each job.”

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