Team Building Culture Leadership How to Lead

The Leadership Award: Larry H. Miller Group

Order Reprints

There’s a quote from entrepreneur and author Jim Rohn that stands out to Ray Gunn, general manager of Larry H. Miller Mercedes-Benz of Draper, Utah:

“The greatest gift you can give somebody is your own personal development. I used to say, ‘If you will take care of me, I will take care of you.’ Now, I say, ‘I will take care of me for you, if you will take care of you for me.’”

The way that the Larry H. Miller group runs its organization, it wouldn’t be surprising if that quote served as a mantra for each and every staff member.

“To give my perspective, I follow the leadership that Ray has put forth for us and try to lead in the same way,” service manager Mike Choate says.

Gunn oversees both Choate and parts manager Will Kidman and has seen both rise in the ranks—a common practice at Mercedes-Benz of Draper and with the Larry H. Miller Group, as a whole. In fact, Gunn estimates that 95 percent of the time, promotions happen from within.

With more than 10,000 employees, it can be difficult to keep the best interests of each employee front of mind—but not at Larry H. Miller.

“We can create a [career] path for anyone that wants to be lead,” Gunn says.

Creating a culture that promotes personal and professional development is of the utmost importance to the dealership group, circling back to Rohn’s quote. To do that, leaders need to be identified and given the opportunity to grow. This is exactly what Larry H. Miller has done and why it’s the winner of FIXED’s Leadership award. One of the locations, Mercedes-Benz of Draper, goes in-depth into its leadership culture.

Plant the Seed.

Leadership trickles from the top down. It’s all about leading by example.

“Right off the bat [when you’re hired], you’re set up for success on how to operate,” Kidman says.

 At Mercedes-Benz of Draper, there are guidelines for how everything should be done and expectations that are set right away. The staff of the dealership depends on one another for success.

“Here, no person looks at themselves when they’re in a management position and thinks they’ve made it. The dealership makes it,” Gunn says.

 In order to get there, it’s about creating inside motivation.

“If you can do this, you have an environment where everyone is trying to do the same thing,” Gunn says.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m in my department or someone else’s—we have the same message and we treat our employees the same way,” Choate says. “That better enables us to build a culture that’s positive and fosters an environment where people love to work.”  

 

Rising Star

Taylor Bice, service advisor at Larry H. Miller Mercedes-Benz of Draper, has always had a passion for Mercedes, and the moment he stepped onto the floor of the dealership (making deliveries with FedEx) he knew he wanted to work there.

 During each delivery, Bice would make small talk with Will Kidman, the parts manager. Bice jumped at the opportunity to work at the dealership when a position in the service department opened up.

Bice has made an impression on the leadership team at Larry H. Miller and is a great candidate for a future business academy class.

 

Why did you have such a desire to work at Larry H. Miller Mercedes-Benz of Draper?

I loved the idea of working with a higher-end clientele and having that personal interaction. Just the fact that their called “clients” rather than “customers” here is huge. It’s a lot more gratifying. Speaking with Will [Kidman, parts manager at LHM Mercedes-Benz of Draper], he’s a good guy and really loved the product that he worked on and it shows in his day-to-day interactions.

What kind of career path was laid out for you when you came to work at LHM?

I can go as far as I want to go. I started off as a service advisor and in the future, I can become a service manager.

You work for service manager Mike Choate. What’s he like as a boss?

Mike doesn’t micromanage. He says, “This is your job, this is how you don’t it, don’t be afraid to ask questions, but then he lets me do it.” He does not intervene and trusts me to do the work.

How have offerings like the business academy made Larry H. Miller a desirable organization to work for?

It’s important to feel that the company you work for cares for you. I also have respect for everything the company does. In training, they talk about everything that’s done in the community and it’s really humbling. It gives you appreciation for the people that you work with. I love my job.


 

 

Shine Light on Growing Talent.

Choate worked his way up from an 18-year-old lot porter to the service manager. Doing that required someone to believe in him. That person was Ray Gunn.

“Ray’s ability to take the mission statement of the company, which is to ‘enrich lives,’ and do that by providing personal development training, has been key to my success,” Choate says. “It really promotes a culture where people feel like there’s opportunity.”

Gunn has seen both Choate and Kidman graduate from the Miller Business Academy, which he also attended. The Business Academy is held annually and is broken up into different training programs—GM Institute for sales manager and general manager training, EFMBA-Executive Fixed Operations Business Academy for service and parts manager training and Controller Academy for office manager training. Employees are nominated to attend the academy, which takes place two days per month, during business hours, for an entire year. During the course, attendees are given the tools they need to train their replacement so they can rise further in the ranks.

Each year, management asks each department to nominate an employee from each department to go through the Business Academy. Then, the manager (Gunn, in this case) reviews the nominations and forwards the selection on to upper management at Larry H Miller. Each person is nominated for different reasons but they all have one thing in common: a desire to better themselves. It’s exactly for that reason that Gunn selected both Kidman and Choate for the program.

“They both have a desire to become better. They’re team players. They have knowledge within the department,” Gunn says.

For Kidman and Choate, who went through the program and now select the person who could eventually replace them, the selection process is pretty similar.

“For me, personally, I like it when someone wants to learn and shows initiative,” Kidman says. “For our manufacturer, specifically, there’s a lot to learn and I like someone that respects the learning process.”

When someone moves up in the company, it’s something that’s celebrated.

“When someone is promoted, nobody is saying, ‘That should have been me,’ because they know that person deserves it,” Gunn says. “It’s an environment that has developed over time.”

Watch it Blossom.

By setting clear expectations from the start and creating a culture that allows for growth, LHM has created a culture of leaders.

Not only does it promote leaders from within, it also teaches autonomy to people just starting out.

“We operate daily using guidelines set forth by our dealer group,” Choate says. “Our No. 1 job duty is to protect the legal, financial and morale well-being of the company.”

For every decision that is made, employees with the Larry H. Miller Group know to keep that in the back of their minds.

“We do everything we can to make a decision on the spot,” Gunn says. “It brings empowerment and teamwork.”

For every decision that is made, Gunn says employees should ask themselves these three questions:

Did it benefit the customer?

Did it benefit the dealership?

Did it benefit you?

If it’s all three, great. If it just benefits you our the customer, the decision may need to be reevaluated.

 

Key Players

Ray Gunn, general manager

Mike Choate, service manager

Will Kidman, parts manager 

Related Articles

The Service Award: Freedom Auto Group

Waning Interest

The Innovation Award: Motorcars Honda

You must login or register in order to post a comment.