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First-time EOC winner Birchwood takes pride in its team members and what they bring to dealership


When Birchwood was announced as one of the 2020 CAWEOC winners, they were honoured and excited. It confirmed for them everything that they had been working towards.

“The award recognizes and gives credibility to the value Birchwood places on their team members and customer experience as well as our continued efforts to be a leader in our community,” said MaryAnn Kempe, chief human re- sources officer at Birchwood.

Kempe said that Birchwood’s growth can be attributed to a culture that puts both its team members and the commu- nity first. When a new team member joins Birchwood, a key part of their onboarding is understanding the core values of Birchwood. “When it comes to the company’s values, it stands strong on four basic tenets: trust and respect, continuous improvement, personal leadership, and generosity.” she added.

“Throughout the business, three questions guide discussions to develop an attitude of gratitude. What are you grateful for? What is your dream? What is one thing that you could do that would improve the life of a team member, your community, your family, or yourself? We ask our team these powerful questions, which are really entwined in all our culture. From there, it’s easy to create a roadmap that steers team members towards their leadership potential. Personal leadership is about always looking at yourself and being self-aware. Our goal is that people take accountability.”

Those values underline how everyone at Birchwood in- teract amongst themselves and with its many customers.

“We spend their first day of work sharing our values and connecting their work to our customers – this is an opportunity to communicate with our new team and hear from them,” Kempe added “I believe people come to work at Birchwood because of our connection and commitment to our community. We strive to understand what matters to our team members, we support their development, and we also have fun. An example is our amazing Christmas Parties – one for team members’ children and one for adults – and the Birchwood Bucks auction that happens in December and celebrates team members’ performance.”

What is unique about the values that Birchwood operates under is that while a core part of the company, the values are evolving and focused on bringing out the best of its team members, from management to front line sales associates and the technicians working in the bays. In 2019, Birchwood launched what it called the ‘Birchwood Roadmap’ that focused on the Birchwood brand and its values.

define our corporate culture,” said Kempe. “To reflect our gratitude towards our team members, customers, and community, we added ‘Generosity’ as our fourth cornerstone. Now known simply as “Birchwood,” our new slogan, “Experience is everything,” captures the heart of Birchwood culture. We believe our value is the experience we offer – with our customers, our team members, business partners, and community.”

To celebrate that roadmap, Birchwood launched the Birchwood Day of Gratitude on August 19, 2019, “where each team member received a $25 CanadaHelps gift code to donate to the charitable organization in the community that they were grateful for. Together, Birchwood’s team members donated over $30,000,” added Kempe.

“Trust and Respect are a big part of Birchwood’s values and culture,” added Kempe. “Respect for the uniqueness of every individual creates strong, trusting working relationships with team members, customers, and business partners. As positioning our selves as leaders in the automotive industry and to our community, we lead by example and have high expectations regarding our team members experience in their work environment. We work closely with all leadership levels to empower them in making decisions and taking actions that ensure we have the right people in the right roles and the right culture for our teams. “

Birchwood also strongly believes that a key part of a good workplace is open communication between all team members and management. There is no hiding behind closed doors. Teams meet regularly to discuss business strategy and market updates. Kempe said that quarterly breakfast meetings are held where all managers, directors and vice-presidents come together to discuss with company president and CEO Steve Chipman company results and matters impacting operations.

Like every business, the focus is on growth. Birchwood’s management understands that growth can only come about if it prioritizes the needs of its team members. One thing Birchwood does is work with everyone to find a balance

between work and home life. If there is an event or something important to someone and that they need to attend, a way will be found to accommodate that team member’s needs.

“With this approach, we have fewer people calling in sick, and we can plan for the absence rather than it be a surprise or potentially ill-timed for the business,” Kempe said “We have also found that team members are more willing to work with each other, as they know the favor will be reciprocated. This action helps breed the culture we want in our stores.”

Along with finding ways to support everyone’s work-life balance, Birchwood also puts a premium on helping its staff’s career growth. Birchwood offers several external training courses to help people improve their skills and grow on the job. Because a key part of the group’s core value is gratitude, Birchwood puts a premium on active involvement in local charities and community services.

“Gratitude has remained a driving force at Birchwood for 55 years and counting. Birchwood supports many charities through the United Way of Winnipeg,” said Kempe “Each location also supports local programs in its immediate community. Team members can approach their General Manager with potential charitable-giving ideas, which the GM shares and implements if the team agrees. In 2019, through our teams’ generous donations, we raised $581,810.64 dollars and achieved a record 95 per cent participation. We also saw a significant increase in our number of leaders of the United Way – those who give $1200 or more/year – to another record of 183 leaders. As a result, Birchwood received the Campaign Chair’s Award for 2019. United Way is committed to making a difference in our community. Because we love Winnipeg and our communities, we have helped changed the lives of those most vulnerable – moving from poverty to possibility, enabling kids to be all that they can be and build- ing healthy people and strong communities. Birchwood is proud of its charity involvement and promotes team members to volunteer.”

– Tom Venetis