VANCOUVER, B.C. – Auto West Group’s key ingredient for running efficiently is pure and simple passion.
Passion for the work. Passion for the product. Passion for the result.
“We have a culture built throughout the group,” explains Jaclyn Neumann, Auto West V-P. “We have been committed to hiring people that believe in our group philosophy and are very passionate about the business in the area they represent.
Be it accounting, sales consultants or managers, we want people who love their jobs and, by virtue of that, the customer experience is heightened because the staff love what they do.”
The Auto West name is a storied one. The three-store group, which now includes Auto West BMW, MINI Richmond, Auto West Infiniti and the Performance One tuning centre, started 30 years ago on Canada’s West Coast in 1986.
Group president Joachim Neumann was the first BMW importer in all of Western Canada. In the subsequent three decades, the team built a state-of-the-art BMW dealership, one of the first standalone MINI retailers in Richmond in 2002, added the Infiniti marque in 2007 and expanded with Performance One in 2013.
Most readers of this magazine would likely know Auto West not for its employee development strategies but rather its seemingly tireless environmental initiatives.
Auto West BMW is likely the most environmentally friendly dealership in Canada, if not on planet Earth. It won the title of most sustainable BMW dealership in the world in 2013 and has taken home numerous certificates, accolades and endorsements for its positive work in the world of sustainability.
A quick rundown of some of the group’s green-thinking solutions includes:
• A green roof consisting of gardens maintained by Auto West BMW’s staff-led Team Green. The community garden grows vegetables that are donated to the local food bank in Richmond.
• A rooftop apiary houses approximately 150,000 honeybees that pollinate the green roof gardens and surrounding community. Honey harvested is raffled off with the proceeds going to a local elementary school to help fund programs.
• The province’s only commercial vertical axis wind turbine, standing 53-feet tall and producing up to 3,500 watts of power.
• Rooftop solar panels producing 2,300 kWh to help power the facilities and reduce overall power consumption.
• Geothermal heating and cooling technology.
• A water recirculation system that collects, filters and reuses storm water and car wash runoff.
• The MINI store has a massive solar panel installation on the roof and a “live wall” with plants forming the shape of a bee.
Jaclyn says all these examples of sustainability help prove part of Auto West’s core, which is doing things the right way, not the easy way.
“This philosophy helps guide the stores,” she says.
With a staff of 230 she notes the group has always promoted an open door
policy. She adds that strong managers ensure the lines of communication within each department are open for thanks to things like regular employee meetings and regular department meetings.
Beyond that, she says the key is to develop an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing concerns and ideas with the management team.
“We have an operations manager that is very engaged with the employees. I think our management team is there to ensure the success of all the people that work there and the biggest part of that is communication.”
Aside from listening to staff, Jaclyn says it is important to celebrate them as well. Auto West stores have things like employee lunch days where management will bring in food trucks throughout the year, and employee recognition programs where winners get tickets to the Vancouver Canucks.
She says the HR manager recently implemented the Unsung Hero award where employees can nominate each other based on core criteria on achievement or performance.
“The idea was to ensure it wasn’t just customer-facing staff that would win but rather all staff, even those that might not get active customer feedback, could still be recognized by their peers.”
Above all, a solid team requires the right decisions are made at hiring, she concedes.
“Staff has to buy in to the system you want to promote,” she says. “We know that happy employees will love coming to work at that infectious feeling will rub off on all our customers.”