Pfaff Automotive has come a long way from being a single Volkswagen dealership in 1964 run by Hans Pfaff who strove to provide the best customer service experience in the industry. That singular focus has continued under the leadership of his son Christopher who assumed control of the company in 1986 and has worked tirelessly to grow Pfaff into one of Canada’s fastest growing and prominent dealership groups. It now encompasses not just Volkswagen, but such brands as Porsche, Audi, BMW, McLaren and Mazda, for example, and spans some 20 business units, multiple franchises and over 1,400 employees – and it is continuing to expand.
How does this success come about? It is rather simple – by striving to be one of the best dealership groups to work for, but putting as much focus on the success of its staff as it does on providing the best customer service experience to its growing customer base.
Marilyn Mazzocchitti, director of human resources with Pfaff said having a good workplace culture, one focused on bringing out the best in employees and supporting them in their career paths, is vital to Pfaff’s success. She added that a good workplace culture must include three key pillars: a clear company vision, ensuring all employees know that they are valued and that their input for making things better is some- thing that is encouraged, and that all employees are there to support each other across all departments and business units.
“It really is simple – if people are happy at work then they perform better and that helps reduce friction in the organization and makes things just happen faster,” she added.
Integrating new hires into the company starts early, really within the first two weeks of someone coming onboard with Pfaff. The first step is introducing new hires to Pfaff’s core values. These values are given to new employees on their first day and are integral to Pfaff’s on-boarding process – and these core values are displayed prominently in work and recreation areas. What is unique about them is that they were developed between the employees and management.
The core values include emphasizing that everyone, from the managers to the front line sales staff and onto the techni- cians and service writers are all part of a team, that as a team the goal is to learn and share knowledge with everyone in Pfaff, to take the initiative on new projects and to be bold in challenging one’s self and in overcome obstacles – and most importantly that there are open lines of communications at all times between staff and management.
That open communication is a key feature of Pfaff’s culture.
Mazzocchitti said Pfaff’s management team are not ‘corpo- rate office’ types who are unapproachable. Yes, they have offices
in the head office location, but every one of them is mobile and highly visible. “This ensure regular contact, approachability and visibility and familiarly with our employees. Good communications are not an ‘advantage’, it is a must, especially as our organization grows.”
“We have an open-door policy,” Mazzocchitti said. “Em- ployees are comfortable in approaching out leaders with issues that may arise. We consistently hold a variety of focus groups, Town Halls, as well as employee engagement surveys.”
She added the executive leadership works hard to earn the trust and respect of the employees. Many have worked with Pfaff for many years and have proven track records of leading by example. “They have started out in the trenches and have worked their way up in the automotive business. Employees have seen and continue to see our leaders roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty.”
Pfaff is also aware that to keep good employees a company must offer ways for employees to grow. Pfaff has programs in place where employees can take online training courses and Pfaff will also assist in helping pay for other course work employees may wish to take to improve their skills.
Pfaff also works to identify those employees who have shown potential for growth in the organization and will work with the employees to develop personalized career plans and training paths to help them achieve their goals of growing with Pfaff.
Pfaff also has various community and school outreach programs to attract new people to the automotive trade and regularly takes part in job fairs at many technical colleges to recruit new staff. Co-op programs are also in place to give students a chance to work at Pfaff and scholarships are avail- able to students of employees if they are participating in automotive programs.
Mazzocchitti said Pfaff is also proud of how its employees and management volunteer their time to their local communities and to participate in charitable works and fundraising. For example, Pfaff has raised funds for the North York General Hospital to help replace all the beds; some $750,000 were raised between 2017-2020.
“All of our charitable giving is focused around contributing to the health of the communities where we live and work,” she added. “We have aligned ourselves with hospitals in the cities where we have dealerships and every year, employees can purchases up to two paid time off days – $30 for non- managers and $60 for managers per day – and the money collected goes to South Lake Hospital. Since the inception of the paid time off program, Pfaff has donated nearly $430,000 in support of Southlake’s various regional programs and most urgent priority equipment needs.”
– Tom Venetis