The average age of staff at the Auto West Group of Premium Dealerships is a youthful 28.
Bruno Destradi, Auto West Group business development manager said it’s the appeal of the luxury brand that attracts them. Still, it takes more than glamour to keep staff. Destradi credits the AWG management style, which involves treating every employee as a member of the AWG family, that keeps staff members an average of seven years with the Group – though the higher they rise in the Group, the longer they will stay.
Destradi added that AWG has adjusted to the Millennial challenge as an understanding and patient parent would.
“We have learned to accommodate Millennials based on what their needs are. We try to give them a work/life balance with flexible scheduling, even giving them extra time off when they need it,” he said. “And since some of our staff travel overseas, we try to accommodate them when they need time off.”
Hiring from inside and out
Destradi said staffers know that AWG would rather hire in-house and does. That keeps staff loyal. He said AWG celebrates staff who wish to spend their life working with AWG. “We celebrate milestones with gold bars because those employees who have been with us for 10, 20 and 30 years set a prime example of the gold standard of what we want in an employee.”
When they do hire someone from outside, AWG recruiters look for team players and those who have good communication skills. And experience is not always an asset, as many would immediately believe.
“Training is the key that lets us set our best practices in stone rather than having to break bad ones,” he explained. And that willingness to go with inexperience also helps account for the youthful staff.
The Auto West Group
Joachim Neumann, who’s family have been involved with the BMW brand since 1967, founded Auto West BMW, the cornerstone of the group, in 1986. Rather than focus on expansion, AWG’s mission is to “build lifelong relationships with customers, suppliers and employees …”
The Group numbers two dealerships, Auto West BMW and MINI Richmond and Performance One, its service centre that tunes, repairs, details and supplies high-performance parts for all makes and models. All are located in Richmond, B.C. with a total number of staff members being 230.
Although the Group is small, the locations are separate, so the AWG has its own Internet, where all company news, job postings and other information are available. Each employee has their own targets and goals linked to department – service, sales, etc. – performance. All goals, both departmental and individual, are reviewed regularly so the staffer knows where they stand.
In 2016, AWG implemented a new and standardize online Performance Management system, which ties each job role’s key performance indicators to overall department and organization goals. But at the heart of it, Destradi said is one-to-one communication.
“The support mechanism of our senior staff is key,” Destradi added. “We have different levels of managers and sub-managers in each department to ensure that each employee has someone to approach so they know where to take their questions and get answers and support whether it be for a personal, employment or technical issue.”
Working together as a team
Destradi is responsible for AWG’s business development centre (BDC). He admitted that working the phones all day long is challenging, to say the least.
“It takes a special person to get on the phone,” he said. “They have to want to do it.”
To keep up team morale and effectiveness, Destradi added they have created a support mechanism. BDC staffers may be on the phone with a customer, but they aren’t alone. “We are a team. We work together. If we hear someone is struggling, we will help.”
BDC staffers also don’t hesitate to turn to a colleague for a second opinion and they know where to get answers to technical issues on AWG’s website. And then there are the little things like celebrating the Chinese New Year and bringing in pizza.
“Being on the phone may be challenging. But we have our fun,” Destradi said.
The bees on the green rooftop
Atop Auto West BMW is the store’s green roof, a community garden tended by staff members known as the Team Green.
The garden’s vegetable and blueberry crops are donated to the foodbank in Richmond. There’s an apiary on the roof as well. Its 150,000 honeybees pollinate the gardens on the rooftop and in the nearby community. The honey harvested is raffled off with the proceeds going to a local elementary school to help fund programs.
“The rooftop garden and hive are a source of pride for staff,” said Destradi.
Also a source of pride are AWG’s efforts to lighten its carbon footprint with rooftop solar panels and a wind turbine that produces 2,300 kWh to help power the facilities and a water recirculation system that collects, filters and reuses storm water and car wash runoff.
These efforts earned AWG the award for being the most sustainable BMW dealership in the world.