Core values continue to bring happy returns at The Humberview Group


Jackson Hayes

The Humberview Group’s monthly new hire orientation sessions, hosted by president John Esplen, are a prime example of how the organization promotes a positive company culture.

The man responsible for overseeing 20 stores, 17 brands and nearly 1,400 team members is committed to attend and participate every month, hosting the first portion of the session designed to introduce new hires to the organization. The goal is to promote culture and it’s an opportunity to get to know others.

The monthly session usually has anywhere from 20 to 40 people attending. Esplen begins by introducing himself to each team member, handing them each a business card, and making clear that he always has time to speak with team members. And while he concedes not many new hires pick up the phone and give him a call, the gesture speaks to the values this organization aims promote and instill within their team.

“Our culture is everything to our business and we spend a lot of time communicating it and developing our team members to live it,” he said, noting his management teams encourage and practice the same type of open communication at each store.

“Our purpose statement is: Serving our customers better, each and every day. This is our number-one focus in our business. We train for it, we talk about it and we strive to deliver on it every day.”

This is the third time the Humberview Group has earned a Canadian AutoWorld Dealership Employer of Choice award.

In addition to the 20 franchise dealerships located throughout the Greater Toronto Area, the Group is also involved in the ownership and operation of five Autopark Superstores, Humberview Group Leasing, Auto, Humberview Mobility, Humberview Motorsports and several truck operations.

Executive general managers operate most of the group’s dealerships though there are few business leaders with equity positions. The lean, centralized team consists of Esplen as president, a group COO/CFO, as well as various departments including people and culture, IT, digital marketing (known as the HUB), call centers, a purchasing manager and a health and safety director.

As in years past, Esplen, along with HG’s people and culture manager, Mary Esplen, told Canadian AutoWorld they continue to change and develop their core competencies and focus on putting people first. It’s clear that their strategy is working as they’ve notched the CAWEOC hat trick!

“The values and the experiences we provide our customers and our team members continue to be the driving success of our business,” she said. “Running dealership operations does not have to be difficult but we feel our focus on the experience makes the outcome positive for everyone.”

Case in point, the Humberview values of honesty, integrity, transparency, teamwork and respect. Those guiding principles are posted in each dealership, including in the customer-facing areas, to help remind our team what it is all about.

Those principles are also the underlying philosophy of “The HG Way.” The five points, which have been covered in the pages of this magazine before, serve as the main crux of the training and development program in addition to guiding the day-to-day interactions with customers.

The HG Way consists of:
· We put people first
· We are honoured to work with you
· We learn from our mistakes
· We are accountable
· We are in the game

“We work really hard to drive home our messaging. That said, some of our basic core training starts with what I call ‘stuff that mom and dad taught us.’ These are things like eye contact, saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ shaking peoples’ hands, holding the door open,” he said. “The world is busy and we forget some of the small things when we get going fast.”

Both Mary and John also said that while they are running a large business in one of the nation’s most competitive market, the team also realizes the importance of loosening the reins, too. The reason we are successful is because of our people.

We value the time and energy they spend at work. Last spring, our general managers decided to close all locations for several long weekends during the summer. While their competitors continue to stay open later and some even open on Sundays, HG saw value in rewarding their people with time off. Giving everyone multiple long weekends off to enjoy with their family and friends has a long-term impact and helps to increase team member satisfaction.

Mary said the company values the importance of showing appreciation for the hard work that the team members do each and every day.

As John noted, “that was a bell-ringer for me. Our management team asked again this past January if we were prepared to do it again. The feedback from last year was so positive that we recently put a note out announcing we would close again for the three long weekends in the summer. I received over 50 emails from team members right away telling me how much it meant to them. The return is many times over for something like that.”

Fun is also a large component of HG culture. The numerous staff functions at the individual dealership level. They include boat cruises, regular celebration lunches, monthly birthday lunches, movie nights, bowling nights, sporting events and more.

“We work as a team,” Mary said, “but a team that works hard, yet knows the importance of having fun along the way. We seek to hire individuals who fit and understand our values and way. Without great people, we wouldn’t be successful. You could be the best technician in the entire world, but if you don’t have respect and work with integrity, you’re not going to fit with us.”