Dealer Jim Willamson’s Chrysler store is located in Uxbridge Ont., a 45-minute commute west to Toronto. Being that close to Toronto should make staffing a challenge. But Williamson says it makes recruiting easy.
“We appeal to those who like working close to home. We ask: ‘Would you like to commute to the city and earn a little more and drive for 45 minutes or work closer to home, earn a little less and be home earlier in the evenings?’ ”
And if the school calls because one of the kids has an emergency, the staffer can make sure they can be there.
“We are flexible,” Williamson said.
He goes on to note that staff members are not just faces in a big city crowd.
“The advantage in a small town is that you are truly part of the town; you’re not just another business. You’re part of the heartbeat of the town! It’s an entirely different feel for employees.”
It’s that feeling that makes Williamson Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram a winner of this year’s Canadian AutoWorld Dealership Employer of Choice award.
Family-Owned, Family-Run, Family-Staffed
Williamson can point to a number of families who are Williamson staffers.
“We have a number of families in our business. There are generations who have been working for us – husbands, wives, sons, daughters. Multi-generations. Parents are proud to tell their children this is a good place to work.”
Williamson’s grandfather, Alex, opened a General Motors store in 1947. The original store, Williamson Uxbridge, is still in the family being operated by his cousin and business partner, Todd Williamson.
Jim worked there, working his way up from washing cars and doing oil changes to general sales manager. Todd and Jim acquired Dean Watson Auto Sales in 2012, dubbing it – naturally – Williamson Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram.
In those six years, Williamson diversified the dealership, adding Williamson Customized, and a CPO unit, Williamson Certified.
All employees are involved in planning processes and asked to contribute input for business forecasting and productivity improvement.
Each employee has detailed annual performance reviews to measure their development and to set personal objectives that are in line with corporate goals and targets. Weekly and monthly department meetings are held to clarify and update employees on performance to target and recognize success and identify opportunities for improvement.
Employees are encouraged to take any training programs that are available to further their knowledge. All sales staff take weekly online training sessions and also weekly phone training sessions. Technicians are able to take Chrysler training programs either in class or online.
Employee reviews are done yearly to go over job performance. Strategic planning meetings are held yearly and monthly to keep all departments running to be the best that they can and giving them goals to reach.
Williamson says that to balance the needs of the employee with the demands of the business, the store holds team-building luncheons and also does after-hours group excursions for employees and sometimes their spouses.
No Chain of Command
“We listen to staff,” he insisted. “Our employees help in marketing, community events, in advertising. For example, in the service department where a service advisor says ‘I think we can do this better this way,’ we listen.
“There is no top down. It’s an open door. There are many things we have learned from staff. No one walks around here acting as if they have a magic bag of ideas on how to run the place.”
Williamson said there is no chain of command, only two-way communication.
“I’m not afraid to be told by an employee that I’m wrong, that I don’t always have the best idea.”
At every opportunity leadership members communicate The Williamson Way and encourage employees to challenge each other to uphold the ideals and vision of the organization. So, what is the Williamson Way?
He said encompasses their community efforts and includes things like recycling and charitable events. All employees are encouraged to donate their time. The Williamson Way is consistency, no flipping from one program to another.
And it’s leading by example. Williamson is proud to say it’s not unusual to see a manager shoveling snow, mopping a floor or picking up garbage.
“We behave the way we want our employees to,” Williamson said. And the way customers want them to.
“It’s honesty. When a mistake or error is made when delivering product service, they take responsibility and resolve the issue to the customers satisfaction,” Williamson added.
The Williamson Way is going above and beyond for the customer.
Some of the best examples of the Williamson Way come out of the service department. He says it’s how staff responds when a customer is about to go on a trip and their vehicle breaks down. It’s not unusual for the customer to get a company demo so that they can carry on with their travel plans.
As far as the sales department is concerned, “We have driven as far as three hours to deliver a vehicle to a customer.”