Mr. Quirk said that while the budget for this tripled, the number of ASE certifications "exploded." So VIP developed a compensation criteria based around accreditations, rather than manager-driven raises.
Today, Mr. Quick said VIP employs 11 world class technicians and 56 master technicians, with as many as 10 in queue ready to earn it. The goal is to have a master tech on duty every hour that a VIP store is open.
"We're not there yet, but we have several stores with three or four master techs," Mr. Quirk said. "Their (sales) growth is double and triple the other stores."
Other employee-generated ideas that have been implemented include:
- The development of an in-house equipment repair team. Employees told the company that stores suffered down-time needlessly, waiting for contractors to show up and fix equipment. Today, VIP has a two-man team that handles most repairs. "If a machine goes down on a Friday night, the team is there Saturday morning," Mr. Winkeler said.
- Added an extra week of vacation at nearly every level, in terms of tenure.
- Increased 401K matches.
- Added sick time as an additional benefit.
During the September meeting, it was announced that VIP would cover the cost of safety shoes for employees who had wanted them.
"The fact that they have a voice and they can help us make the company better is one of those pieces that's really important in our culture because we're not a company where (management) will sit in a room and make all the decision as to what makes the company better," Mr. Winkeler said.
"My job is to create a culture where people are engaged, they care, they want to speak up, they're not afraid to speak, and we show them with our actions that we are listening and taking action."
Mr. Winkeler said management also addresses why no action is taken on other suggestions.
"We owe them an explanation as to why we do what we do. Or if we don't have one, we owe them that we should change it and make it better. So we do one or the other. That's a great part of our culture."
Focus on employees
Managers routinely attend two off-site conferences each year. The signature event is held in the fall, at the end of the fiscal year, and as part of the program, store managers are lauded for their achievements over the past year, be it for sales growth, employee retention, safety, etc.
During the most recent conference, VIP presented its Presidential Award, the top award given, to Colleen Chassie, in her third year as the dealership's digital marketing manager.
Ms. Chassie manages all digital media — and that includes addressing all negative online reviews.
"She represents the brand in the space as well as the managers represent the brand in the customer space," Mr. Winkeler said, noting that the social media landscape remains one of the dealership's top challenges.
That attention to social media reviews represents VIP's approach to business, Mr. Winkeler said.
"VIP is filled with people who enjoy serving others," he said. "If you approach that in business, not to mention in life, when you enjoy serving others, that defines leadership.
"It's a form of humility: I want to help you. That is our culture — filling the company up with people who are humble and who help each other."