Motorcars Group scores highest in mid-sized company ranks: Top Workplaces 2017
CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio -- Motorcars Group Cleveland has been judged the No. 1 best place to work among mid-sized companies in Northeast Ohio.
This is the second consecutive year that Motorcars has been one of the top ranked. The dealership opened its doors in 1973 and has always been a little different from competitors, partially because of where it is located, and more recently because its owner has embraced a simple but radical workplace philosophy: Have fun.
Chuck Gile, who began as the general manager of Motorcars in 1978, is an advocate of the Fish! philosophy.
Fish! is a high-energy management technique its developer saw happening among workers at the Pike Place Fish Market, an-open air fish market in Seattle, where the focus on "having fun" lead to happier workers and better service to customers.
Gile not only believes in the philosophy explained in the 100-page book, "Fish: A Proven Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results," he practices it and gives a copy of the book to any employee who wants it.
"There are four principles: Choose a positive attitude, be in the present, have fun and make someone's day," he said. "We live by that philosophy, that you have got to have fun.
"Attitude is the only thing you can control. Why go through life with a bad attitude? When you are with a customer or with other employees, you've go to BE there to listen to what they have to say."
Gile summed up his enthusiasm this way: "To have all of your employees buy into that philosophy sure makes a difference. People have fun and enjoy what they are doing. And they have a better attitude. And it goes back to the customers. We have more customers tell us the reason they come here is that our employees are so happy.
The dealership's location may have been the original impetus for embracing Fish!
Motorcars has only two new car dealerships, Motorcars Honda, located at 2953 Mayfield Road, Cleveland Heights, and Motorcars Toyota, located directly across the street at 2950 Mayfield Road.
"We are not on a freeway and we don't have the [customer] traffic. A lot of dealers have a lot of traffic and they don't have to be concerned with keeping customers.
"We don't. So we have to take care of our customers. We want to take care of them. And it makes it more fun. We have customers coming back because they like doing business with us," said Gile.
Putting the Fish management techniques into practice starts with what's at the heart of every relationship: communication.
"Communication is very important and we try to keep everyone involved with what's going on," said Gile. One communication technique is "The Word of the Day," a YouTube video Gile or his sons produce three or four times a week and send to every employee.
"Everybody knows at all times what's going on," said Gile. "It's a good way to communicate."
Careful screening of future employees is crucial at any place of business, but more so for smaller companies.
"When we hire people we look for people who are happy," said Gile. "Some people are just not happy people," he said. "So, I try to stay away from them. You want people who can have fun and who enjoy what they are doing.
"And that [happy attitude] carries over to other people. You don't want to have people bringing others down because they are always in a negative mood."
But even people who are happy by nature can be brought down by a bad workplace culture. And the company has worked very hard on that, said Gile.
"We empower our employees to be able to make decisions on their own without somebody looking over their shoulders. We encourage them to make decisions. For example, if a customer has a problem and it can be solved for $200 or less, the employee can make the decision without asking a manager," he explained.
Workplace Dynamics determined the rankings of winners following a computer-assisted analysis of extensive employee survey results designed to reveal the workplace culture of participating companies.
The psychological impact on the company's more than 200 employees is obvious to customers, and was readily apparent in the Workplace Dynamics survey.
A look at the comments that some of the company's employees offered tends to support Gile's description of the atmosphere he has tried to create.
"The owners give me the authority to make and keep my customers happy," wrote one employee.
"I can go directly to the owner with my concerns," wrote another employee. "I feel important."
"I feel my hard work is appreciated. I am able to come up with new ideas and implement them to try and grow our business," wrote a third employee.
"The company cares about its employees, customers and the environment," another summed up his impression of the workplace culture.
The company broke through in 2015 as a champion of sustainability with energy efficiency and recycling upgrades as well as the completion of a massive solar canopy over its 24,000-square-foot new car lot at its Motorcars Honda dealership. A similar canopy is planned at Motorcars Toyota.
BP named Motorcars Honda the first "carbon-neutral" auto dealership.
"We are trying to create a business in which our grandkids can work. We are looking to the future and working for the future.
The embrace of sustainable practices including employee-centered management does have a shrewd business goal.
"We find that the Millennials are looking for same thing. That it makes a difference to them. That is why we are trying to make a statement that we really do care about the future at the dealership," said Gile.