A high-volume dealership that believes in staff empowerment seeks out job candidates with the right stuff, grooms them and promotes them.
Former Toyota executive Pat Lobb runs thriving dealership.
Passion for service is what the owners and managers of Pat Lobbin McKinney, TX, look for in job applicants. They think the right “green pea” salesperson of today can become a manager of tomorrow.
“Customer satisfaction isn’t about surveys or measurements,” says John Mathews, dealer partner of the No.1 volumedealer in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
“It’s about hiring people with good hearts, treating them well and then letting them go serve people. You either have a servant’s heart or you don’t.”
Once managers find the right fit, they hang on to those employees, grooming them for a higher calling.
Pat Lobb Toyota is owned by Pat Lobb, formerly an executive with Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. and a group vice president with Gulf States Toyota, a distributorship.
Lobb acquired the open dealership point in 2006. Business partner John Mathews signed on after working as a general manager at two high-volume Toyota stores in Texas.
Lobb and Mathews believe in promoting from within, “so our staff knows our culture and what actions and decisions we expect them to make,” Mathews says. “We are incredibly grateful to (customers) who give us an opportunity for their business and don’t ever want to give them a reason to go somewhere else. We’re consultants, not salespeople.”
Lobb Toyota has 107 full-time employees. Staff count has fallen 7% since 2008, but sales are up. The average employee does $1.4 million in sales, more than double the national average, Pat Lobb says.
The dealership has between 105 and 120 employees, and usually is understaffed, “because we are so particular about whom we hire,” Lobb says.
The dedication to customers has paid off. “We have experienced year-over-year growth every year since opening, with a total annual growth of 18% per annum,” he says.
The dealership is No.34 on the WardsAuto Dealer 500. Lobb Toyota posted total revenues of more than $150 million in 2011 and expects to see up to $180 million this year, Mathews estimates.
The store also ranks No.2 on the WardsAuto F&I 150 and No.14 on the WardsAuto e-Dealer 100.
Employees are trained to assess customer needs, so sales processes center on fact-finding and product recommendations. That extends to the finance and insurance department, consisting of six staffers, including Finance Director Tony Pan.
Pan says F&I departments may operate as profit centers, but keeping customers satisfied is more important.
“If you take care of customers and employees, the dollars will come,” he says, adding that the dealership’s customers make “more value-based decisions.”
Pan’s staff offers F&I products that customers may not immediately consider benefits.
Several popular new options include Toyota Auto Care prepaid maintenance program, wheel and tire protection plans and key/fob replacement insurance.
“The prepaid maintenance coupons invite customers back to the dealership, which aids in that all-important service retention,” Pan says. “The key-replacement program is popular because high-tech keys and fobs can run $300 to $500.”
Wheel and tire policies provide customers with the benefit of either patching or plugging a tire damaged by any road hazard and also repairing or replacing a wheel.
In less than six years, Lobb has reaped five Toyota President’s Awards and the auto maker’s President’s Cabinet Award. Lobb was the first U.S. dealer to be certified under the federal Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program in 2007.
LEED provides a framework for practical, measurable “green” building design, construction and operations.
“It’s a highly competitive market, but we made a marketing plan when we opened, and we’ve never wavered. Find your sweet spot, keep your sales staff informed about your efforts and stay on your plan,” Mathews says.
He and Lobb are expanding to other brands after receiving a franchise for a formerstore.
Pat LobbDodge Jeep Ram of Frisco, TX, opens later this year. About 75 employees will start there, with annual projected sales of 3,500 to 4,000 in new and used vehicles, Mathews says.
Pat Lobb prefers a decentralized management structure that gives department heads and managers “broad discretionary authority over day-to-day operations and decision-making,” he says.
“We would rather someone make a bad decision with the right intention than not try to go the extra mile at all,” he says. “We have always felt that if we need to tell someone how to do their job, we’ve made a bad hire.”
The organizational structure “emphasizes front-line employees who have customer contact as the most important position in the company, with everybody else acting in a support role,” Mathews says.
Lobb and Mathews stay personally involved to make sure their management philosophy is understood. They take time to interact with staff (“associates”) and customers (“guests”).
The dealership weathered the recent economic hard times. “While others were playing it safe, we increased our market share,” Mathews says.
“Our customers are very bright, well-informed people and didn’t believe everything they heard. We kept them well-informed, executed campaigns quickly and traded a lot of people out of their cars because of the strong incentives offered at the time,” he says.
Today, “There’s a ton of pent-up demand, plenty of manufacturing capacity and lots of capital looking for a loan,” Mathews says, changing the topic to one of his favorites: fixed operations.
He says Pat Lobb Toyota excels there. Why? “The sales department may sell the first car, but the service department sells every one after that.”