Every business has a strategy; in fact, without one, things would fall flat very quickly. Your strategy is your road map, your battle plan. It is an outline of the steps you plan on taking in order to achieve business success. In short, strategy is necessary in order to arrive at an organized process that will result in continued forward momentum. But the thing is, even the best-planned strategy can’t stand alone.
Management consultant, author of 39 books, and educator Peter Drucker, who was known as the founder of modern management, once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” While having a solid strategy for your dealership is a sound business decision, the culture in which your engaged employees work and thrive every single day is what will make or break your business. Culture is what drives those who work there to go above and beyond every time they walk through the doors.
The truth is that culture and strategy are the perfect dance partners. They must work together to perform a complicated mix of choreography that not only keeps your business afloat, but also keeps employees engaged, energized, and ready to exceed expectations every day. There are some things that businesses and dealerships have learned about culture along the way, and by taking them to heart now, odds are you’ll end up getting the choreography right when it’s time to put it all together:
1. Engaged employees are loyal to culture. Strategy is a smart thing to have, but it will not earn the loyalty of the people in your dealership. If culture and strategy are pitted against each other, your employees will lean toward the side of culture every time, so be sure to align the two so they work seamlessly together. By showing your employees you are putting them first and valuing their culture, you will quickly earn their loyalty.
2. Engaged employees can depend on culture, even when sales are lean. Culture is the thing that will keep everyone in a positive frame of mind and working toward improvements as a team. Strategy can’t give your team the encouragement and positive energy that culture can provide. When times are tough, culture will pull the entire team through, and it will provide a basis for team trust that can’t be gained elsewhere.
3. The effects of culture can’t be demanded or measured. While your dealership may strategize and plan to go above and beyond, employees can’t be strong-armed into doing so. Engaged employees who feel valued as part of a thriving work culture, however, will voluntarily go out of their way to give their best efforts. After all, who isn’t proud to work somewhere that boasts a great culture, energy, and top-notch engagement?
4. Culture creates a spotlight for your brand. If you sell exactly the same car as a lot down the street, the thing that will differentiate your dealership is culture. If customers automatically get a “feel-good” vibe whenever they come in, they will choose your dealership over the one down the street every time. But there’s a secret; you can’t force that feeling. It stems from the culture created throughout your dealership, and that’s a feeling customers immediately pick up on.
5. Culture can be the key to strategy’s success. Look at a strategy like that of Toms shoes. At first glance, it would seem like a crazy business idea to give away a pair of shoes with every single pair sold, so what’s behind their success? The simple answer is culture. Toms clearly communicated an important purpose and a story that needed to be told. That, combined with a culture of giving and singular purpose, caught the attention of celebrities around the world, helping the brand grow even faster. Culture is driving the brand!
6. An endangered culture puts your dealership at risk. Attitudes are contagious, and when employees start to spread negative cultural vibes throughout your dealership, things can go downhill quickly. Even the greatest business around will have trouble standing up to a strained culture, so it’s important to be active in continuously propelling the culture at your dealership toward bigger and better things.
7. Culture will win in a stand-off. Have you ever wondered what would happen if Luke Skywalker and Yoda got in a lightsaber battle? Nope? Sometimes it’s simply best not to know. The same goes with a stand-off between culture and strategy. The two should always work together, because in the worst-case scenario that they end up going to battle, your people will end up siding with culture every time. No one wants to feel that their culture is being oppressed by strategic decisions, so be sure your strategy always takes culture into account.
8. A cultural mistake is worse than a strategic mistake. It may not seem so at first, but think about how long it takes to build a solid culture—and then think about how damaging it can be when something happens to tear it down. Strategies can, and do, change every single day in the business world; that’s the way business works. Culture is ingrained, long-standing, and hard-won, so be sure to think hard before making any moves that might damage it.
9. Your culture is unique. Every dealership in town can mimic your 0% interest sale and put balloons on the hoods of cars, but there’s not a single one that can copy the culture you create by empowering your employees to bring your brand to life. Your dealership is not simply a place to buy a car, but instead you are working with your team to turn it into a destination that is infused with a unique culture which can’t be replicated. The experience customers will find at your dealership is a powerful tool that will drive success.
10. Culture is the boss of your bottom line. If none of the other insights about culture made you stop and think, this one alone should be impactful enough to grab your attention and put it in a full nelson hold. With a thriving, healthy dealership culture, the potential for your bottom line is limitless, because your employees will be eager to implement suggested strategies, place their trust in your leadership, and go above and beyond in their jobs. Word of mouth will spread to potential leads, and you will create a positive cycle of potential profit. Culture can do all that and more, so what’s not to love?
While it’s true that strategy is an integral part of successfully running any business, it must be partnered with a strong culture. A culture that reflects the purpose and direction of your dealership will have a powerful impact on your employees, your customers, and ultimately your bottom line. It is essentially the glue that will hold your dealership together and inspire your employees to exceed expectations and consistently perform to their highest potential, leading to an elevated level of customer trust and loyalty. Culture feeds your business and keeps it moving forward with the energy necessary to meet every challenge head-on, so spend time cultivating the culture of your dealership, and it will keep employees engaged, improve your competitiveness in the industry, and bring even more customers through your doors.