Setting Up For Growth

Aaron Zeigler shares the steps that have made Zeigler Auto Group one of the largest dealer groups in the nation

Aaron Zeigler, President

1. Clearly define your mission, vision, and values

Zeigler Auto Group’s mission is to provide its customers with the ultimate automotive experience, and its vision is to be the number one choice for automotive sales and service needs. Aaron Zeigler’s team has five core values, which spell out PRIDE: Passion, Reputation, Integrity, Drive, and Execution.

To reinforce these values, meetings conclude with team members each telling a story about how another colleague exemplified one of the team values. “We had everybody in our company get involved in helping to understand what our mission is, what our vision was, and what our values are,” Zeigler says. “This is something we have to keep in the forefront.”

2. Have state-of-the-art facilities

When Zeigler buys a business, he builds an entirely new facility. Zeigler Auto Group businesses have a children’s play area, Nintendo Wii games, and fresh-baked cookies. Customers in the service area are given iPads uploaded with Netflix to  watch whatever they want.

“We have a competitive advantage with our facilities because they’re all brand new,” Zeigler says. “Our philosophy is that people want to work, and customers want to do business, in a nice facility. If I’m selling the same car for the same price as someone in the next town over, but I’ve got a much nice facility and a better set-up for that customer, that’s a piece of the customer experience for them.”

3. Create a great working culture

Zeigler views company culture as the foundation for everything the company does. Twice a year, employees receive a culture assessment, an anonymous eighty-eight-question survey to gauge how they feel about the company.

While at the average Fortune 500 company, only 35 percent of employees are 100 percent engaged and 100 percent satisfied. At Zeigler, the number is closer to 80 percent, thanks to the assessment that’s led to practices like providing notes team members can write to one another and a company Facebook page that keeps employees informed of what’s happening within the organization.

4. Use real-time numbers to manage the business

Zeigler’s customer-relationship-management dashboard contains important statistics and information in real time for every dealership. It monitors the number of customers that have been to the dealership, incoming calls, appointments, cars sold, if paperwork has been completed, and response time to Internet queries. The system allows the executive team to see if a store is taking too long to get back to a customer. If so, the system will alert someone to contact the store and see what’s going on.

5. Train well and promote from within

From day one, new hires learn about what sets Zeigler Auto Group apart. Several training centers are equipped with high-definition video systems so new-hire orientation can take place at all the centers simultaneously. After orientation, new hires watch online training videos. Promising employees are put into performance groups and are trained on how to run dealerships. When Zeigler is ready to buy a new dealership, he already has someone trained to manage it.

6. Be Creative with Recruiting

Rather than attend college fairs, Zeigler’s recruitment team often reaches out to business professors, forming a relationship with them to find out about the best and brightest students each semester. The company offers these students internships. “When they graduate, we’ll have a good shot of them going full-time with us,” Zeigler says. “We hire a lot of people at a young age; in the top executive team, the average [age] is forty-two, and the average person has been with us seventeen years. The sky is the limit, because somebody can start running one dealership and do really good job and then they can run two. I have one person who runs five dealerships. He started out washing cars for us when he was sixteen.”