Brown’s Volkswagen has been a consistently growing car dealership in Charlottetown for 12 years. Jamie Brown is the President/Owner and Tammy Roach is the General Manager.
The dealership and its 29 employees moved to its new location on the Sherwood Road in March. “We have a great team, we have a new building, and we have a great attitude,” Tammy says.
“There is a ‘five-second rule’ staff follow in which a customer must be looked after within five seconds of arriving at the dealership.”
Tammy, who has a background in accounting, was on maternity leave 18 years ago when she decided on a career change. She began her career at the independently-owned Brown’s Auto as a Receptionist/ Bookkeeper. “I started out answering phones and doing book work. I was promoted to Service Writer, and I learned that job by watching the previous Service Writer doing his work.”
Five years into her employment with Brown’s Auto, Jamie Brown bought the Volkswagen dealership and offered her the Controller position. Four years later, she was promoted to Fixed Operations Manager, overseeing detailing, service and parts.
Tammy says this position came at a time the dealership was growing fast. “It was certainly one of the hardest things that I have done — managing the team and the processes of the store. After five years, I was promoted to General Manager, and I was pleasantly surprised by this offer.”
Women in traditional male roles
She’s been the General Manager for four years now. “I would always be the only female in the meeting, but now I see more people accepting management as a non-gender role – it’s something you are either good at, or not.”
Tammy would like to see more women apply for jobs at car dealerships. “We just hired a female Sales Associate who’s Asian. She speaks Chinese, which appeals to our Chinese clientele. She’s been phenomenal. She focuses on her job and is a great fit with our team. We also have a female Technician who’s been with us three years. She has a great attitude.”
About the staff
“Brown’s Volkswagen started out 12 years ago with six employees. We have a good mix of staff — one employee has been here since the beginning. Two people have been with the company 11 years. Most have been here three years or less.”
Difficult job to fill
Tammy said middle management positions are difficult to fill. “We had a hard time hiring a Service Manager because it’s a specific skill set: car repair, people management, and understanding gross profits and percentages, hours worked and hours billed.”
- Sales & Leasing Consultants
- Parts Consultants
- Service Writers
- Business Managers
In the near future, Brown’s Volkswagen will be looking for a Service Advisor. In addition, the dealership recently posted an opening for a Sales Associate.
Education and training
Technicians must have their Red Seal in Auto Service. Sales staff must have some experience in sales, although Brown’s Volkswagen has an extensive sales training program. “An in-house company provides videos we watch daily. I send nearly every Sales and Service staff member to instructor-led training off-Island once a year.
“All staff are expected to do some form of online training every year. Service staff regularly take online training from Volkswagen.”
Effects of technology change
Tammy said the technology is always changing and they have to keep up with it. “Mechanics are now computer savvy staff who know how to read computer data.
“Electric cars are coming and it will definitely change the way we set up our shop. My staff is excited about learning about these new technologies.”
Attracting youth to the industry
Tammy encourages youth to explore careers in the automobile industry. “We belong to the PEI Automobile Dealers Association, which goes to high schools to promote all the different careers in the industry that don’t necessarily require a business degree. We like to see a good work ethic, sales skills and people skills.”
Compensation and benefits
“Ninety percent of staff are offered an incentive to make more sales. I always put ‘chance for incentives to excel’ in the company’s job description. Nobody at this dealership makes minimum wage. It’s something for my staff to strive for, knowing if they do the work, they will be well compensated.”
How jobs are advertised
“I have had the most success with word-of-mouth. Most people I hire are recommended by staff. I prefer that people come by the store in person to drop off a resumé. I like to meet the person face to face to get a sense of whether they could be a good fit for us.” Jobs are posted on facebook and the JobBank.
Tammy believes that people who want a job should show up at the places they are interested in working. She is open to informational meetings with people interested in learning more about the car dealership business. “I’m always looking for superstars and I will find a spot for them.”
Tammy and one other manager do the job interviews. They will ask the candidate about a time they went above and beyond for a customer, and about how they have dealt with an unhappy customer. “We ask about team work, because that skill is really important to us.”
She goes by the mantra ‘Happy employees are successful employees’. They have staff barbecues and parties throughout the year.
Brown’s Volkswagen supports Easter Seals, Santa’s Angels and Big Brothers and Big Sisters’ Bowl for Kids Sake. “We admire the work these charities, and we like to see 100 percent of funds raised staying on PEI to help Island children and families.”
For more information, call Tammy Roach at Brown’s Volkswagen at 902-892-5381. Visit www.brownsvw.ca.