The family-owned dealership has been on PEI since 1968. There are about 54 employees in the Charlottetown location, and about 18 in Montague, for a total of 70.
“People come to our dealership and say it looks like a fun place to work,” says Gary Conohan, General Manager. “They say our staff are always smiling and are always engaged in what they do.”
Examples of job titles
“We have a robust staff in our Sales, Service, Parts and Administration departments,” he says. “Seven people work in our Parts department. There is a Wholesale Salesperson, Retail Salesperson, Advisor, Manager and Delivery person.
“The Service department has Advisors, Dispatchers, Appointment Coordinators, and Technicians.
“In the Administration department, there is a receptionist, data entry people, and accountants.”
The dealership has grown rapidly in the last few years. A part-time Human Resources Consultant was hired to assist in the hiring process. For the job interview, an applicant meets with the Consultant and the Manager of the department filling the position. “There is usually a second interview in which a third person from the department is sometimes included to give a different outlook on candidates we are interviewing.
“We look for people who have an interest in the automobile business and longevity with the company,” Gary says. “Typically, we look more for the fit than the skills. We want to know about the candidates’ long-term goals.”
Difficult job to fill
“Sales positions are extremely difficult to fill,” he says. “I know it’s a challenge across all retail sectors. I don’t know why sales doesn’t attract more people. There are people out there who would be a good fit for sales.
“We like to see a good attitude and aptitude when it comes to salespeople. They need to adapt to and benefit from the different levels of training we provide here. We sell hybrids and electric cars as well as the gas and diesel ones, so salespeople must keep up to date on all these vehicles. Sales and service people must take courses at the end of every quarter.”
“Apprentices are expected to work towards their Red Seal,” Gary says. “If you have your Red Seal, you can go into certain fields where we provide training.
“Some of our technicians have a specific interest in areas such as diesel, electronics, air conditioning, transmissions, or drivability. We are almost like a hospital where there are many specialists looking after specific areas.
“We support on-the-job training. We take on students from Holland College and high school students taking automotive training. We are willing to take on business students as well.”
“We use the newspapers, and we have had great success with the website Indeed.ca,” he says. “When we look to fill management positions, we post on the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association website.
“I welcome resumés addressed to myself, and I filter them to the appropriate departments.”
Gary adds they have had success posting open positions on Facebook and with word-of-mouth too. “Our in-house referral program pays an incentive to existing staff who bring in new staff who stay a minimum preset time period.”
“Hiring is on-going. We are always looking for talented people. In the last while, Fair Isle Ford has hired people who can adapt to do business a little differently. We always use the phone to call customers, and now our switchboard system is texting and e-mailing them to keep up our relationship. Three people here look after digital customers. Customers have different expectations and we work hard to meet those expectations.”
Wages and benefits
No one starts at minimum wage. “Our benefits package is generous; we offer a pension plan and four weeks of vacation after you have been here for a specified period of time. It shows in the longevity of some of our employees. One person has been here for 47 years, and another for 43 years. Some people can claim this dealership is the only place they have worked.”
Gary says Fair Isle Ford is quite actively involved in the community. “I am a member of the Rotary Club of Charlottetown Royalty, and we are a huge supporter of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. We also promote teams or organizations by holding car wash fund-raisers on our lot.
“Staff are encouraged to take time off to volunteer within the community. They are given one paid day off per year to spend at an organization. They just have to run it by me first.”
“A lot of people have moved from within, and we like to see it happen. There has been lateral shifting as well as moving up through the ranks. For example, an Appointment Coordinator became a Service Advisor, and a Service Advisor moved into Finance.”
Fair Isle Ford is currently expanding to the Magdalene Islands. Four to five staff will work in this location. “We are looking for bilingual staff.
“We have found our operations on PEI need to be trilingual, as there are a lot of Mandarin-speaking people on the Island now. We have hired a salesperson who speaks Mandarin.”
Due to changing technical requirements and retirements, the dealership has phased out its body shop. “We are replacing this shop with a detail shop, so we have moved one person to the new shop and have hired another Detailer.”
For more information about Fair Isle Ford, call 902-368-3673 in Charlottetown or 902-838-4775 in Montague. Visit www.fairisleford.com.