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So, You'd Like to Improve Your Dealership Culture?

Recent discussions we’ve had with current and potential clients suggest that one of the biggest road blocks to maximizing retail automotive success is the dealership (or department) culture. Since Garry's non-compete agreement with NCM Associates has now expired, GH&A decided it was now an opportune time to tackle this thorny issue.

A word cloud describing the elements of corporate culture

“Culture” can be defined as the shared values and practices of the company’s (or department’s) employees, and it’s important because it can make or break your dealership. Business cultures change over time, primarily as a result of employees leaving and joining the company. These changes may be positive, or not…they may be intended, or not…they may be major changes, or not..

The Culture Monster


The culture monster is the way that some describe the dark force that lurks below the surface of every company. He’s the dark side of every human being that comes out when we’re stressed out, over tired, over sold on our own greatness, or just plain frustrated with our lousy boss and all the corporate politics that never used to be there.


He’s waiting behind the water cooler to consume your creative ideas, kill your team spirit, and eat your best strategies for breakfast in ways that remain invisible and undetected without the proper discovery tools.

Does Your Culture Need a Makeover?


In assessing your culture, you probably need to ask yourself some hard questions. Here’s a few starters:


  • Do you accept mediocre performance?

  • Do you tolerate negative behavior?

  • Do your employees understand your expectations, and are they committed to them?

  • Do you inspect what you expect?

  • As a leader, do you continually set a good example?


If you like the way the culture looks and feels at your dealership as a whole (and in each of your operating departments) then all you need to do is focus on supporting and sustaining your current values and practices. On the other hand, if you believe your culture needs to change…and you wish to implement that change…you probably have some painful days ahead. Your first step must be to alter the attitudes and behavior of (or de-hire) the “granfalloons” in your organization.


“Granfalloons” -- isn’t that a great word? It was first penned by Kurt Vonnegut in 1988 when he wrote Cat’s Cradle. The word means “a group of people who claim to have a shared identity or purpose, but whose mutual association is essentially meaningless.”

What are the characteristics of the type of culture we see in a highly successful dealership, or department thereof? The list may include, but is certainly not limited to, the following:

  • Clarity of Company Mission

  • Employee Commitment

  • High Integrity Workplace

  • Highly Effective Leadership

  • Effective, Well-Executed Processes

  • High Accountability Standards

  • Customer-Focused Initiatives

  • Absence of Departmental Silos

  • Commitment to Learning and Skill Development

  • Commitment to Recruiting and Retaining Outstanding Employees

  • Performance-Based Compensation

  • Support for Innovation and Change


There are numerous resources available to you with extensive experience in dealing with dealership cultural challenges, and GH&A only provides some of them. If you feel you might need outside assistance to assess or change the culture of your dealership (or any of its operating departments), or in identifying and dealing with your “granfalloons,” please call us at (561) 339-0043, and we will ensure that you are directed to the most appropriate professional resource.

A Chart depicting the Vision Values for Both Strategy and Culture
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