In 2010, Lisa Copeland co-authored a marketing proposal aiming to convince the then-named Chrysler Corp. to award an open point for Fiat and Alfa Romeo franchises in Austin, Texas. It was successful and the point was awarded. In January 2011, she became part owner and Managing Partner of the dealership. Nyle Maxwell was Dealer Principle.
By this year, Copeland, who just turned 50, was ready for a change.
“I didn’t want to spend six days a week running a car dealership,” she says.
Maxwell bought her out. On March 11, Copeland’s last day at what is now known as Nyle Maxwell’s Fiat Alfa Romeo of Austin, they brought the entire staff together and told them Copeland was leaving.
Copeland and Maxwell has worked hard to create a culture at the dealership that made people want to work there, and the staff was convinced that wouldn’t change with Copeland’s departure. It paid off. Not only did the entire staff stay at the award-winning dealership, but in April the Fiat franchise was number one in the country based on sales, says Copeland.
“Retention [of staff] has to do with customer retention,” says Copeland, who is now head of Automotive Retail Strategies at The Culture Works, a consultancy. “Customers do business with the sales person, not the dealership. If you constantly have a revolving management door, your sales go down.”
Copeland says a dealership must have an environment that people want to come to work in every day, and that they are passionate about. One key is to foster each team member’s motivation, whatever that may be.
“If I had done some of these things, I would have kept some talent” when I was managing partner, she says.
For top producers, for example, they may be reward driven, but you have to reward them as the good acts are done, says Copeland, not once a month.
Having more women in a dealership workforce in general helps retain top talent, says Copeland. They tend to be more nurturing as managers than men. But women are generally balancing more roles than men – as business people and as caregivers of children, a husband, and sometimes parents.
“You have to have flexibility in scheduling” to retain most women employees, she says.
Offering different pay plans, some part salary, part commission, other all commission, is also helpful in retaining women and Millennials, says Copeland.
“The dealer has to know what motivates people,” she says.
Lisa Copeland has co-authored a new book with René Banglesdorf: Crushing Mediocrity.