Scoot over, Jack. At Park Place Lexus in an affluent northern suburb of Dallas, you're just as likely to find Jill in the driver's seat and on the showroom floor. In an industry where men have traditionally dominated, the Plano, TX, dealership encourages women to excel in the automotive field.
“People don't think of women in prominent positions in the automobile industry,” says Sherry Miller, vice president of human resources for nine-store Park Place Dealerships. “But there is tremendous potential in our company.
“We hire for attitude, then train for success. We're less interested in prior experience,” she says, “and more focused on finding highly motivated people who want to succeed.”
Out of 47 female staffers at the 228-employee Lexus dealership, there are six women on the sales team. They represent a wide range of backgrounds, from estate planner to corporate sales and retail. Some had never sold cars before. The constant between them is passion for their work.
“How does anyone get up in the morning without a passion for something?” asks Jamie Klein, a six-year veteran of Park Place who was in sales at a record label before that. “My clients appreciate my directness. I'm willing to go the extra mile to discover their needs. You might say I mother them a little.”
“It's not a battle of the sexes,” says Miller. “It's about offering our clients more choices. Some people find it easier to relate to a man when buying a car, and some are more comfortable talking to a woman. Their sales figures are indistinguishable.”
Park Place emphasizes screening and testing to find the right “members,” which is what the company calls employees. The average member undergoes more than 100 hours of training a year.
“It's in our best interest and the candidate's to select the right person for a specific job,” says Miller. “Once hired, we invest a lot in our members to help them grow in their area of expertise.”
Says saleswoman Kim Bergman: “My success is a direct result of the leadership we have here.”
Park Place Lexus was honored in April when U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney presented the store with the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in the small business category.
The dealership's satisfaction rate is more than 90%. Several large companies, such as General Mills, benchmark the store's processes.
Compared to a 55% employee turnover rate in the auto industry, Park Place's is less than 22%.
Innovative programs include “50-50 committee meetings,” that are open forums at which employees devote 50% of the time to ideas and concerns, and 50% to solutions.
“I love Park Place's philosophy,” says saleswoman Angela Zateeny. “We welcome people into an environment that's more like a home than a car dealership.”
Founded in 1987, Park Place Dealerships is comprised of dealerships representing a dozen high-end brands in Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston.
In addition to Lexus, Park Place represents Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Maserati, Volvo, Land Rover and Jaguar.
In total, the dealerships employ more than 1,000 people.
The Lexus store opened in 1991 and has undergone more than 10 expansions since then.