A focus on workplace culture and company values yields bottom-line results

Posted on December 11th, 2015

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OC Auto Team Celebrates Eight Consecutive Years as a Top Workplace

The first year John Patterson’s company participated in the Top Workplacesprogram, the survey results surprised him. He discovered that employees at his auto dealerships were not as engaged as he thought. “I place a real high priority on harmony,” said Patterson, who owns three auto dealerships in Orange County, California. “When everything is running in the same direction, it makes things a whole lot easier.”
workplace cultureSince then, reviewing survey results—especially candid comments—has become essential to measuring employee engagement at the dealership. Do they want more tools? More training? Changes in the 401(K) plan?

A focus on workplace culture yields results

Fast forward, and Patterson’s OC Auto Team is now celebrating its eighth consecutive year as a Top Workplace. Getting there and staying there isn’t because of one thing but “a series of little things,” he says. Staff camaraderie. Clear goals. Community service. It’s all part of the deal.

When the company first appeared on the Top Workplaces list in 2008, Patterson had about 100 employees. It now has 150 among Tustin Mazda, Huntington Beach Mazda, and OC Hyundai. As the company grows, it works hard to maintain its culture. They’ve realized the benefits of this focus, including with employee retention. At just 3% per year, turnover is extremely low—particularly for a sales environment.

“When people join our organization, they understand they are going to be treated with respect and honesty,” said Patterson, who founded the business in 2004 after 11 years at Toyota corporate.

Six company values are the key to their success

According to Patterson, six core principles help guide the company’s success:

That last point has earned Patterson special recognition. The Orange County Register honored the company with a social responsibility award this year. It noted the company gives employees two paid days per year to serve charitable causes, including school activities or their favorite community passion.

“We want to be the best servants of our community and of each other,” Patterson said.

It’s a formula that works because Patterson leads his employees by example and creates an environment where he “treats his customers as though they are guests in his home,” says Lynda Nelson, the company’s director of customer affairs.

She estimates that more than half of prospective employees learn about the company because they discover it ranks as a Top Workplace.

Patterson knows community involvement is good for business. After the 2008 recession, “our organization not only survived but thrived because our customers rallied behind us,” he said.

Charity works

Each year, the company gives in excess of $200,000 to charities such as the Boys & Girls Clubs, Children’s Hospital of Orange County, and a local juvenile diabetes organization. It also gives plenty of smaller donations to bands, schools, and soccer teams.

In November, for example, the dealerships donated 700 pounds of food to the Second Harvest Food Bank and matched customer donations of pocket change to give $2,200 to the Orange County Rescue Mission. It sends a message not just to the community, but to the employees as well.

“They are part of something bigger than selling cars, servicing cars, or selling parts,” Patterson said.


The Importance of Trust and Values in Workplace Culture

Posted on December 8th, 2015

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Brand Expert Says Great Companies Put Values Ahead of Profits

How do great companies create long-term success? Not by focusing on the balance sheet, a corporate brand expert says, but by improving people’s lives based on strong, shared values.

“Great companies have an amazing opportunity to provide a lifelong impact on all of the lives they touch,” said Michael Weisman, founder and CEO of The Values Institute, a research and consulting company that stresses the importance of trust and values in corporate culture.
workplace culture

Weisman delivered his message recently to Orange County business leaders at a Top Workplaces event in Anaheim. The advertising executive and brand developer has become increasingly passionate about corporate values since the 2008 recession. He’s spent years working with hundreds of companies, advising C-suite executives, and speaking with thousands of employees.

Five key values-based principles

In his experience, values are what makes great companies great. They define corporate culture: how they imagine, how they invest their time, and how they spend their money.

“Values create the foundation of every successful organization,” he said. “All the choices we make in life are influenced by what we value most.”

Since the recession, consumers expect more than mere transactions. In a values economy, these qualities stand out, Weisman said:

  1. Relationships are more important than transactions. Without good relationships, transactions are not sustainable, he said. Consider Zappos, the online shoe retailer, whose founder, Tony Hsieh, believes it’s in the business of delivering happiness. So much so, Hsieh wrote a book with that title.
  1. Put purpose before profit. “People don’t mind companies that make profits,” Weisman said. “They mind when they grab for our wallets.” He cited Toms, the accessory retailer, which contributes to a person in need with every purchase.
  1. Transparency over opaqueness. Great companies value open, honest communication, Weisman said. Patagonia, which sells outdoor recreational gear, is a big advocate of environmental responsibility, backing it up with detailed information about its supply chain.
  1. Conviction over compliance. Great companies value doing what’s right over what’s expedient, he said. They follow their heart. He cited Panera founder Ron Shaich, whose Panera Cares cafes support people who suffer from hunger by operating on a pay-what-you-can model.
  1. Advocacy over apathy. Put the needs of others ahead of your own, Weisman said. He singled out CVS, the drugstore chain, for its decision to stop selling tobacco products, giving up billions in revenue because it believed those sales conflicted with its mission of supporting customers’ health.

The value of values

Values give purpose, Weisman said. And without purpose, “we simply become economic agents in the pursuit of revenue.”

Employees want to work for companies with values. “What is it your employees are yearning for?” he asked. It’s not just to earn more profit. Leaders should nurture values inside companies to satisfy what drives people.

In a competitive sea of sameness, values help companies stand out. People want to recognize values they share. “Shared values bond us,” he said.

The trust factor

Values are the gateway to trust, which he calls “the most valuable asset of any company.” Over the long term, having repeat customers and developing meaningful relationships creates trust and brings tangible benefits to an organization. Weisman cited a 2002 study by Watson Wyatt that shows high-trust companies outperformed low-trust companies in total return to shareholders by 286%.

High-trust organizations create a “rabid community of advocates.” He added: “Trust is earned; it can’t be bought.”

Weisman urged companies to keep nurturing relationships inside and out. “Living a life of values at home and at work will never show up on a balance sheet, but it will bring you peace and joy,” he said.