Insights on Creating a Successful Workplace with Dealer Advisory Council Member Ken Swank

Community, Dealer Education,

In the January/February 2024 issue of NATDA Magazine, we interviewed 
Ken Swank, a member of the Dealer Advisory Council, who shared his approach to improving morale and teamwork in the workplace. To gain valuable insights and learn effective strategies you can implement in your own company, keep reading.

Q: In the current economy, finding and retaining staff has become challenging. What are some of the most important practices you follow in your dealership to create a unified team? 

A: COVID changed how we do business in lots of ways, and staffing is one area that has significantly shifted. It’s difficult to find good staff, so now it’s more important than ever to retain them. While increasing wages may seem to be a quick fix, it’s not always possible nor is it the best solution.

My advice? Truly get to know your employees. Not everyone is motivated by the same thing. Knowing what motivates your team will not only lead to happiness, but a stronger sense of accomplishment, team, and a winning culture.

Here are my top 5 non-financial suggestions for employee retention:

  1. Give your team a sense of purpose with a defined goal. A team without direction will wander. It is difficult to work 40-plus hours a week when you are not truly sure why you’re doing it. Provide clear and defined goals that are trackable and attainable. Develop and share a mission statement or an overall productivity goal. Provide updates and feedback regularly and ensure your team knows how much you appreciate their contributions.
  2. Provide your team with regular opportunities to grow. One of the most common questions I hear from employees is if there is room for growth in their positions or within the company. Growth does not always equate to a raise. In some cases, training, knowledge and increased responsibility are simply enough to feel valued.
  3. Ensure your team feels your appreciation and that you are as much a member as you are a leader. DO THE LITTLE THINGS! Sometimes coming in early and cooking pancakes for your people can show just how much you value them. Show you are willing to go above and beyond for them. Have contests with fun random prizes and give them chances to feel special.
  4. Bring things to brighten up the atmosphere. For example, in the employee break room consider adding a popcorn machine or a Keurig with a variety of coffees. For some time, we’ve provided loaves of bread and peanut butter and jelly. You would have thought the team won the lottery! What I learned from this is that the small things matter.
  5. Finally, make sure you establish fundamental values and LIVE BY THEM! Make them a part of your everyday practices and talk about them often. Be the type of team leader who would never ask for something that you wouldn’t do.  During the hiring process, take those fundamentals into account. Ensure the people you hire will accept them and take part in the culture you are trying to create.

To learn more on how to build a winning team culture, Ken recommends the book “FiSH!” by Stephen Lundin.

To hear more about Ken's approach to teamwork, watch him on an episode of Full Send (produced by The Trailer Parts Outlet).