When Dick Inukai purchased his first Dodge dealership in 1985, the company had fewer than 20 employees. In growing a business from the ground up, Dick knew that having the right people on board would set up his company for a successful future.
“He was passionate about the people who worked for him,” says Shannon Inukai-Cuffee, Dick’s daughter and co-president of Dick’s Auto Group. “Dad really cared about his employees, their families, and their kids. I was always amazed that he could remember the names of each person and all of their family members.” Even as the company continued to grow, it was Dick’s goal that all of his employees would love their jobs as much as he loved his.
Now, with 300 employees and five dealerships in the greater Portland area, not much has changed at Dick’s Auto Group. Shannon and her brother Scott Inukai, who run the family business together as co-presidents, aim to follow their father’s example in how they hire good people and keep good people on board.
“We’ve been fortunate to work with some very talented people throughout the years, and I think it goes back to creating long-term relationships with people,” Scott says.
A strong base of employees starts with the hiring process. One of Shannon and Scott’s tools in hiring the right people is the Dick’s Auto Group mission statement:
It is our mission to provide sales and service excellence while building lasting relationships. We are many individuals working together as a team with integrity, honesty, and commitment for our customers, our community, and our families.
“It’s a beacon for us,” says Shannon. “That integrity, honesty, and commitment piece is key in an employee. If we hold a potential employee up to this mission, will it gel?”
Instilling this mission statement is even more important these days, as the majority of employees at Dick’s Auto Group today have never had the opportunity to meet Dick, the man who started it all.
With new staff and growing numbers of employees, Scott and Shannon have had to find new ways to stay connected with their employees and continue their father’s example. “With 300 employees, it can be really difficult to meet all of them face-to-face and make personal connections,” Shannon says.
So she and Scott began holding monthly meetings in which they visit each of the stores to meet with their employees in person. It allows them to meet new hires and open a line of communication between them and their employees. The company also has an Employee Satisfaction Board at each store—a group that gathers to implement ideas for improving the employee experience at Dick’s Auto Group. “Many of us spend more time at work than we do at home, so it’s important that we love our workplace,” Shannon says.
“We know that if our employees are happy, our customers will be happy,” Shannon says. “Without our employees, this operation doesn’t exist.”
Ask Scott to tell you about the people he works with, and he’ll start naming a list of twenty-something colleagues, how long they’ve worked for Dick’s Auto Group, and why they’re the best in the business. It’s clear that he’s passionate about his employees, much like his father was.
“We are so lucky right now because we have a team of people who I feel are some of the most talented I’ve ever worked with,” Scott says. “No doubt, we have been blessed to have such amazing, caring, thoughtful, and talented people throughout our organization.”