Brent Marshall shares the ingredients for fun and profits
Some guys just love their jobs, love life, and their communities. It shows up not only in their words, but in their actions. Brent Marshall, the dealer principal with Northland Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Prince George, B.C. is clearly one of those guys. “I love my job,” says Marshall in a recent interview with Canadian auto dealer. “I love coming in here every day.”
When he’s not running one of the most successful dealerships in B.C. and one of the top in the country, Marshall races cars with his staff, rides ATVs with them and races snowmobiles. When he’s not racing around, he’s raising money in his community or carving and delivering pumpkins to sick kids and the elderly to raise their spirits. His team donated so much money to a children’s wing of their local hospital — that they named it after his dealership. Marshall was named a Laureate Recognition Award finalist, has won Corporate Citizen of the Year and Business Person of the Year awards, and, get this — he’s not yet 40!
But it’s not all community boosting and recreation. When the dealership’s doors are open, he and his staff mean business. Northland has been the number one volume dealer for Chrysler Dodge Jeep in B.C. for five years and the number one heavy duty truck dealer nationally. We caught up with Marshall to try to figure out how he does it.
Start with the right staff
“We have a little different culture than your average dealership,” says Marshall from his Prince George, B.C. dealership. “We have a young crew.”
Marshall says he doesn’t typically hire people out of the car business. He’s hired construction workers, electricians, WHL players or people from other industries like loggers who have been laid off. “We like to train them our own way,” says Marshall. “We want non-confrontational people. When people come in we want them to have a friendly shopping experience.”
That friendly experience is also boosted by the life and spirit inside the dealership. “We make it fun,” says Marshall. Northland’s showroom has a retro look with a checkerboard floor, balloons, big screen TVs and music playing all the time. “It’s like a big party,” he says. “It’s not the typical dealership mausoleum. Here it’s the opposite, it’s bright red and black and white with lots of balloons.”
Showroom with no cars
One thing you won’t find inside the dealership is cars. “My showroom is so small I could fit one car in my showroom,” says Marshall.
Although you won’t find cars in his showroom, you will find people. Lots of them. Sales people and managers all sit out in plain view ready to meet customers. There are no offices. Marshall says this always comes as a shock to other dealers when they visit and ask where all the offices are located. “We don’t need offices to sell cars. We are not doctors, there is no privacy.”
They don’t need suits either. His team wear jeans and golf shirts. “I’m trying to change that whole vision of what a car dealership looks like,” says Marshall. “There’s no need to wear a suit in the car business, in my mind.” Marshall reduced the hours, and his dealership’s doors close at 6 p.m. six days a week. He says he wants his people to spend time with their family.
But it’s not all fun and games. When the sun comes up, Marshall and his team hit the ground running. Marshall gets up early, works out each day at 5 a.m. and puts the finishing touches on the motivational speech he gives every morning in his boardroom at 8 a.m. Inside the boardroom are giant speakers, big screen TVs and videos playing to help the staff get pumped up. “I hold a motivational meeting — every day,” he says. “My guys are all accountable. They come in and they know they are going to have a meeting with me every morning.”
Marshall wants his staff to know about any new incentives or programs, what’s going on in the industry, new product launches, and other trends.
Staff are also able to try new jobs and can move up through the ranks through opportunities provided by their dealer group AutoCanada. That group operates 22 franchised dealerships in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
Big community backers
Every month the dealership gets behind a local cause. That could be collecting clothes for the homeless, a child development centre, or other social or community causes. In October, for instance, they invite politicians and others to do pumpkin carving and deliver them to children’s hospitals, and the elderly around the community.
The biggest project was to commit $1 million to help build a new children’s wing for the local hospital by donating $100 for every vehicle sold in the dealership. They actually ended up raising more than $1.2 million dollars — and the wing was named after the dealership!
Other donations include $300,000 for a new cancer lodge in town to help build a family room. “A lot of our customers see us at the community doing events,” says Marshall. “We try to give back.”
Check it out at: www.northlanddodge.ca/