The 2017 CADA Laureates

Recognizing the best in the industry for 2017

Since 2005, the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association (CADA) and  iA-SAL, a leading provider of financial, consulting and training for new car and truck dealers in Canada, have partnered for the annual CADA Laureate Dealer Recognition Program.

The Laureate award, which is the highest honour bestowed upon Canadian dealers during the course of their careers, is awarded each year to only three out of Canada’s 3,200 plus new car dealers. The Laureate program is distinguished by a three-phase selection process that is administered by a third party. Each of the winning CADA Laureates is ultimately selected by the Ivey Business School at Western University.

Recognizing that dealers contribute to the automotive industry and communities in different ways, the CADA Laureate program has three different categories of awards. These include:

  Ambassadorship — For extraordinary service to the community and the industry;

  Innovation — For initiatives that significantly enhance performance or broaden the scope of business;

  Retail Operations — For outstanding achievement within an individual dealership.

Each of the 2016 Laureate winners was recognized previously in a special edition of the June/July issue of Canadian auto dealer.

Here we pay homage to them once again with both their own personal statements and judge’s comments.

Those dealers that are bestowed with the title of CADA Laureate epitomize the spirit of the CADA Charter. The 2016 award-winners are no exception.


Brian J. Cullen, Brian Cullen Motors Ltd. (GM – Chevrolet Cadillac),
St. Catharines, Ontario

Ambassadorship – For extraordinary service to the community and the industry

Brand represented: Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac and Toyota
Years in business: 54 years — 50 years as a GM dealer
Number of employees: 205

Background: The foundation of our business is built on the way we treat our customers. Our reputation in the community keeps our customers coming back year after year. I strive for 100 per cent customer satisfaction in all areas of the dealership: sales, service, parts and collision centre. I have always strived to be the best at everything I do and to be recognized for all of these efforts over a span of 50+ years is an extreme honour.

Judge’s comments: As many dealers do, Brian supports local sports teams. But his commitment is exceptional. He sponsors one team, in each sport (more than eight different local sports), at every age level. Remarkable. His dealership has several long-standing charitable initiatives. Brian has spent his entire career building a business geared toward improving and enhancing its local community.

Sponsor Comments: “Brian’s 50-year relationship with General Motors and the retail auto industry could serve as a road map for young dealers who want to serve their industry and help it flourish. Having played NHL hockey, it’s easy to understand why Brian has been such a supporter of that sport but his generosity spans all sports and age groups, and is truly exceptional. Brian has been both generous and innovative in grooming people for career advancement within and beyond his own dealer group. He embodies the spirit of ambassadorship.” (Alnoor Jiwani iA Dealer Services)


Jay M. McKeen
Jack Carter Chevrolet Cadillac Buick GMC, Calgary, Alberta

Business Innovation – For initiatives that significantly enhance performance or broaden the scope of business

Brand represented: Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, GMC
Years in business: 55 years  (dealership); 31 years personally
Number of employees: 112

Background: Not even the best marketing or the “hottest” models can drive more success than the power of the team that makes up the dealership. Acknowledgement from my peers of our team’s efforts is really quite meaningful. They, better than anyone, understand both the challenges and the opportunities that our business can provide. The auto industry provides an opportunity to work with some truly incredible individuals.

Judge’s comments: Several innovations in Jay McKeen’s business and operations are exceptional. The “Hire Slowly” process seems particularly effective, resulting in a very low employee turnover rate. Sales and revenue have nearly doubled in five years. Another innovation of note is the “Carter Cares” program that redirected routine charity giving to employee initiatives. This program heightens employee engagement and increases business results.

Sponsor Comments: “‘Customers for Life’ is a popular industry philosophy but Jay takes it a step further with his ‘Employees for Life’ strategy that is backed by a series of initiatives delivering exceptionally low turnover. The tremendous growth of what was already a well-established business validates that his strategies and initiatives are effective in driving the bottom line. There are numerous examples illustrating how daily attention to detail, constant learning and continuous improvement can lead to the impressive growth of an established dealership in a highly competitive market.” (Luc Samson iA Dealer Services)


James Braden
James Braden Ford, James Braden Lincoln, Kingston, Ontario

Retail Operations – For outstanding achievement within an individual dealership

Brand represented: Ford, Lincoln
Years in business: 33 years
Number of employees: 42

Background: Success stems from the ability to adapt to change in the marketplace — and from understanding my own strengths and weaknesses and surrounding myself with people who are much better than myself in the positions they are in. This nomination makes
me very proud of the staff we have developed. My job is to help develop people to their potential in life, not just at the dealership. I love the people — employees, guests, other dealer’s industry trainers and people at Ford.

Judge’s comments: James Braden Ford had outstanding results, based on superior processes, people and systems. Some highlights include an outstanding 40 per cent year over year profit increase, and being awarded the President’s Diamond Club Award. It is no surprise to see almost half of their customers are repeat customers and about a quarter of new customers are referrals from happy customers. Braden has created a learning culture, and incorporates several innovative software solutions into their operations.

Sponsor Comments: “While it is great for dealerships to have long-tenured employees, with it comes the challenge of keeping people engaged and motivated over the long run. James has succeeded in this regard through the unique culture he has fostered. It is the culture of the dealership that has provided the foundation for tremendous growth in volume and profitability. James is a true student of the business and he looks within and beyond the boundaries of the retail auto industry for tools and tactics he can apply at the dealership. James is at the forefront of automotive retail today.” (Alnoor Jiwani iA Dealer Services)


THE 2017 LAUREATE FINALISTS

Ambassadorship – For extraordinary service to the community and the industry

Craig A. DunnCraig Dunn Motor City, McLaughlin Motors Neepawa, and Murray Dunn Motors Nipawin Portage la Prairie and Neepawa, Manitoba; Nipawin, Saskatchewa

Advice to others: Find a dealership or group that has a great reputation for developing people and advancing their careers. Educate yourself and become the best at what you do.

What I like most about the business: The people I have the pleasure of working with every day are one of the best parts of my job. They are like family and become part of the fabric of your life.

Peter Heppner: Preston Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac Ltd. Langley, British Columbia

Advice to others: Be patient, develop your clientele over time. Look at your employment as a partnership with your dealer. Pursue your career goals within an organization or group. You will be rewarded.

What I like most about the business: Seeing the happiness in people’s faces when taking delivery of a vehicle is most gratifying! If there’s something good happening in a community chances are a dealer is playing a meaningful role. 

Peter S. MacDonald: D. Alex MacDonald Ford, Fair Isle Ford Lincoln and Summerside Honda Summerside, Charlottetown and Montague, Prince Edward Island

Advice to others: Include not just your management team, but your whole employee team, in bringing new ideas and innovation to your dealership. Exude humility and good will, and continually give back to your community.

What I like most about the business: I love the complexity of the different departments. I love the forever changing technology. But, without question, I most love the opportunity to have met so many wonderful people over the years. 

Pierre Spinelli: Le Groupe Spinelli Pointe-Claire, Lachine and Pierrefonds-Roxboro Province
of Québec

Advice to others: Establish a strategy that will set you apart from other sales professionals in the automotive industry. Prepare a business plan tailored to your reality. Set ambitious but achievable goals and surround yourself with people who can guide you.

What I like most about the business: I like proximity to customers, understanding their needs and personal situation, and offering the right vehicles to meet their expectations.

Business Innovation – For initiatives that significantly enhance performance or broaden the scope of business

John Leeder: Leeder Automotive Toronto, Orangeville and Etobicoke, Ontario

Advice to others: Spend time with every single person at the dealership and learn from them. Get to know what it takes to do what they do and you will go far.

What I like most about the business: Automotive retail, in a word, is exciting. It offers daily opportunities and delivers fulfilment in clear and measureable targets.

Mario Toyotoshi: Toyotoshi Group Canada Québec City, Québec; Mississauga, Ontario

Advice to others: Patiently but diligently seek opportunities and experiences to learn new things, grow professional competency and help others grow.

What I like most about the business: I love working with every member of the organization and making a real difference in their lives as we grow the business together.

Mike Stollery: Barrie Ford; Mike Stollery Automotive Partnerships and MJS Holdings and Management Inc. Central and Southwestern Ontario

Advice to others: Anyone who is passionate about pursuing a career in our industry should seriously consider an education from the Automotive Business School of Canada (ABSC). I may be a little biased as Chairman of the ABSC board, but there is actually no better way to get started.

What I like most about the business: The thing I love most about our business is that it’s always evolving. The winners always seem to be the ones who adapt the quickest.

Richard Graham: Campus Auto Group Victoria, British Columbia

Advice to others: Too often we over-complicate things. Focus on the relationships and keep it simple.

What I like most about the business: What I love most are the people. I have worked in the front lines in both service and sales and the personal relationships I have formed over the years are the key.

Retail Operations – For outstanding achievement within an individual dealership

Aziz Ahamed: Destination Toyota Burnaby (member of the Destination Auto Group) Burnaby, British Columbia

Advice to others: Believe in what you do and have fun doing it. Take the time to get to know your colleagues in other departments. Understand what they do, how they operate and how they contribute
to the guest experience.

What I like most about the business: Auto retailing is fast-paced and loaded with passion and creativity. I love this business for the opportunity to continuously innovate, delight our guests and excite our associates.

Brian Lowes: Mercedes-Benz Winnipeg Winnipeg, Manitoba

Advice to others: Compassion can go a long way to hearing what someone is trying to
say, versus what they are actually saying. Remember that the harder you work, the luckier you tend to get!

What I like most about the business: This business provides a launch point for people’s careers and dreams unlike any other industry. I love that it is a tough business that demands commitment, hard work and sacrifice to be great at it.

Bruce Axleson: Capital Automotive Group Regina, Saskatchewan; Edmonton, Alberta; Winnipeg, Manitoba

Advice to others: The automotive industry is the most exciting enterprise in the world. Remember that we are in the transportation business, which makes everyone a potential client.

What I like most about the business: I enjoy knowing that in our own industry there is no finish line and we will continue to grow and evolve forever.

John Kot: Kelowna Hyundai, Maple Ridge Hyundai, Buy Direct Truck Centre and Penticton Nissan (opening December 2017) Kelowna, Maple Ridge and Penticton, British Columbia

Advice to others: Giving back to your local community is important. Get involved, show support and the community will give back to you.

What I like most about the business: Every single day is an exciting new challenge. It’s a people business and I love working with people. It’s become even more important to me because I share it with my family.

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