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What It Takes to Be on Top

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Story by Jim Murray

“Take care of your customers and the rest will be easy.” Sounds simple, right? In theory this is what it’s all about; the challenge is to deliver this every time, every day, to every customer.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, it all starts at the top in any organization. Whenever I go to a place of business, be it a restaurant, retail store or hotel, it’s all a reflection of the owner(s). If the owner doesn’t demand perfection, then you can’t expect to have a great experience with that business. I’ve always taken my life experiences as well as other businesses’ best practices, and then look at how I can apply them at Brian Jessel BMW. It only happens a few times when you really remember an exceptional experience. Mine was the first time I stayed at the Four Seasons Resort in Maui. My daughter was just two-and half-years old at that time and of course you always worry about how the hotel will receive your child if they have a meltdown. Let’s just say they had her at hello! Shortly after arriving in our hotel suite the buzzer rang. I opened the door to a gentleman who was wheeling in cart with what looked like a beach scene. There were marzipan seashells, cookie crumbs for sand and of course loads of goodies in there as well.

Smart move! Make sure the child loves the hotel and so will Mom and Dad. It didn’t end there, I walked into the ensuite to see my daughter’s name spelled out in colorful bath sponges. Bath time was now taken care of. Then on the bed was a stuffed animal, a Four Seasons whale for nighttime cuddles. The attention to detail was impeccable. I still remember every detail to this day and I thought to myself this organization must have an amazing mission statement and an unbelievable training program to get all their employees to understand the whole customer experience.

I think a light bulb went off in my head; I can take this experience back to the dealership. I now look at our business with the idea that your experience here should be a memorable one, and I mean a positive memorable experience. The car business doesn’t usually rank up there with first-class hotels and other great experiences. In the past I think the perception of car dealers was like a bad dental experience. I never look at this dealership as a “car dealer,” but rather as a place of business and a place where dreams happen. Buying a BMW is not a necessity for most people, but a reward for their achievements. Our customer experience is what keeps us on top.

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It takes “buy-in” from the entire organization to make it work for our customers. We have other dealers from across the country come to see us in search of the secrets to our success. My answer to them has always been the same: “It’s in the people!” You have to surround yourself with great people to have a successful business. If you have average staff, you will have an average business. The next key element is constant reinforcement. It’s all in the details, doing the small things right every time, every day.

When a you walk though the doors at Brian Jessel BMW you don’t see what it takes to make it all flow smoothly, you only see the end result of hundreds of employees with the same vision and focus. This is the “Disney Effect.” Everything looks perfect and flows effortlessly, it seems. But underneath Disney is a whole world of its own, with underground

tunnels and all of the staff focused on keeping the illusion or fantasy experience for the customer. We are not in the fantasy business (or maybe we are) but a lot goes into making it seamless for our customers. Before you arrive at the dealership you have probably seen one of our advertisements or magazine articles, visited our website or attended an event we’ve hosted. Our marketing department will work sometimes an entire year in advance to plan events or to launch an advertising campaign. It takes all 130-plus employees to make our customers’ experience a positive one.

QMA, or Quality Management Autohaus, was a great initiative that BMW Canada implemented last year. We are the first accredited BMW retailer in Vancouver to complete this year-long analysis and documentation process of our entire business. It really was a great learning tool to look at how each department works together for a common goal, and with the customer experience in mind with everything we do. This process strengthened the unity of our dealership.

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Moving to our Boundary and Lougheed location two years ago was like being born again for our business. It certainly has taken on a new life and led to unbelievable growth in our company. We are now number one in New BMW Sales, Parts Sales and Pre-owned Car Sales in the country! Some people have said to me it’s your location that makes you the number one dealer. I say, “You only need to look at our past achievements to see our future achievements.” We didn’t achieve the #1 position in Canada from our Coquitlam location because of location! We recently hung banners in the showroom to reflect these past achievements.

1986: 144 New BMWs sold. Brian’s rookie year in his Abbotsford location

1997: 452 New BMWs sold. #1 in Western Canada. Coquitlam location

1998: 437 New BMWs sold. # 1 in Western Canada. Coquitlam location

1999: 540 New BMWs sold. # 1 in Western Canada. Coquitlam location

2000: 657 New BMWs sold #1 in Western Canada. Coquitlam location

2001: 807 New BMWs sold #1 in Western Canada. Coquitlam location

2002: 955 New BMWs sold. #1 in Western Canada. Coquitlam location

2003: 1,092 New BMWs sold. #1 in Canada. Coquitlam location (This was my 1st Stanley Cup)

2004: 1,212 New BMW’s sold. #1 in Canada Coquitlam/ Vancouver location

2005: 1,360 New BMW’s sold. #1 in Canada. Vancouver location

2006: Let’s just say we’ll be #1 and set another national record.

I soon realized once the banners went up that the our future goals started before I joined the company in 1998. Brian always thinks big and has always had the vision to plan out the next decade ahead. His drive and customer-focused philosophy has been there long before my journey started with this company. Few BMW retail principals or owners understand the business and the customers better than Brian. His greatest gift is his ability to instill a sense of responsibility in all his employees to make our customers happy. Now, with more than 130 employees, I get a kick out of seeing the new ones paying attention to the little details right from the day they join the team. The customer-focused culture is already there and it’s easy for them to pick up on the spirit of Brian’s philosophy. “Take care of the customer and rest will come easy.”

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