Recognized as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2017)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Apr 24, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why Cowell Motors Ltd. was selected as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2017):
- Cowell Motors helps employees build their skills through in-house training such as apprenticeships and offers generous tuition subsidies for courses related to their current position (up to $4,000 annually)
- Employees at Cowell Motors are encouraged to save for life after work through matching RSP contributions and may also be eligible to receive year-end bonuses, depending on their position
- Employees at Cowell Motors are involved in the selection of charitable initiatives supported every year and receive paid time off to volunteer -- the company also encourages employee team building through participation in events such as the Vancouver Sun Run and the Tough Mudder race
'Wow experiences' drive Cowell Auto Group
When Cowell Auto Group Technician Eric Maitland saw both his bosses coming towards him, his first thought was, "Oh, dear..." It's not unusual for one of the Cowell brothers to visit the service department, but to have both Rand and Ryan approaching was a little intimidating.
Maitland's "oh, dear" moment transformed into a "wow experience" when the Cowells presented him with the President's Award as a top employee at the Richmond, B.C.-based auto group.
"When they both came up together, I thought, 'what's going on here?' Then they gave me a plaque with my name on it," says Maitland. "Being ambushed by the Presidents -- that's a wow moment for sure."
Providing employees and customers with wow moments has been a key to the company's success for 50 years. But Rand Cowell doesn't use the word "employees" -- he prefers "internal customers."
"When we talk about a 'wow experience,' it's not only wowing the external customer, but how do we wow the internal customer?" he says.
"There are external customers, but equally important, there are internal customers, so to get that family feeling going we want to make sure there's as much focus on us respecting each other and treating each other as though we're customers internally as well."
That family feeling started in 1967 when Rand and Ryan's father, Gary Cowell opened a Volkswagen dealership. Now the Cowell Auto Group also sells Audis, Jaguars and Land Rovers and has 270 employees.
The Cowells have always been innovators. They developed a mission statement and a set of shared values long before it became corporately popular.
"We didn't plaster them all over the walls or put it up on the websites," says Rand Cowell. "They were on a laminated card and everybody had them in their shirt or vest pocket close to their heart to make sure they were living by them. That's something we're very proud of."
Cowell says the company uses Vertical Mindset Training to get employees to think beyond just selling or fixing vehicles.
"It's about how you live a more fulfilled and purposeful life," he says. "When people feel comfortable enough in sharing and living a more fulfilled life, they grow stronger bonds and that definitely translates into a stronger team and better focus on taking care of the customer."
Every work group has a daily "huddle," to discuss good news (wow experiences), "pain points" (barriers to wow experiences) and their goals. Maitland, a team leader, says it's integral to his day.
"It brings forward a lot of information that needs to be shared," he says. "Communications is huge and that's our stage to get that information out to everybody."
Also huge for Maitland and his fellow employees are training initiatives that include apprenticeships, paid internships and tuition subsidies of up to $4,000 annually. There are also generous extended health benefits and matching RSP contributions.
Cowell says another key to success is the company's on-going connection with the community. In addition to supporting the Alzheimer's Society, Richmond Hospital Foundation and other charities, the company pays employees to volunteer in the community.
While they're celebrating a half century of wow experiences, Cowell says the company isn't going to rest on its laurels. They're going to continue to improve and innovate so they can keep wowing folks in the future.
"The retail automobile industry is a very old and established industry that's ready for change," he says. "To be successful in the future, we have to be constantly looking at how we do things better, how we do things differently and part of that is collaboration to be able to innovate around the customer experience."