Ewald Kubota is Rural Lifestyle Dealer's 2017 Dealership of the Year in the multi-store category. The dealership is based in Seguin, Texas, and has 8 locations. In this excerpt from the feature in our fall issue, John Ewald, owner shares how he maintains a family atmosphere in a multi-store dealership.

As Ewald Kubota has grown over the years, it’s been important to the organization to keep the family business atmosphere. While the number of stores and employees has grown, Ewald still makes an effort to get to know each employee on a personal level to help keep the dealership from having a corporate atmosphere.

“I hate the corporate atmosphere and I hate titles. A good company culture starts from the top and permeates through the whole business,” he says. 

Ewald spends a lot of his time on the road visiting the other store locations. While he used to travel to each store every week, with 8 stores to visit now that is no longer possible. But, he does get out to each store at least once a month. He uses those visits to get to know his employees.

“I try to know something about every employee. I want to know about their wife and their family, how many kids they have and what they have going on. If someone’s moving or having a baby or if grandma is sick or dad is in the hospital — anything like that,” he says. “Then, I try to keep that in my head so the next time I come around I’ll say, ‘Hey, how’s your dad doing. Or John Boyd’s grandson at the parts counter in Boerne — he always has videos on his phone of his grandkids. Let’s see how he’s doing and how they have grown.”

The visits and casual conversations don’t just help Ewald get to know his employees better. It also helps him get a better idea of how things are going at each store. For example, he’ll take a seat at the parts counter to shoot the breeze and, during the conversation, will ask how things are at the store and how things are going in the back. 

“If anything is happening at that particular store, if there’s any drama happening, by the time I talk to everybody in the store, I know exactly what’s going on. I know who’s not getting along with whom and what manager did something to make somebody mad, or if somebody’s thinking of leaving. I get a feel for what’s really happening at that store,” Ewald says. 

Plenty of managers and owners have an open door policy and say, “Come talk to me anytime, my door’s always open.” But Ewald says that’s not the same and doesn’t have as big of an impact. While a lot of times what he hears from the employees isn’t any cause for concern, every so often he’ll pick up something that could turn into a bigger problem. “You won’t know that without going and talking to the people,” he says. 

The visits also have helped Ewald identify individuals who might be right for management roles. “Like most dealerships, we always try to promote from within, and when you’re out talking to people and getting to know their personality, you might see their work station or get a feel for how their appearance is, and you can say ‘that guy’s going somewhere’,” he says. 

“The next time I need a service manager, the next time I need to move somebody up in parts, I need to talk to this fellow. And that’s because you get to know him and you get to see who, within the company, is a mover and a shaker, and where the talent is that I need to promote.”

Taking the time to get to know the employees also seems to help with turnover. The average tenure for an Ewald Kubota employee is 14 years.

Read more about Ewald Kubota.