More than half of you told us for our 2016 Dealer Business Trends & Outlook Report that finding good employees is the issue you are most concerned about this year. This means that it becomes even more important to keep the good employees you have — and find ways to help them reach their full potential.

Consider taking some time during this off-season to evaluate how you’re managing employees. Establishing a company code of conduct may be one place to start. Monte Wyatt, a top coach for the ActionCOACH Business Coaching firm and Rural Lifestyle Dealer columnist, defines a code of conduct this way: “I would call it our rules of the game or our core values. It defines and clarifies how we expect everyone to act, treat each other and treat our customers.

“It’s like playing a card or board game. If we are trying to play the same game but playing by different rules, we won't get along or don't know if we are successful,” Wyatt says.

Developing solid statements of conduct takes some thinking time and strategizing. Wyatt suggests setting up a team that includes 5-7 people. They could be members of your management team or a group of members representing several departments. As your group is brainstorming on characteristics and behaviors for how your employees should act, keep these 3 rules in mind:

  1. You must be willing to fire an employee who doesn’t act in accordance with the code.
  2. You must be willing to walk away from revenue or relationships that go against the code.
  3. They must be “alive” in your organization and not just words. Your team should know how to practice the statements every day.

During the brainstorming process, start with words that represent desirable characteristics and then combine those words into themes that further describe desired behavior. For instance, owners want their employees to act with honesty and integrity. “These are great things, but also show how you want employees to act. Build the language, so it sticks,” Wyatt says. For instance, exemplify honesty and integrity with a statement like, “Do the Right Thing at the Right Time.”

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For more ideas, Wyatt says to check out the core values of online retailer, which includes these statements:

  • Deliver WOW Through Service
  • Embrace and Drive Change
  • Create Fun and A Little Weirdness

Our 2016 Multi-Store Dealership of the Year PrairieCoast Equipment includes these statements in their core values:

  • Make it easy for customers to do business with us.
  • Ensure customers feel appreciated.
  • Provide solutions that will enhance customer value.
  • Resolve issues in a timely and responsible manner.

Once you’ve established your own codes of conduct, make sure to incorporate it into every aspect of your business, including recruiting, performance reviews and training. “When you have core values defined, it is easier to give an employee feedback on their behavior because you have set a benchmark or guidelines for all to follow. We must be willing to fire people who are not living our core values. If we don't, they are just words hanging on the wall,” Wyatt says.

Give a core values exercise a try and see how it might help you recruit and retain your area’s best employees.