Eric Warrington started Community Auto in his garage in Fort Collins in 1995 and in the 22 years since has grown it into a successful business that also seeks to educate its customers and provide excellent service. Along with his daughter and general manager Stacia Hemp, Eric has created a culture where everyone at Community Auto understands that someone's car is often the key to their livelihood and it is the role of the auto repair shop to get that car and that person back running in excellent condition.
Transformation at the Top
Community Auto shows that trust and feedback need to flow both from top down and from the bottom up. When dealing with employee discipline, the leadership of Community Auto uses documented action plans to foster improvement rather than simply punishment. A professional development library is also provided to employees.
At the same time, Community Auto's leadership team practices accountability with a regular anonymous performance review of the managers. Employees provide feedback anonymously which the leadership team uses to improve organizational practices and management effectiveness.
Reinforce and Build
Instilling ethical standards at Community Auto starts with a thorough hiring practice which spends time looking at fit with the Community Auto culture as well as how the potential employee would approach ethical situations. Onboarding focuses on treating customers, employees, and the public like family with an emphasis on customer service.
Eric and Stacia also make sure to reward employees who practice good ethical decision making. Taking the right path rather than the easy path can result in an employee getting an additional day off of work or other recognition.
Unite the Team
Community Auto has built a close-knit staff where helping one another and going above and beyond is part of the culture, not something out of the ordinary. But this is reinforced through monthly meetings where key performance indicators are shared with the staff, so everyone buys into the shop goals. Instances of exceptional customer service are also recognized in a shout-out session so examples are shared and the team can celebrate together.
Stacia and Eric help employees grow and improve by having a high level of challenge but also a high level of support. Employees are given challenging but attainable goals and are provided with significant autonomy to meet them. At the same time, the management team is quick to recognize when a goal was too difficult and works with the employee to find new ways to meet it or to set a new, more reasonable goal.
When an employee needs to improve, Eric and Stacia focus on coaching team members to higher performance. In addition to setting and reviewing goals frequently with employees, they also offer books and training opportunities to help employees improve and advance in their career.
Community Auto's investment in their employee's professional development and recognition of outstanding performance have resulted in a record of high retention. Employee departures are generally positive and related to moves or career advancement. Safety and respect are also emphasized from day one with a code of conduct quiz and lift safety training included in the onboarding process.
In addition to participating in numerous community programs to help individuals who cannot afford service keep their cars (and thus their livelihoods) running, Community Auto also funds a shop benevolence account to help pay for repairs when a customer cannot. That same fund can also be used to assist employees in a tough situation.
Investing in their industry is also important. Community Auto has built many open and supportive relationships with other auto repair shops in the Fort Collins area. And Stacia has given back to the industry nationally with her service as President of the Mechanical Division on the Automotive Service Association Board of Directors.