Monday, July 26, 2010

A Business of Character

What does it mean to be a "Business of Character"? It is a question many wonder when they walk through the doors of Tom Gill Chevrolet. Oftentimes, when the question is asked to customers or curious people, their response is rather typical: it means to have integrity, to be honest, to follow the golden rule, and to have respect. Yes, all of these typical answers do have a place in being a "Business of Character", a business wouldn't really be one without these elements. Yet, being a "Business of Character" goes beyond just talking about the different character qualities that exist, being a "Business of Character" is about developing each and every employee at Tom Gill Chevrolet to strive to constantly improve.

Tom Gill Chevrolet, in 2001, became a "Business of Character." It was a result of teaming up with the Character Council of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky. As a result of this partnership, Tom Gill and his employees chose to start developing their character qualities. The character development was, and still is, based off of a list of 49 character qualities.

Everybody knows that nothing comes easy, and that is why the employees at Tom Gill Chevrolet still strive to improve their character qualities. The improvement happens in many different stages. All new employees must attend a character training session. There, new employees learn what it means to be a "Business of Character' and how this idea will permeate through their employment at Tom Gill Chevrolet. Current employees must attend 4 character "energizer" sessions throughout the year. These sessions are meant to focus the employees' attention on the present state of things at Tom Gill Chevrolet, and it allows employees to take a close look at how well the organization, as a whole, is doing at being a "Business of Character." Further, there is a character trait of the month. This character trait is displayed throughout the dealership to remind employees and customers what the dealership is working on. The signs are displayed to encourage development of that characteristic in every employee at Tom Gill Chevrolet. Also, employees have the ability to be recognized for displaying actions that reflect the character trait of the month. At the end of each month, the employees at Tom Gill Chevrolet,vote on the employee that best displays the month's character trait. Finally, each employee is encouraged to recognize where their strengths and weaknesses exist within the list of the 49 characteristics. Upon identification, employees are asked to improve those that need to be improved, and employees are asked to continue in their strengths and to encourage others to do the same.

According to Tom Gill, the owner of Tom Gill Chevrolet, "many dealerships train their employees 80% of the time on the hard skills, how to fix a car, how to sell a car, how to do a process, but here, at Tom Gill Chevrolet, we spend 80% of our time developing the people, encouraging them to become better people, and encouraging them to develop skills that will allow them to focus on treating fellow employees and customers in the best way possible."

When reading about a "Business of Character," it all sounds nice, it all sounds like a good idea, and it sounds like no business could ever live up to being a "Business of Character." Yet, it has proven over the years to be something great. The idea of being a "Business of Character" has actually produced results, and it has allowed for a better workplace for employees and a more comfortable environment for customers. In fact, on the outset of being a "Business of Character," the employees of Tom Gill Chevrolet were asked to develop a mission statement that they would want to live out in their daily work. The result was: "From our family to yours, your complete satisfaction is our everyday goal." This mission has helped to guide employees over the past nine years and the effects have been great. Employee turnover has decreased by 65%, because employees are treating each other as if each employee were a customer of the dealership. Further, our relationships with customers have improved. Tom Gill Chevrolet has seen increases in customer satisfaction surveys, the number of returning customers is through the roof, and Tom Gill Chevrolet increasingly sees referrals from customers that have had an enjoyable buying experience.

Being a "Business of Character," goes beyond just talking about several different character qualities. Being a "Business of Character" is about developing the employees to be the best people they can be, to build a business that is built on people of character, and to create a business that makes people, employees and customers, feel comfortable and valued as soon as they walk through the doors of Tom Gill Chevrolet.

The 49 Characteristics can be found here


  1. There are great resources available at:

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  3. I agree in whole. Integrity is needed in business. Take for example in being a car dealer. We need to have a good service and deliver the right car for the right customer.

  4. A "Business of Character" enables customers to be more empowered to trust your company and therefore increase results in terms of return customers.