2021 Best Workplaces: Propel Pathways for Growth
SHOP STATS: Aspen Auto Clinic Locations: 5 Colorado locations Operator: Greg Bunch Average Monthly Car Count: 1,600 Total Staff Size: 50 Total Annual Revenue: $8.5 million
With five locations spread across Colorado’s Front Range region, Aspen Auto Clinic founder and CEO Greg Bunch knows firsthand that a cookie-cutter mold won’t build a winning workplace culture.
“There’s so much that goes into a shop’s culture. It’s not singular or static,” he says. “The culture that makes up a workplace has its own unique DNA and you have to create space for those unique strengths and personalities to shine through. That’s the first step in building a workplace culture that’s worthwhile.”
Build a Baseline
Having grown up in the industry, Bunch knows that a clear set of processes and procedures can help give shops the room to create a culture that reflects their unique identities. Clear organization is key to a shop’s daily workflow, allowing staff to work efficiently and maximize their time, creating space for their strengths to shine through, instead of losing valuable hours to avoidable chaos and confusion.
“We’re not like McDonald’s. We’re not creating a model to keep every shop the same. The key is to strike that balance between the baseline systems that give our shops a common language and the flexibility that gives them space to develop their own personality and style,” Bunch says. “That’s where each culture really thrives.”
Two key factors Bunch has prioritized across all Aspen Auto shops are a systematic approach to meetings and staff training, valuable tools he finds many shops still aren’t prioritizing until something goes wrong.
Bunch and his team are in constant development of the shop’s training systems and each of Aspen’s shops holds a 15-minute meeting each morning to talk through what’s expected, as well as any overarching goals. Managers of each shop come together weekly to share updates from their teams, and the entire Aspen Auto Clinic team comes together quarterly for a company-wide town hall to discuss news, ideas, and goals as a group, and to recognize individual employees and shops for jobs well done.
Create Space for Initiative
Bunch notes that a strength in each Aspen shop’s culture is the ability to create a unique team chemistry, where employees feel comfortable being themselves, tap their personalities and strengths in their work, and believe their ideas will be valued.
Part of that dynamic comes from a commitment to finding the best fit for each employee, even occasionally allowing for transfers between shops to best utilize each employee’s talents, as well as strong and clear support from Aspen’s management team.
“We make sure they know they’re valued and trusted and we want to hear their ideas,” Bunch says. “The creativity that comes from that organic brainstorming is a real asset and it’s really just about creating support to put them into action.”
Aspen Auto Clinic regularly contributes to community efforts and hosts its own giveback initiatives. For the last two years the team has adopted a local trail and meets monthly to pick up trash and take care of a local park—an initiative conceived and rolled out by executive assistant Karen Maus. And recently, one of Aspen’s general managers spearheaded a company-wide contest, pledging to dress in pink and work as a service advisor for the day in the shop that beat his month in sales, creating friendly competition and boosting morale.
“I can take zero credit for those ideas,” Bunch says. “Both were complete grassroots efforts within the organization and when you have talented, passionate staff ready to jump on ideas like that, it creates a culture where people are excited to take action.”
Clear Pathways for Growth
From the get-go, Bunch and his team make it clear that Aspen Auto Clinic is committed to forging bonafide career paths for its staff, with growth plans for each position on the team.
Conversations on career development begin during a potential new hire’s interview—candidates learn the company’s plan for growth and possible future positions up front—and never end, with opportunities for personal and professional development incorporated into day to day shop flow.
Staff have access to one-on-one professional career counseling, reimbursement for ASE certifications and renewals, and more. Aspen’s educational coordinator and each shop’s foreman coordinate to make sure each staff member is able to take full advantage of the educational opportunities they might need.
Aspen is also working to develop an internal apprentice program and invests heavily in the latest tools and technology, so staff can keep up with industry trends, and isn’t afraid to think outside the box with less traditional avenues to help staff reach their full potential.
In one case, when a technician set out to become a service advisor, the Aspen team required him to join Toastmasters International, a nonprofit that promotes public speaking, so he could hone his communications skills.
“He wasn’t thrilled at first, but now he’s one of our best advisors,” says Bunch. “We’re not corporate. We have that family atmosphere and that ability to customize our support for what each person is going to need, and with that commitment to education and discovery, their growth is our growth.”