GM Spotlight: Eric Savage from Freedom Automotive Group

By Alan Dodaro,
February 15, 2017

Hireology CEO Adam Robinson recently sat down with Eric Savage of Freedom Automotive Group for his weekly podcast with The Best Team Wins. In this interview, Eric walks through his core values and the focus on culture across his dealership.

Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

You can subscribe to Adam’s weekly podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play.  

AR: Today we have Eric Savage, president of Freedom Automotive Group. Eric – let’s talk with the people side of your business. I’m so excited to dive into this, because I know how passionate you are about this stuff. Do you have defined, specific core values for your organization?

ES: We have defined, redefined, and over-defined core values for our organization. We believe that defining, redefining, and over-defining is really what makes one organization better than another. The more we talked about, in detail, things like core values, mission, purpose, vision the more time we spend on that, the better we become, so absolutely we do.

Our core values spell out the acronym reach, R-E-A-C-H. The R stands for results. The E stands for enthusiasm. The A stands for accountability. The C stands for connection. The H stands for honesty. Again, that spells out reach.

AR: How do you communicate and promote those core values daily inside of your stores?

ES: That’s a great question. We talk about this in advertising all the time. I’m a big proponent of radio advertising. It used to be that you needed a frequency of four in order for people to hear your radio ad and remember it. Then it went to seven. Then it went to 11. Then it went to 14. Today’s it’s somewhere around 17 to 19, which means that somebody has to hear your ad 17 to 19 times before they remember it.

The reason I say this is because here we are knowing this works for the external world, but internally, is that how we communicate? Is that our process? The answer is most people don’t. They say, ‘I have a great idea.’ They bring people together. They say it one time. They say, ‘I did that.’ They check it off their list and they move on. They’re dumbfounded when, three weeks later, no one remembers what was talked about.

AR: Let’s talk then about the pitch to candidates and talk recruiting. What’s your single biggest, or best source of new applicants for your stores?

ES: I don’t mean to give you a call out so intentionally on your radio show, but right now, it’s Hireology. The work that we’re doing with you is generating a lot of lead activity for us and quantity of applicantsÉ That’s definitely a meaningful chunk of what’s going on.  

The truth is is that the very, very best candidates that we’ve ever had have always been referrals from people currently working for us. Someone working for us, who’s a butter pecan eating Freedom lover life improvement business associate, who really gets it and they bring somebody in who they know, those candidates work out really well. 

AR: Let’s also talk about the candidate experience over at Freedom. If I’m a new candidate, take me through your hiring process. What should I be expecting?

ES: You should be expecting, especially today, utilizing your platform, is obviously there’s going to be a fair amount of testing that’s occurring prior to the interview.

We would probably conduct a phone interview after that, then an in person interview if things are going really well. We’re applying Caliper testing to make sure that we’re seeing the personality traits that line up with us culturally.

We have a series of interviews that occur depending on the department. We do some cross-functional interviewing. A service manager might interview the sales consultant position. A sales manager, or a customer experience manager might interview a technician, or a service advisor position. There’s a lot of that cross functionality to make sure that everybody’s seeing the same picture the same way, or getting that wide perspective.

Upon hiring, we do a lot of different onboarding pieces. Some of them are interesting. We’re very celebratory about onboarding. When somebody comes onboard, we have a cupcake party. If you’re getting hired, the day you’re hired, there’s a big thing of cupcakes. Everybody comes around. We’re all loving, and hugging, and kissing, and thrilled. We post it up on Facebook with your picture, because we’re super proud you joined the team.

We go through a process of having that associate shadow somebody for a period of four, six, sometimes eight weeks depending on how quickly they acclimate to the environment. Then we start moving through the real more vigorous training, the book learning training after they’ve got a feel for the department and the area where they’re working. All these things are departmentally based, and skill based, and discipline based. The bottom line is we are believers in a quality onboarding process.

AR: How would you describe your role as the leader of the organization? Give us your job description.

ES: My job is to ask questions of people, of processes, of preconceived notions. When you’re a question asker and there are no boundaries to the questions you’re willing to ask, you basically become this hit man for sacred cows. I spend most of my day lobbing off the heads of cows, sacred cows in our organization. 

I’m not talking about people. I’m talking about those processes, or those notions that we have of this is how something has to be. Those limited view perspectives that we have, those are the sacred cows that I have to kill every day. It’s amazing. They spontaneously generate at a rate that’s terrifying. I kill one off and three magically appear.

The truth is is that that’s the most important thing that I can do, is everything that we have an assumption about, go challenge the assumption. Go ask questions about it. If you do, people really rally around it. Yeah, why are we doing it that way? Why do I always think it’s going to work out that way. What’s the data that I have to prove this? What am I willing to do to change that? Those are the types of things that we really want to try to stimulate conversation around.

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About the Author

Alan is the content and product marketing manager, responsible for educating Hireology customers on new product features and platform best practices. He brings experience from previous startup and digital agency roles. Before beginning his career, Alan attended the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, with a major in advertising and a minor in library information science.

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