Long-term Employees and Customers Prove “Jones for Life”
The familiar slogan, “Jones for a Lifetime,” is true throughout Jones Junction. From employees to customers, this 45-acre campus represents a lifetime of hard work from long-term employees and a loyal customer base that makes it all worthwhile. This year marks the company’s 100th anniversary.
Beginning with a foundation of valuable employees who have made Jones Junction their career, the auto retailer has built an empire that reveres its owners and its customers. General Manager Larry Kropff is a prime example of owner Danny Jones’s “promote from within” strategy. Kropff started his career at Jones as a young boy washing cars after school. He became a detailer and worked in sales in the evenings and on weekends. When he scored a job as Deputy Sheriff with then-Harford County Sheriff Jessie Banes, he went to Danny and Larry Jones to tell them the news. According to Kropff, they would hear none of it – they told him they would train him and help him to learn the automotive business if he stayed on at Jones Toyota. He did, they did, and Kropff is now the general manager of Jones Junction, which includes car brands Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, RAM, Toyota, Subaru, Nissan, Hyundai and Kia. The location supports over 5,000 vehicles total, services 700 and sells 40 new and used cars every day.
Kropff’s training included running the body shop and service center. His current position of general manager places him side-by-side with the owners, in the thick of everything employee- and customer-related. After 41 years at the dealership, he says, “We try to remember where we came from. We know the hard work of the technicians and the service employees. Without them, we’d be nothing.”
Sales in the automotive industry have been up year over year, and at Jones Junction, Kropff says the sales team is selling an extra month of business in 12 months. His goal for the sales division is to continue that trend. To do that, he relies on several factors: hiring and training the right sales and service people, keeping employees satisfied and motivated, and working to provide outstanding customer service.
“When hiring for any position, the biggest thing we look for is attitude,” Kropff says. That means a positive outlook, a concern for others, and above all, a willingness to serve the customer. “The bottom line is we are going to do the right thing for the customer,” Kropff says. He notes that owners Danny and Larry Jones and Bryan Kilby get involved both with employees and customers. “They have an open-door policy. At least one of them is on-site every day. If they hear that an employee is not well or needs help with something personally, they are the first to step up. They got that from their father and mother. They know that they have been blessed,” Kropff says.
For example, the owners have created an employee fund through the National Auto Dealers Association to raise emergency relief money for employees of dealers in Houston, Texas who have suffered loss from Hurricane Harvey. Jones has set the goal of more than $70,000 and the owners are asking all employees to donate generously. Donations will be matched by both Toyota and the owners of Jones Junction, enabling employees to triple their monetary gifts to the fund.
“The car industry is a giant family, and these people need help. They would do the same if it had happened here,” says Debra McCollum, CFO of Jones Junction and a 32-year veteran of the company. “They treat you like family here, and there are constantly new things happening. My father used to say, ‘If you don’t learn something every day, you’re doing something wrong.’ I learn something new here every single day.”
Kropff concurs, saying, “It’s that feeling you have in the morning, when you turn the key in the lock of the office door and you know you like coming to work.” Knowing that the company is only as good as its worst employee, Kropff says Jones Junction takes employee training and treatment seriously. The company has over 125 factory-trained technicians in its service center. All sales representatives are factory trained and certified to sell new cars.
The emphasis never wavers from customer service. “We are measured every day by our customer surveys. I read every one of them, and I even call some people myself,” Kropff says. Jones Junction has two customer relations managers who work with customers for complete satisfaction. The owners get involved in customer service, as well. “If a customer has a concern, they want to know about it,” Kropff emphasizes.
The company offers on-site training and coaching for sales and service professionals with the expectation that new skills will be utilized to meet the company’s goals. McCollum was given an opportunity to contribute significantly to the company’s goals when she was asked to attend the Dealer Academy through the National Auto Dealers Association. Because of its exclusive nature – only two other people at the company have attended – McCollum says that while this was one of her proudest career moments, she also knows that implementing the procedures and processes she learned will make the dealership more profitable. “I have learned how to measure and monitor every aspect of the operations and how to keep
managers informed,” McCollum says.
These concepts add to the already robust programs for customer satisfaction that differentiate Jones Junction from competitors, McCollum explains. The business is open late during the week and on Saturdays for customer convenience. The sales department has a price guarantee, no hidden charges and they offer top dollar for trade-ins. The company has embraced the internet, and uses a tracking system to monitor leads on new and used car buyers, then members of the sales team follow up with potential customers. The Jones collision center takes care of all bodywork and repair in a one-stop shop for customers who need it. McCollum says the company’s aftermarket sales are competitive, and it will match any outside retailer for parts, especially tires.
Inside the employee ranks, Jones rewards top producers with sales awards, top earner awards, special employee dinners and crab feasts. Employees are also eligible for factory-sponsored service programs that reward customer retention.
McCollum believes that Jones is, in fact, for life – for both employees and customers. The company’s 100-year success story is predicated on its loyal customers. As for its employees, McCollum says, “You come to work here, you’re going to stay here.” I95 Content Marketing