Suzanne Kauniste is Exhibit No. 1 for Lexus of Palm Beach's practice of promoting from within.
Kauniste started working at the AutoNation dealership as a receptionist at age 19. Over the last decade, she has moved up to setting appointments, handling deliveries and now to her current post of selling vehicles.
"She went from $9 an hour to $100,000 a year," said General Manager Cliff Brush. "She's doing great, and she loves it."
Brush promoted Kauniste when he saw the rapport she had with customers. She once had doubts about whether she could sell cars, but they were erased by her success in the delivery job.
She now sells around 15 vehicles a month during the dealership's slow season and 20 a month during busy times.
Brush said he always tries to promote staff when there are job openings. His fixed-operations director used to be a technician.
"It sends the right message and keeps everyone engaged," said Brush, who has been general manager since 2001. "If you bring someone in from the outside, everyone wonders, 'Why am I working so hard?'"
Top performers at the dealership also can set their own work schedules as long as they meet performance targets. After all, sales reps do much of their work by cell phone, Brush said, so they can be on the job from home or most anywhere as long as they have their phones with them.
He also offers flexibility such as later start times to other employees who need them, including single parents such as Kauniste.
Said Brush: "If they're committed to working the hours, we're committed to being flexible enough to accommodate what else is going on in their life."
-- Amy Wilson