Each of the five finalists for our Second Annual Successful Dealer Award will be profiled in the coming weeks. The finalists are CIT Group, Inc.; Truck Centers, Inc.; Freightliner of St. Cloud; The Pete Store and Stoops Freightliner. The winner will be announced at the conclusion of the first day of the Commercial Vehicle Outlook Conference at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas later this summer.
The Pete Store was founded in 2001 and has grown to 11 locations from Delaware to Georgia.
The full service dealership group has actively engaged its customers with state-of-the-art facilities and expanded locations, but has also put its attention back into the communities where they operate.
Each of the company’s employees are eligible to receive $250 per year to donate to a local cause of their choice. The only stipulation is that, to receive the grant, the employee must be actively involved in the charity.
“A cancer walk, a kids’ baseball team, it doesn’t matter,” says Greg Arscott, Vice-President & General Manager – Southeast at The Pete Store, “as long as the employee is actively participating. It’s not just throwing money at something.”
The Pete Store is also a major financial supporter of the Starkey Hearing Foundation, a charity dedicated to bringing the gift of hearing to over 100,000 people around the world each year.
The company is a founding sponsor of The First Response Team of America, a non-profit that provides support during the first critical hours of a natural disaster.
The team helps fill the gap between the initial onset of a disaster and traditional relief agencies.
“Our philosophy of giving centers on results,” Arscott says. “The causes we partner with have a clear mission, little administrative waste and consistently make a real, tangible difference in the lives of others. Our involvement two primary organizations allows for more direct involvement and maximum impact.”
The company’s work doesn’t stop at its city limits.
The Pete Store is a founding member of the Peterbilt/UTI training program.
“We have technician recruiter full time that works for us and he works to identify candidates and place them in the company,” Arscott says.
See The Pete Store’s nomination form here
The Pete Store pays upwards of $20,000 in tuition and room and board for eligible prospects. Once technicians graduate the program with full certification in Peterbilt and Paccar MX engines, the technicians are brought into the dealership for work.
The $20,000 is part of a forgivable loan that reduces by $1,000 per month of employment.
To-date, the program has been a powerful recruitment and retention tool as all program participants are still working for the company. The Pete Store had three candidates in the initial class and has pledged at least one to future classes.
Parts and sales personnel are enrolled in an ongoing partnership with renowned sales trainer Steve Schiffman to hone sales and customer service best practices.
Among the company’s environmental efforts were a conversion to high-efficiency T5 lighting at all locations; the use of waste oil heaters; metal and cardboard recycling programs and a conversion of the company’s parts delivery fleet.
The company recently converted its delivery fleet to Ford’s Transit Connect van, choosing its fuel economy over the company’s existing fleet of pickups.
“We actually conducted a study, and that study showed that the pickups were not needed,” Arscott says. “Less than 10 percent of our deliveries needed the capabilities of a pickup truck.”
Arscott says the conversion was a 15 percent improvement in fleet fuel efficiency.
The Pete Store uses its website to not only drive sales, but to help sales personnel to keep track of inventory.
“The backend of the website does everything,” Arscott says. “Our salesmen can see everything about the trucks they want to see. The front-side of the website shows (customers) real-time inventory. We can email specs to customers through the website, and there’s even an online credit app.”
Social media is a major part of practically every businesses’ marketing plan, but Arscott says The Pete Store uses it more as a tool to solve problems.
“Our first thought process (with social media) was this is a great advertising tool,” he says. “But we have found it is a better feedback tool than anything. “
Anyone whose active on social media knows pages can become a dumping ground for criticism and complaints, but Arscott says his team has embraced that.
“It’s a good place to act as a forum,” he says. “If someone has a complaint, we don’t delete things. We are conscious that to maintain credibility you have to be open.”
Arscott says his team regularly interacts with its social media followers, helping to address concerns on a variety of topics, many of which are out of the dealership’s control.
“People, sometimes, are just looking for an answer,” he says.