Tudor Baciu, the 38-year-old general manager of Burlington MercedesBenz, is one example. When he and
his family emigrated from Romania to Canada 10 years ago, Baciu said, he could not speak English and was just happy to start in the car-wash bay shortly after he arrived. Achieving a senior role seemed a distant dream.
Managers noted Baciu’s reliability and leadership potential and the company offered to put him through the automotive-business-diploma program at Georgian College in Barrie, Ont., about 140 kilometres north of Burlington.
Baciu said staff are encouraged to take courses as a way to advance their careers, and the company has paid for the education of several employees. After graduation, he worked in a variety of roles before assuming his current position.
“What’s remarkable about Tudor is he has this tremendous potential,” Szekely said. “He’s the best general manager we’ve ever had.”
Baciu also embraces the company mantra of building a positive corporate culture. Achieving that goal is not about process, he said. “It’s about how a thing feels.”
To stay close to employees, Baciu does a daily walk-around, checking in on how their work is going, as a friend and not a micromanager, he said.
“My main priority is the company culture. If a front-line service adviser is not happy and engaged, then nothing will work.”
Baciu is also not afraid to get his hands dirty. Recently, he worked with a technician on a windshield replacement to understand the process.
THE BOSS TAKES NOTICE
Mercedes-Benz Canada has acknowledged the dealership’s accomplishments. “Dealerships like Mercedes-Benz Burlington continue to innovate new, creative ways to put the customer front and centre, and we encourage these efforts,” the automaker said in a statement.
When Eva Wiese was appointed CEO in November, Burlington Mercedes-Benz was the first dealership she visited, said Szekely.
“That wasn’t by accident. She wanted to get a sense of how our employees are engaged.”
Staff also have access to the 28,000-square-foot (2,600-metre) dealership’s customer-friendly amenities, such a spa, golf simulator, minitheatre and full-service café. While some of the amenities, such as the spa, are closed due to pandemic-related restrictions, all staff receive discounts on dealership products and services.
“The dealership has a bit of energy to it,” Szekely said. “It’s almost like a gathering place for the community.”
Employees take pride in the luxury features that set it apart from competitors, Szekely said. The dealership even publishes its own luxury lifestyle magazine, MarQuee, for customers.
Szekely, who founded Burlington Mercedes-Benz 11 years ago, has 45 years of business experience in manufacturing specialized medical and military equipment. In every venture, he said, he has emphasized a healthy corporate culture as a key for success.
“It has always been a tenet of mine. That’s how we have been able to have long and enduring business relationships.”
The dealership’s efforts have contributed to a healthy bottom line despite the challenges of running a business during COVID-19. Although he would not provide figures, CFO Ed Rafih said 2020 sales “were strong ... considering the pandemic.”
According to the Automotive News Research & Data Center, vehicle sales in Canada fell about 20 per cent in 2020 over the previous year, but the dealership said its declines were much less than the average.
Meanwhile, Szekely is actively looking for dealership acquisition opportunities in the Greater Toronto Area and then perhaps beyond. When a company is growing, he said, employees are more engaged.
“We have a great [business] blueprint.”