Leadership Practices of 2016 Baldrige Award Recipients: Don Chalmers Ford

Posted by Christine Schaefer

During the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program’s 29th Annual Quest for Excellence® Conference this week, national role models in every sector—including Baldrige Award recipients of 2016 and previous years—have showcased their best practices.

Following is the third of four blogs on the leadership presentations of the 2016 Baldrige Award recipients (in order of publication): Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital (health care); Kindred Nursing and Rehabilitation Center–Mountain Valley (health care), Don Chalmers Ford (small business), and Momentum Group (small business).

Don Chalmers Ford

At the outset of his presentation, Don Chalmers Ford President and Dealer Principal Gary Housley talked about the dedication to pursuing excellence of the small business’s (deceased) founder, Don Chalmers.

head shot of Gary Housley

Gary Housley

Not long after launching the Ford dealership in 1996 in Rio Rancho (Albuquerque area), New Mexico, Chalmers set his company on its Baldrige journey, according to Housley. Chalmers had a “vision of providing a better customer experience. He wasn’t in it for the award but for the feedback to get better,” he said.

“Twenty months after our founder Don Chalmers passed away, we won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award,” Housley added. “Most businesses lose their way when an event like this happens. [But] our framework was set, the foundation was secure.”

Still operating today with its original motto “Real Value, Real People, Real Simple,” Don Chalmers Ford now has 10 locations and 180 employees, said Housley, adding that 53 percent of the business is composed of sales, 42 percent is service, and 5 percent is repairs.

Of the high performance his dealership has achieved, Housley stated, “I’m a car guy [who] believes in the Baldrige framework. I speak car, not Baldrige. If we can do this, anyone can. We are a testimony to the Baldrige framework [capacity] to provide organizational sustainability and success.”

After presenting a depiction of the Don Chalmers Ford leadership system (shown in graphic below), Housley quipped, “I’d rather build a truck with you today than walk you through the system.”

Depicition of Don Chalmers Leadership System

Housley also made the audience laugh when he noted that a key achievement of his dealership was to create a process that eliminates “all the crappy car-buying experiences” that customers may expect of car dealers based on their past interactions with such businesses. On a serious note, he continued, “We wanted to be different. We wanted a friendly… no-pressure sales process.”

Housley went on to compare the fundamentals of “building a truck” to his dealership’s core competencies. “Everything on the truck is attached to the frame; like that truck, our dealership has a frame … made up of our three core competencies: (1) servant leadership, (2) family values, and (3) integrity and ethics.”

“Our core competencies are our greatest area of expertise, strategically important and challenging for our competitors to imitate. They also provide us a competitive advantage,” he explained.

Servant leadership “is in our DNA,” he said. “It’s a way of life for us.” Examples of how the organizational culture supports its values, he said, include being closed on Sundays, providing employees with free care via an on-site health and wellness clinic (where the same nurse has served for 14 years), providing a bonus to employees who stop smoking, and organizing family-centered activities.

In regard to how the business demonstrates its core competency of integrity and ethics, Housley explained that Don Chalmers Ford adopted three tests from a Rotary International practice. These are printed on pocket-size cards for employees: “Is it the Truth? Is it Fair? Is it the Right Thing to do?”

Housley highlighted the example of his dealership’s decision not to sell a group of used cars for which there was an open safety recall for faulty air bags—despite the fact that it was legally permissible to sell such cars and that competitors were doing so. Due to that ethical decision, Don Chalmers Ford lost revenue equivalent to one month of sales, according to Housley. “But when we all discussed it, everyone felt it was the right thing to do,” he said.

Given its vision “to be the Premier Ford Dealership in New Mexico,” Don Chalmers Ford ensures that employees themselves experience top-notch service by taking them to a 5-star restaurant. Housley also said he talks to all new employees about the mission statement “Growth through Customer Loyalty.”

Among key results Housley presented are Don Chalmers Ford’s high employee satisfaction and engagement and its exceptional feat of earning 14 Ford President’s Awards for high customer satisfaction and market share.

Finally, Housley shared the following “four things I would like you to take away”:

  1. You must have a strong leadership system and senior leaders that model the expected behaviors.
  2. You must deploy a culture for success with engaged employees to satisfy your customers.
  3. You must have a passion for products or service that you offer to exceed the customer’s expectations and create loyalty.
  4. The Baldrige framework provides for succession planning and organizational sustainability.

For more details, see the Don Chalmers Ford profile on the Baldrige website.

Other blogs in this series are linked here:

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2 Responses to Leadership Practices of 2016 Baldrige Award Recipients: Don Chalmers Ford

  1. Pingback: Leadership Practices of 2016 Baldrige Award Recipients: Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital | Blogrige The Official Baldrige Blog

  2. Pingback: Yes, You Can Learn about Ethics from a Car Dealer | Blogrige The Official Baldrige Blog

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