Program Report: Josh Vaughn of Mercedes-Benz of Durham

While growing up, my mother drove a squat, boxy Mercedes sedan that was a nice car, but fell far short of the sporty vehicle that a teenager aches to drive on Saturday nights (lucky for her). When I entered the dealership this past Monday for our weekly meeting and program, I joked to fellow Rotarians that I currently own the best car there is – the kind that is paid for. That didn’t stop me from oohing and aahing at the sleek and shiny new cars in the showroom, the kind that any teenager would give up a month’s allowance just to climb in behind the wheel.

After hearing from General Manager Josh Vaughn, however, it became clear to me that the stunning Mercedes-Benz cars are only the second most exciting thing at the Southpoint Auto Mall.  Since Performance Automotive moved their operations to the site last month, this location is now the second-largest, most premier auto mall destination in North Carolina – the biggest one being outside of Charlotte at the Concord auto mall. Both are owned and managed by the Hendrick Automotive Group, also well-known throughout the Carolinas and the country for their auto racing dynasty.

The real key to success? The people-centric culture that permeates all Team Hendrick operations.

Because it’s not the property, it’s not the products, it’s the people who make it exceptional. And that’s what gets Vaughn and his team excited about coming to work in the morning. The culture of continuous improvement, encouraging creativity, and creating exceptional customer experiences are closely mirrored by Team Hendrick’s Core Values. Vaughn explained, “We are students of the game. We are always listening and learning.”

Originally comprised of six aspirational philosophies, a seventh – Servant Leadership – was added just last year. The first half-dozen brand standards, created by Rick Hendrick about seven years ago, were intended to provide a framework for excellence across the board. By intentionally putting guidelines in place meant to value each employee equally, the stage is set to deliver the best possible experience for customers. As Vaughn says, “If I take care of my teammates, I know my clients will be taken care of equally well.”

The original six Core Values include Teamwork through Trust and Respect, Integrity, Commitment to Customer Enthusiasm, Passion for Winning, Accountability at all Levels, and Commitment to Continuous Improvement. “Mr. Hendrick doesn’t like to lose, whether in racing or in car sales,” Vaughn states. “By creating a culture of winning, he encourages and empowers all of us to look after one another. At the end of the day, we’re all the same – and it takes every one of us to make individuals into a winning team.”

After a plane crash in 2004 which took the lives of four of Hendrick’s family members, a fund was created to provide scholarships for graduate and undergraduate students and Hendrick employees, among other things. Vaughn shared a video about the historic Louisiana floods of August 2016, during which more than 20 inches of rain saturated Baton Rouge and surrounding areas, flooding hundreds of homes and businesses. Not only was the Hendrick facility under several feet of water, nearly every employee experienced at least some damage to personal property, and some lost everything. Rick Hendrick commissioned a private plane to fly in volunteers from other dealerships to help with rescue operations. In addition to physical assistance, in many cases checks were drawn from the Hendrick fund to help those in need purchase supplies vital to their recovery.

It’s these types of selfless acts, Vaughn explains, that instills a loyalty in employees – and customers – that’s virtually unparalleled in the car sales industry. As a Rotarian and a long-time resident of this area, I’m proud to have this type of employer and community advocate in Durham.

Josh was introduced by Past President Don Stanger who got to know Josh through his participation in Mercedes-Benz sponsored golf tournaments.

Submitted by Carver C. Weaver

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