Bernie Moreno – ‘THE BEST OR NOTHING’
Bernie Moreno – The Best or Nothing
Born in Colombia, his family, moved to the United States when he was five years old. Since childhood, he says he knew he would work in the automobile industry as he was fascinated with cars. At 14 years old, he wrote a letter to the Chairman of the Board of General Motors offering his insight on how to turn the company around, and the Chairman responded with a 3 page letter addressing the strategies he laid out in his letter, perhaps for the first time planting a seed in this 14 year old’s head that he could make a difference in an industry he loved. When it was time for college, he chose a school in Michigan, so he could be a stone’s throw from the car capital of the world, and while in school he interned at General Motors. Upon graduating he got offered a job with a newly established brand in the auto industry, Saturn, where he would call on the dealerships opening across New England. Soon thereafter, the 25 year old car enthusiast was hired by one of the largest car dealers in New England to become the General Manager of Saturn of Warwick (RI) and, eventually, Vice President of several of his dealerships, staying there for 12 years. At the age of 38, he received a call from Mercedes-Benz, asking him if he would be interested in buying a struggling Mercedes dealership in Cleveland. He bought the besieged dealership, turned it around in less than a year, going from 10-15 sales a month to more than 100 per month, earning the prestigious Best of the Best Award from Mercedes, and continuing that tradition now for a decade.
Build Around Your Personal Values: As I toured the Burlington location with Bernie, I was impressed by the attention he paid to each customer and each employee, or team member as Bernie would refer to them, we walked by. He knew every team member by name. He stopped to chat for a moment with customers, offering to turn a television on or to change a station. He was outgoing and personable, which I totally get, because he owns the business. What’s even more impressive is that his employees are very much like him, going out of their way to service each person who walks through their doors. So, I was curious as to how one finds employees who are willing to deliver over the top service. Moreno says it’s simple. He says that by showing the team members how important they are to him, they go out of their way to show customers how important they are to Mercedes of Burlington. How does he demonstrate his love to his people? First, Bernie knows all their names. He spends time at all of his dealerships monthly so he can be amongst his people to get to know them. He doesn’t have his own office, he sits in the glass cubicles just like his people. The sales people are not allowed to work more than 50 hours per week, which is rare in the car industry. What’s even more rare is that his Mercedes dealership closes on Sundays and the latest they are open on weeknights is 8pm. “Do we lose money by doing this? Probably. But the payoff is that my team members get to spend quality time with their families,” explained Moreno. Bernie says it’s his job to focus on his employees so that they can focus on his clients. Moreno says that how an entrepreneur lives his personal life becomes a lens for how he or she builds a business. Bernie says that his wife and kids come before all else in his life, and that work life balance is something that matters immensely to him. As such, he wants to provide the same for his employees. He says that if you study companies that deliver phenomenal service, they do so by having happy employees, so his “The Best or Nothing” philosophy extends beyond the customer experience, to his team member experience.