The Weston way: the top small Best Company

| Print |  Email
Archives - March 2006
Wednesday, March 01, 2006

2006 100 Best Companies The Weston way

It’s all in the family at Weston Dealerships, where employees say they are rountinely helped through life by the Westons, including CEO Jay.

By Oakley Brooks


It’s sometimes hard to tell who gets the best deal at the Weston family’s 31-year-old dealership in Gresham — the customers or the 125 employees.

The customers? Well, there are 38,000 of them out there and last year they bought $75 million worth of cars and service. The Westons don’t advertise their Pontiac-Buick-GMC lines anymore — word-of-mouth does the trick. The staff? They’re a collection of ebullient folks who take home a turkey at Thanksgiving, a fat bonus at Christmas and can often recount a time when a Weston — current CEO Jay, brother Jan or semi-retired dad Jim — bailed them out of life’s little jams. Current employees average 16 years at the company.

Chuck the management fads and the MBAs. Running a company like a family still works, and works well.
“They believe that if they take care of people, people will take care of them,” says Dan Schofield, Weston’s service manager, who’s going on 24 years with the family.

Schofield, 42, benefited from the Westons’ largesse. A decade and a half ago when he and his wife adopted a child on short notice, Jim called him into his office and handed him a check for several thousand dollars. Kids are expensive, Jim said. Later, looking to move from technician to management with a new bachelor’s degree under his belt, he figured he might have to change companies because Weston’s higher positions were sown up. But Jay appeared at his graduation and offered him a slot opening up because of a retirement.

“I can’t see working anywhere else,” Schofield says.

The Westons’ style springs from a strong and visible Christian faith.

“We operate from a moral compass,” says Jan, the CFO. “We believe in right and wrong and God is the source of that.”

The dealership closes on Sunday and church vans are often fixed for free by the service department.

The family also strives to differentiate its work environment from the stereotypical dealership. Smoking is discouraged, the shop is immaculate (they spent $100,000 on new lighting last year) and young technicians are sent to expenses-paid training courses in Seattle and Irvine, Calif., early in their careers.

In an industry where mechanics tend to move every three to five years, that’s a risky proposition. But the Westons figure it’s a strong signal to techs that they want the new hires to stay in the family.

Jay and Jan, both in their mid-40s, play humble leaders and tend to keep the inner workings of the company tight to their chest: no open-book, all-company meetings here.  They say they do it — as any upstanding father figures would — to keep employees from worrying. “There’s no sense putting an undue burden on someone if there’s nothing they can do about it,” Jan says. Late last year, after General Motors announced massive layoffs and chatter about GM’s uncertain future spread around the dealership floor, Jay called together the employees. He told them Weston would be around for another 30 or 40 years.

Longtime workers recalled a similar situation in the late 1980s when Weston’s lease was pulled out from under Jim on short notice and the dealership had to move. Technician Brad Huwe remembers when Jim, who had temporarily relocated the service department to a dark warehouse, huddled the mechanics and told them he’d take care of them if they stuck around. Standing in the new 57-bay shop today, Huwe says unequivocally: “He has.”


Have an opinion? This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

 

More Articles

A Complex Portrait: Immigration, Jobs and the Economy

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY JOE ROJAS-BURKE & KIM MOORE

Oregon Business reports on the visa squeeze, the skills gap and foreign-born residents who are revitalizing rural Oregon.


Read more...

Editor's Letter: Power Play

January-Powerbook 2015
Thursday, December 11, 2014

There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

— Linda


Read more...

The short list: 4 companies engaged in a battle of the paddles

The Latest
Thursday, December 04, 2014
pingpongthumbBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Nothing says startup culture like a ping pong table in the office, lounge or lobby.


Read more...

Fly Zone

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY JOE ROJAS-BURKE

The black soldier fly’s larvae are among the most ravenous and least picky eaters on earth.


Read more...

Corner Office: Pam Edstrom

January-Powerbook 2015
Saturday, December 13, 2014

Seven tidbits of information from an agency partner and co-founder of Waggener Edstrom in Lake Oswego.


Read more...

Healthcare Perspective

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY KIM MOORE

A conversation with Majd El-Azma, president and CEO of LifeWise Health Plan of Oregon, followed by the Healthcare Powerlist.


Read more...

See How They Run

January-Powerbook 2015
Friday, December 12, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

Studying ground-running birds, a group that ranks among nature's speediest and most agile bipedal runners, to build a faster robot.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS