Rusty Childress, president of Childress Buick-Kia in Phoenix, Ariz., believes in communication. At this car dealership with 105 employees and 1998 revenues of $35 million, Childress has instituted a number of programs to improve communication within the company. They include:
- Childress College. Childress wants to make sure that all the departments work well together, so new recruits at the company go through a seven-week orientation program designed, he says, "to build empathy" for one's colleagues. During the orientation, dubbed "Childress College," new employees spend one day a week in a different department. They also learn about the concepts of "internal customers" and "internal suppliers." At the end of the training, employees sign a pledge that says they know who their internal customers are.
- Take-Five Meetings. To tap employees' ideas, Childress periodically picks five workers at random and asks them how they would improve the dealership.
- Employee Satisfaction Index. For a more systematic approach to communication, Childress conducts a survey of employee satisfaction twice a year. The survey also asks employees how well they think management is doing and how the owner might do things differently.