Everything about Carr Auto Group seems to come back to family.
The business itself has been family-owned and operated for decades, but that family culture extends to employees. That’s on purpose, according to Carr’s president, Brad Preble, and leads to the company’s frequent honor as one of The Oregonian/OregonLive’s Top Workplaces.
Founded by Guy Carr in 1941, Carr Auto Group was later sold to Wally Preble, Brad’s father, and Gene Bradshaw in 1989. Based in Beaverton, Carr operates Chevrolet and Subaru dealerships in Beaverton and a GMC Buick Dealership in Vancouver, Washington.
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Aside from new and used automotive sales, Carr also provides servicing for new and used vehicles. Services provided by Carr include auto body repair, oil changes and transmission replacements.
The younger Preble works as the president at Carr and has become a part owner. Having seen the company’s family-centric nature through his father, Preble said he emphasizes workplace culture to keep employees motivated.
That culture is rooted in Carr’s hiring process, Preble said. Hiring managers spend time going through applications, seeking candidates who enjoy working as a team and interacting with customers.
When Carr finds and hires that kind of person, they tend to enjoy their work and treat customers well as a result, Preble said.
“We do lots of extra things that make our employees know that they’re valued and cared for,” Preble said. “We watch them, we train them and we make sure that there is a satisfaction level that is better than they would find anywhere else.”
Carr employees tend to appreciate the independence they’re given in their work, how management cares about them and just being around each other, according to Mary Hanken, the company’s chief financial officer.
New hires are given the skills they need to do their jobs, but managers make sure to avoid micromanaging them and instead allow employees to take initiative, Hanken said.
“If they need help, we’re here, but we don’t breathe down their necks,” Hanken said. “We just expect them to do a good job and, in turn, they do.”
Aside from independence, Hanken said she enjoys going to work because of her coworkers. It’s common for groups of employees at Carr to spend downtime together at work or getting dinner afterwards.
“I love coming to work,” Hanken said. “I love seeing the people I work with. I love the energy.”
Carr goes a step further with organized theme days. The themes help breed creativity and innovation, Hanken said. These include “Flannel Fridays,” where employees wear warm clothing during the colder months. There’s also a special football day when the University of Oregon and Oregon State University clash; employees go to work wearing Ducks green or Beavers orange and bring classic tailgating foods like hot dogs, chips and soda.
“We create situations where people are interacting outside of the daily task, but interacting with each other in a more casual, fun, social atmosphere,” Preble said.
There are also workplace contests, including a Halloween dress-up in October and a gingerbread house building competition in December. To drive customer satisfaction, Carr will set up a competition between sales and service departments to see which can get the best reviews. The losing team ends up cooking a meal for the winner.
The family mentality has meant a lot to Keeley Laughlin, Carr’s human resources director. Laughlin was hired straight out of college in 1992 by Wally Preble. She said he has grown into a father figure for her over the years.
“I just love that they care about people,” Laughlin said. “That’s the culture that we have built. We care about our employees and their families.”
“Bring your kid to work day” is a common theme in workplaces around the world, but Carr goes a step further than that, Laughlin said. If employees have teenage children, employment at Carr becomes an option for them.
“That’s one of our big things that we do for summertime help. When your kids get to be 15 or 16, they can get a job here,” Laughlin said.
Many who chose to work for Carr as teenagers eventually return to the company as adults for a full-time role, Laughlin said. Four of Laughlin’s five children have worked at Carr at some point in their lives; one joined the company full-time after graduating from college.
Laughlin’s daughter was drawn back to Carr due to the company’s culture, Laughlin said, after getting a degree in a separate field.
In the summers, Carr puts on an annual company picnic for employees and their families to enjoy a day of food and fun. While parents relax and converse, children are kept entertained with activities such as face painting and clowns.
Carr’s family mindset is cultivated through organized events throughout the year, but that leads to organic team building. At the end of the day, it produces the best results for Carr employees and their customers, said Brad Preble.
“We have people who care, both for customers and their fellow coworkers,” Preble said. “That shines through at all levels.”