Jesse Peterson, Dealer Principal of Eide Automotive Group
Unveiling the Roadmap to Eide Automotive Group’s Growth
Eide Automotive Group, a trusted car dealership company in the Bismarck-Mandan area, stands as a testament to the power of passion, dedication, and community focus in the automotive industry. Over the past 19 years, Eide Automotive Group has experienced remarkable growth and achieved numerous milestones, evolving into a prominent player in the local market.
In this article, we explore the unique business model of Eide Automotive Group and its dealerships. I sat down with Dealer Principal Jesse Peterson, where we discussed Eide Automotive Group’s impressive growth and expansion, Eide’s value in a positive work environment and employee retention, and much more.
The Journey of Eide Automotive Group
This story of Eide Automotive Group begins in January 2005 when Peterson arrived in Bismarck with no intention of staying long-term. However, within a few months, Peterson’s passion for the business and the Bismarck-Mandan community became evident, paving the way for a long and prosperous career in the region.
“I came to Bismarck to work for my grandfather at the dealership. In my mind, I was going to go on to do bigger and better things in bigger and better places. But after the first three or four months, I decided that I really liked it and wanted to make a career in Bismarck-Mandan,” Peterson said.
Over the past 19 years, Eide Automotive Group has experienced significant growth and achieved key milestones. Starting with Eide Ford in Bismarck, their flagship store, the group has witnessed a substantial increase in sales, from selling approximately 1,700 vehicles per year in the early days to nearly 2,800 vehicles per year today. Recently, the dealership achieved a remarkable feat, recording a record-breaking month with 302 vehicles sold, an exceptional accomplishment within the industry.
Another milestone in Eide Automotive Group’s growth occurred during the oil boom that had an immense impact on many businesses across the region. “Looking back 10 years ago, that oil boom gave the business a shot of adrenaline, as a lot of people were moving out to the Bismarck-Mandan area, and North Dakota in general. It really grew our business and forced us to make ourselves bigger,” Peterson said.
Expanding its reach and strengthening its presence, Eide Automotive Group acquired Ryan Dodge in 2016. This acquisition marked a turning point, enabling the group to tap into new opportunities and expand their operations. With the dedication and expertise of key individuals, namely Jesse Schuchard and Don Pask, who played instrumental roles in establishing and growing the Chrysler dealership, Eide Automotive Group witnessed explosive growth, increasing annual sales from around 1,100 to 2,500 vehicles.
“When we added the Chrysler dealership, I went to get that off the ground with a handful of key employees who helped implement our processes and grow that dealership. That dealership has had really explosive growth that has been fun to watch over the last seven years,” Peterson said.
Another significant milestone came with the acquisition of Bill Barth Ford in Mandan. Similar to the success story of Ryan Dodge, the dealership experienced substantial growth, with average monthly sales skyrocketing from 80 to well over 160 vehicles. By leveraging the talents of exceptional employees from their existing stores, Eide Automotive Group was able to foster growth and continue its upward trajectory “I took some people from various positions in the other two stores that were ready for the next step, but we didn’t have anything available for them at the moment. That led us to plant them in here and they’ve done a fantastic job of helping us grow,” Peterson said.
Attracting and Retaining Top Talent
A key factor behind Eide Automotive Group’s sustained success lies in its ability to attract and retain top talent. The group’s approach to talent management centers around creating opportunities for growth and development. Regular shareholder meetings provide a platform for identifying individuals with the potential to advance within the organization. Even if immediate higher positions are unavailable, Eide Automotive Group ensures that deserving employees are put on a path to future success. By adopting this strategy, the group has promoted over 100 individuals in the last seven years, cultivating a culture of growth and fostering loyalty among its workforce.
“We hold shareholder meetings twice a year, where I meet with my partners, tell them what’s going on with their dealerships, and identify people that can advance our organization. Then, we communicate that with them and get them on track to do it. We may tell those people that while we may not have any higher positions available at that moment, we’re going to work hard to get them to that next step. It may not be at the dealership you’re currently working at, but it will pay off,” Peterson said.
The group’s expansion and acquisition of new dealerships have also played a crucial role in talent retention. With multiple dealerships under its umbrella, Eide Automotive Group can offer diverse roles and opportunities for employees to explore. This flexibility and variety not only keep employees engaged but also helps prevent the monotony often associated with a singular work environment.
“When we purchased the Chrysler store, we had five or six employees that were ready for the next step in their careers, but we didn’t have anything available for them as all of the management positions were filled above them. Since then, we’ve been acquiring more dealerships, which allows us to offer more positions with growth and promote those that deserve it. Many of our employees enjoy switching around stores and positions so that it’s not the same mundane thing over and over. It’s something new,” Peterson said.
Delivering an Exceptional Customer Experience
Eide Automotive Group sets itself apart from competitors by prioritizing the customer experience. Recognizing that customer satisfaction and long-term relationships are the foundation of their success, the group invests significant time, resources, and funds in enhancing the overall buying experience. Eide Automotive Group continually seeks ways to simplify the car-buying process, utilizing employee training and coaching sessions and implementing new software solutions to improve efficiency.
“We do everything we can to make it as easy as possible for the customer, including training and coaching sessions, as well as implementing new software solutions for efficiency. We believe that Bismarck-Mandan is a small enough area with a big enough business community that you need to have repeat customers and great word-of-mouth to succeed, especially in this industry,” Peterson said.
In a close-knit community like Bismarck-Mandan, building a loyal customer base and fostering positive word-of-mouth referrals are paramount. Eide Automotive Group’s commitment to customer satisfaction has been instrumental in achieving this. By going the extra mile to ensure every customer leaves satisfied, the group has gained the loyalty and trust of the community.
Overcoming Challenges and Embracing Change
Eide Automotive Group has faced various challenges throughout its journey. Intense competition from rival dealerships, such as the rise of disruptive online platforms like Carvana, has necessitated constant adaptation. However, rather than viewing competition as a threat, Eide Automotive Group leverages it as an opportunity for growth and improvement. Healthy competition has spurred the group to evolve and innovate continually, ensuring they remain at the forefront of the industry.
“There are always challenges as competitors get better. There have been dealerships bought and sold in the last 10 years that have made our competition better. In most industries, you have to be aware of the competition surrounding you, which isn’t always a bad thing. Carvana’s selling point is a very easy shopping experience. We’re well aware that people appreciate that, so we’re always looking for techniques to further support our customer base. We’ve found that some customers prefer to not even come into the store, which is no problem for us. We’ll evolve and help you in any way that we can,” Peterson said.
The 2008 recession presented one of the most significant hurdles for Eide Automotive Group and the automotive industry as a whole. With Chrysler and General Motors filing for bankruptcy, the business landscape was tumultuous. Nevertheless, Eide Automotive Group persevered, with their partnership with Ford proving to be the “smart choice” in Peterson’s eyes. Ford’s decision not to seek a government bailout resonated with customers, resulting in increased sales and market share for Eide Automotive Group.
“I don’t know if Mulally decided then and there, but he didn’t ask and said that he was there to support the others. It’s always been my opinion that he pivoted on the spot after he saw them. He said that they didn’t need to take the money, which resonated with people. Soon after, people were trading in vehicles of all kinds for a Ford because they didn’t take the bailout. It was just a stroke of luck on our part that we happened to be a Ford dealer. At the same time, Ford was readying some new models with great designs that were catching on, which also helped business,” Peterson said.
Simultaneously, the group prioritized its focus on people, recognizing the importance of fostering a talented and dedicated workforce. By placing emphasis on employee development and digital marketing strategies, Eide Automotive Group experienced exponential growth, expanding from 75 employees to nearly 300 across their three stores.
“We’ve been very lucky to have attracted some very talented people that we’ve developed and are still with us today. One employee from that time period, Adam Griffith, is in training to be the General Manager of our Mandan store. He started with us in 2009, which is right around the same time as when we started heavily focusing on our people. We were also ahead of the curve on digital marketing. We were very focused on having a good, reliable website and online presence. Essentially, our people, digital marketing, and sheer luck converged in one place to allow us to take off. We’re able to afford to have hundreds of people working for us and bringing a positive impact to the Bis-Man area through our dealerships,” Peterson said.
Another challenge that Peterson and Eide Automotive Group faced, while positive, was the growing pains that went with the oil industry’s rapid growth. “It may not seem like a hurdle to many because we saw a major increase in business, but we didn’t have the infrastructure or staff to handle the level of customers during that rush. We had to grow since it doesn’t happen overnight, but we went through some serious growing pains,” Peterson said.
Did You Know?
Eide Automotive Group is the largest automotive dealership group in the Bismarck-Mandan area, comprising multiple dealerships, including Eide Ford, Eide Chrysler, and more.
Contributing to the Community
Beyond their commitment to business success, Eide Automotive Group maintains a strong dedication to community involvement, as charitable donations and actions have always held significant importance to the Eide Automotive Group team. Engaging in various charitable endeavors, the group forms partnerships with local sports teams, such as the Bismarck Larks and Bismarck Bobcats. Additionally, their annual Breast Cancer Awareness Month initiative has resulted in significant contributions to the Bismarck Cancer Center, amounting to over $175,000 in donations to date.
Eide Automotive Group’s philanthropic efforts extend to initiatives such as the Dale Pahlke Rodeo Arena in Mandan, where they have made substantial contributions. Furthermore, their generosity extends to individual acts of goodwill, including gifting a brand-new Ford F-150 to a military veteran who served in both Iraq and Vietnam.
Future Vision and Goals
Looking ahead, Eide Automotive Group aims to solidify its current operations by ensuring a strong foundation and providing long-term career paths for its employees. “After some dealership purchases, we have some pieces to put in place and employees to get comfortable with taking the next step in their careers. Currently, much of my time is focused on developing our executive-level management so that they can be set up for success,” Peterson said.
Simultaneously, the group actively seeks opportunities for further expansion, aiming to acquire at least one additional dealership within the next two years. The decision to open new dealerships will be based on the dealership’s potential and the willingness of their trained and trusted employees to work in new locations, emphasizing the significance of maintaining a strong work culture.
Eide Automotive Group’s remarkable success in the Bismarck-Mandan area can be attributed to several key factors: a passionate founder, strategic acquisitions, a focus on attracting and retaining top talent, a commitment to exceptional customer experiences, and active community involvement.
By weathering challenges, adapting to change, and fostering a culture of growth and innovation, Eide Automotive Group has established itself as a beacon of excellence in the automotive industry. As they continue to evolve, Eide Automotive Group remains dedicated to providing outstanding service to their community and exceeding expectations in every endeavor they undertake.