Trotman Auto Group (TAG) president and CEO Mike Trotman was a somewhat reluctant car salesman when he took a job at his father’s Chrysler dealership in Langley, B.C., in the mid-1990s.
By 1998, at just 26 years old, Trotman was the youngest dealer principal in the country. Two decades later, he heads a 460-person network of B.C. auto dealers expected to sell $360 million worth of vehicles this year, continuing a decade-long trend of year-over-year growth.
Starting with its first acquisition, Comox Valley Dodge in 2003, the company has grown to nine dealerships stretching across B.C., from Cranbrook to Courtenay.
In 2016, Trotman—who manages the company with his brothers Mitch and Brad—was the recipient of the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association’s Laureate award for innovation, thanks largely to his role in instituting the company’s proprietary sales training program, TAG University, and a subsequent leadership development program called TAG Leadership Academy.
“We don’t look at our job as being to sell customers a car; it’s to help them buy one,” says Trotman of the sales training program. “Our job is to provide a differentiated, exemplary shopping experience and provide customers with everything they need to make an informed decision.”
TAG has invested about $4.8 million in employee training and development programs over the past five years, which Trotman estimates is about five times the amount of its closest competitor.
Those programs have positively affected every facet of the business, from profitability to a closing ratio for quality leads that Trotman says is between 2.5 and three times the industry average.
He has rebuffed offers from several automotive consultants to expand the programs throughout North America, saying that it would detract from its core business.
“We don’t want to be in the training and development business,” he says. “We’ve done it for the development of our own people, but we just want to stick to what we’re really good at.”
The programs have also translated into exceptional employee retention. Of the approximately 65 people who comprise TAG’s senior leadership team—a group that includes managers and various department heads—the five-year turnover rate is between 4-6%. “We’ve got next to no turnover at our managerial and senior leadership levels,” says Trotman.