Automotive News wrote an incredible article regarding the book club program that the Cardinale Group of Companies has implemented into its operations. The article provides great insight from Erich K. Gail, CEO of the Cardinale Automotive Group, part of the Cardinale Group.
The Cardinale Group of Companies not only aims to enhance and inspire its employees on a professional level, but personally as well. The group prides itself on its book-study program, which touches the lives of more than 800 employees. According to Erich K. Gail, “It’s really more of a mentoring program than a book club.” By focusing on a book each quarter, the Cardinale Group learns of ways to continuously fulfill its brand promise that “We Develop Outstanding Relationships Where Everybody Wins.” These books are not just self-help books. There are a wide range of books that cover different facets of life to inspire employees to become better men, women, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, employees, etc.
In 2008, the Cardinale Group of Companies was hit hard by the Great Recession. The company had to fight through the recession for several years, face near bankruptcy, and change its business operations. One of the positive aspects that came from this struggle was the book-study program, which was introduced by senior management in 2010. Members of the management team were avid readers at the time and came to the realization that its employees were not getting the “gold” that these books had to offer.
Now the more than 800 employees are reading the same book over the course of three months. Employees take notes in order to improve the comprehension and retention of what was read. Each week, employees meet in small groups for one hour to share and discuss everything that was read throughout the week. Gail states, “We do a couple chapters a week – break it down into digestible bites.” A different person leads each meeting in order to have a different perspective each week.
Book meetings are not optional, they are mandatory. This is not because it is unfair to other employees that an employee gets to be absent and they do not; it is because it is not fair to any of the employees to miss the opportunity for growth, professionally and personally. Participation is key in these meetings because every employee can learn from the others’ insights. It is not uncommon for these meetings transf
orm into deep, personal conversations. Gail is humbled by how the book meetings can touch the employees on a personal level:
It’s amazingly gratifying. There’s a lot of hugging and a lot of crying — in a good way. Some people find themselves holding back tears because they’re in a place that’s exciting and scary atthe same time. To touch someone’s life like that is a gift so amazing that you can’t even fathom it.
The requirements of the book-study program are not easy for some employees to accept, as the program has resulted in a small number of employees to leave the company. The Cardinale Groupof Companies would want to avoid that outcome, but it sees the value of the book-study program to far outweigh the loss of a small number of employees. It is difficult to statistically correlate the book-study program to the company’s bottom line, but it is interesting to point out that the company’s sales associate turnover is half the national average and per associate per month, the average number of vehicles sold is three more than the national average of seven.
The book-study program is a substantial investment. The Cardinale Group spends roughly $40,000 each year on books in various formats. The company believes that this is not an investment in books, but rather the lives of its employees.