The words “Best Crew” mark the personalized license plate of Ann Marie Ebdrup, Dealer Principal at Steve Marshall Ford in Nanaimo. That catchy phrase, which looks like it might belong to a Nascar race team, is just a small testament to her adored staff who run this day-today operations at this well-respected dealership in our city.
Ann Marie Ebdrup has put together a team of leaders that have taken on both a sense of ownership and sense of family at one of the most reputable dealerships in the country. From the technicians in the garage to the sales representatives on the floor, her crew has made a name for themselves in an industry that has struggled during the world’s greatest recession in decades.
Ford Motor Company of Canada was the only company to see positive sales in the past few years, while GM and Chrysler were forced into bankruptcy protection. Ford Motor Company continued its climb this year and has fared better than most with its best September
sales since 1978, jumping a whopping 63.7%. August was similar with sales reaching highs not seeen since 1990, keeping the company in the leading sales spot in the country. Analysts speculate that Ford could overtake General Motors in the Canadian sales race for the first time in 2010.
Ford’s financial stability stems from the financial foresight and the steps taken by senior management, under the direction of chairman Alan Mulally, more than four years ago. But the reputation of the company as one of the leading automotive dealers in the country, comes largely from the faces at the door.
“All you need is good people. The car industry has had such a bad reputation in recent years, but with a team like ours, the customers can’t go wrong by walking in here,” said Ebdrup.
Steve Marshall Ford in Nanaimo has gone through some changes in the past few months and those improvements have created a family environment that cannot be beat by any of the competitors.
There’s a simple philosophy behind many of the changes. Instead of managers running their departments from a topdown approach, Ebdrup has created leadership positions.
The concept came from Dale Griffis, or “Doogie” as he is more affectionately known around the shop. He introduced the idea of having leaders set examples for all staff. Ebdrup embraced the idea and so, rather than becoming the sales manager, Griffis now has
an elaborate business card that identifies him as a sales leader.
“I just loved the idea right away, so we ran with it,” Ebdrup said. “It makes so much sense because we want to continue our reputation as leaders in the industry and I want our team to lead our crew. Instead of managers telling people what to do, I have
mentors for people to look up to.”
The changes made in the past few months have fostered a family atmosphere at Steve Marshall Ford. This sense of ownership becomes clear as soon as people walk in the door.
Customers don’t feel like they are talking to a sales person at Steve Marshall Ford. It feels like you’re talking to a friend or a family member, who are looking to get you in the best vehicle for your needs and for the best price, Ebdrup explained.
Every month, her leaders, who consider themselves family, get together for an evening of food and celebration. The tight crew has truly bonded in the past few months in ways never seen before.
But the family concept has been around the shop for years. Some of the team leaders started out in the garage cleaning cars. They
have grown into new positions and their experience and familiarity with Ebdrup’s philosophies make them the perfect mentors for any of the newcomers.
The family approach to her business comes from her personal experience. Ebdrup has been in the industry her entire life. She was
practically raised in her father’s dealership in Campbell River. At age nine, she was working the switchboard and regularly graduating
to new responsibilities.
Eventually, in 2000, she had the offer to take over the Nanaimo dealership, which her father bought in 1997. It was the best option for her. Growing up in Campbell River, she wasn’t comfortable running a dealership where everyone knew her connection to the owner.
She may be daddy’s girl at home, but she is far from the boss’ daughter around the dealership.
“Hello Mr. Marshall,” she said answering the telephone. This professional salutation was an idea her father came up with when she first joined the family business. It was agreed, from the start, she would never refer to him as Dad at work.
Depending on what they are talking about, Ebdrup switches from “Mr. Marshall” to “Dad,” depending on the topic of conversation and whether it’s personal or business related.
This family/business dynamic shines through in her approach to running her own dealership. Her staff are an extended family. They collectively critique each other, making suggestions about how to improve the overall service in the shop.
With a sales team eager to help, backed by some of the best overall quality vehicles on the market, it’s no wonder why more buyers are turning to Steve Marshall for their cars, trucks and SUVs. In Nanaimo, Ebdrup is confident she has the best team on the ground. It’s a team she can trust.