Do Unto Others
“The state fair is very expensive. A lot of people can’t go,” says Mark Mason Sr. “I understand. I grew up poor. I wasn’t able to go when I was young.”
Now, as the dealer principal of Lugoff Toyota, Mason is neither young nor poor. But he still remembers where he came from. So to help bridge the gap, his dealership hosts the Fall Festival one Saturday each October on open land it owns across the street from their showroom. Carnival rides, face painting, a petting zoo, arts and crafts activities for children, performers, food, beverages and more—all provided free of charge. Though Lugoff is a town of just 7,500 people, some 3,500 indulge in the state fair-like experience.
“It’s grown to the point where it now takes up about 10 acres,” says Mason. “It will probably be even bigger this year. We’re going to have to figure out where to put all of the cars.”
Every October Lugoff Toyota hosts a hugely popular festival for the community that includes carnival rides, face painting, a petting zoo, arts and crafts, performers, food, beverages and more—all complimentary.
Above and Beyond
Mason, though, would prefer if his store’s community outreach efforts stayed “under the radar.” Other examples include:
- Lighthouse for Life—Lugoff Toyota is the founding sponsor of this organization that provides safe havens for victims of human trafficking.
- United Way—The national charity recently presented the Tocqueville Society Award to the dealership for its generous contributions over the years.
- Toys for needy children—At Christmas time, local schools identify families in need. Lugoff Toyota collects their “wish lists” and provides gifts ranging from bikes and baby dolls to hairbrushes and toothbrushes.
- Oliver Gospel Mission—The dealership donates money and a helping hand to serve meals to hungry families in their community. The need is great: 17 percent of Kershaw County residents live below the national poverty line.
- Kershaw County Sheriff’s Department—Lugoff Toyota underwrites the cost of bulletproof vests for deputies.
Lugoff Toyota’s outpouring of support doesn’t begin and end with its customers. Help also extends to its employees. Among the highlights:
- Physical well-being—The dealership has an onsite fitness room equipped with free weights and cardio equipment and offers free access to a local nutritionist.
- Financial well-being—Dave Ramsey Financial Freedom experts host free money management sessions.
- Ongoing training—Training Director Mark Conant leads new-hire orientation as well as weekly discussions about marketplace trends, product knowledge and sales processes.
- Associate appreciation—Similar to the Fall Festival, the dealership sponsors a free night at Frankie’s Fun House in Columbia for all employees as well as their extended families.
Lugoff Toyota’s onsite fitness room is tangible evidence of the dealership’s concern for the physical well-being of its employees.
Why does Lugoff Toyota go above and beyond, both internally and externally?
Mason says it stems from his strategy to hire young employees who have no prior experience in automotive retail sales. The average age of Lugoff Toyota’s sales consultants, all of whom are paid a salary vs. a traditional commission, is just 28. Managers are typically in their early- to mid-30s. The upside is that they don’t have any bad habits to unlearn. The downside? They need guidance. On the job and off.
“Culture is the key to any successful enterprise,” says Mason. “We tell our people that their faith, family and health come first. We try to create a work/life balance. But we also try to give them a clear career path. As a family- and Christian-based organization, investing in others and giving back is in our DNA.”
“If you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of your customers,” he continues. “After that, everything else takes care of itself.”
A People Business
The results back up that claim. Mason got his start in the car business in 1979, then became a dealership owner in 2008. Each year since, Lugoff Toyota has set a new sales record. It’s also earned multiple President’s Awards and, in 2014, achieved Elite status within Southeast Toyota.
Mason credits that success, at least in part, to the resiliency of the Toyota brand during challenging times. But, if pressed, he’ll tell you it’s people—both on staff and in the community—who really make the difference.
“Sometimes we make this business too complicated,” he says. “If you genuinely care about and invest in people, things work out. This is a people business. It’s all about people.”