AADA has long advocated the need for Dealers to get involved in their communities, and few embrace this better than the team at Bruce Lynton Automotive Group, led by Dealer Principal, Beric Lynton.
The company recently won the Motor Trades Association Queensland Community Award, in recognition of 15 years of hosting a charity ball that has become a social institution on the Gold Coast, raising in that time more than $1.6 million for several charities.
Known colloquially as ‘The BMW Ball’, the lavish black tie event is the Lynton family’s way of giving back to a community of which it has been part for more than 40 years.
It was Beric’s idea, after attending similar (lesser) events and thinking ‘we can do better’.
“I just thought, ‘We’re spending a lot of money sponsoring all these different things’,” he says.
“I didn’t find all of the balls exciting; I thought it would be better to put our money into creating our own, choosing charities that meant something to the family and trying to have a fun party night for people to come along and enjoy themselves whilst raising money.”
Several different charities have benefited over the years, with Cancer Council Queensland and Guide Dogs Queensland the mainstays. This year those two organisations shared more than $120,000 with fellow charities Youngcare, Men of Business and latest beneficiary, 4 ASD Kids.
With a three-course meal, six-hour beverage package, charity auction and all-night live entertainment, the Bruce Lynton Charity Ball (to give it its official title) has become one of the highlights of the Gold Coast social calendar. Attendees are a mixture of clients, charity partners and Gold Coast locals who enjoy a dress-up for a good cause. Mayor of the Gold Coast, Tom Tate, was one of this year’s notable attendees.
“We get people who fly interstate for it now. There’s one lady I think who’s flown from Melbourne 13 times. It’s a big event,” says Beric.
The Lyntons don’t charge any administrative costs for running the event, which equates to a full-time job for one person for six months every year.
“We just absorb that as our contribution to the community. Our business really relies on the community supporting us. We need to support the community and we need to put back into it.
“It’s just nice to see that when you raise something there’s a benefit you can measurably see and other people can see.
“We get a lot of requests. There are a lot of great charities out there but unfortunately we don’t have the ability to meet all those.”
The ball raises on average $100,000 a year, with a peak so far of $220,000 when the Lynton family donated a $60,000 car that was auctioned off for above-retail value on the night.
“I’ve sold a couple of cars off it because people have come in and said, ‘Because you support Guide Dogs I want to buy my car here’. Could I definitively say that I’ve sold X number of cars, or 100 or 200 cars? Probably not. It’s about business, sure, but it’s also about a family feeling that we’re doing something for a community we’ve been in for over 40 years, and having an involvement and trying to help with change.
“It’s a nice feeling to be able to give back. You want the reward to be that you get a bit more business from it, yeah, but is it going to stop you from doing it at the end of the day? No.”
The Lyntons are, at 41 years, Australia’s longest-serving BMW Dealer, and in 2015 they celebrated 20 years as a Land Rover Dealer. Beric’s father, Bruce, began selling cars on the Gold Coast in the late 1960s after moving up from Sydney, and it’s been a family business ever since.
“I washed cars as a 10-year-old, nine-year-old, then went to university and got a Commerce degree, worked here during that, then started working here in ’94,” says Beric.
“You grow up (with it). It’s what you learn; it’s what you know, it’s what you understand. It’s a challenging industry, but in many respects it’s rewarding.”
The 41-year-old had a stint in Germany with BMW, became General Manager of the business in 1998, and was officially appointed the BMW Dealer Principal in 2003.
For him it’s a people business, which means looking after staff as well as customers.
“We employ 170 people across everything that we’ve got now. It’s nice to see the employees who respect and appreciate what you do for them, and you respect and appreciate what they do for you. You get to meet a lot of great people, both employees and customers.”
Beric says it’s important to give staff goals to strive for, and to celebrate when achieving them – such as last year’s Land Rover Dealer of the Year (Metropolitan) award, one of a few the Land Rover side of the business has won in recent years.
“That’s a team effort; it takes every member of that team to achieve that. It’s not just sales results; it’s based on customer satisfaction, it’s on parts results, sales results – so many aspects. It takes every member of that team to achieve it.
“Customer satisfaction isn’t just about a service adviser being super-polite, or how a sales person treats someone. It can be how the receptionist talks to them, potentially the car-cleaner who’s out the front washing the cars, the technicians involved in doing the work and completing it properly. It’s a team effort and when the team achieves something like that, it’s great to recognise it.
“I might get to stand up at the dinner in Melbourne or Sydney and receive the award and the accolades in front of my peers, but it’s a team effort, and every time we achieve something like that we go out to dinner as a team and celebrate. This year we took 65 of them out to dinner for winning Land Rover Dealer of the Year. You’ve got to celebrate those occasions. You’ve got guys and girls who treat it as their own and care about every cent and every dollar and every customer. The employees make the business. If we’ve got happy employees we’re going to have happy customers.”
Another family passion is motor sport. Father, Bruce, raced for many years, as has Beric over the past 20 years. It’s a fun hobby for him, but it’s also been great for business.
“I’ve driven BMWs since ’96 in production car racing, so it’s always been our brand that we represent. People take notice of it, and you just don’t realise it. So we put that car on the showroom floor now, when we’ve got time. We’ve had customer drive days where I can take them on a few laps, or they want to fling one of their BMWs or something around the track and ask a few questions.”
It’s also a way for employees to bond and learn more about the business. Some of the staff mechanics volunteer to help out on race days and the keen ones use the time to learn more about the business.
“I guess in a way it’s also a bonding session. And the ones who have interest will talk to you about work; they want to understand things beyond what they may get to see.”
As Beric says, happy employees make for happy customers, which makes for a happy bottom line. The Bruce Lynton Automotive Group is a shining example of the benefits of integrating staff, customers and community.