At this auto dealership, all employees have the Ricart last name when it comes to getting the family treatment.

At this auto dealership, all employees have the Ricart last name when it comes to getting the family treatment.

Ricart Automotive Group is known as a family-run business. But you don't have to share the surname to feel like family at the automotive company, say its employees, who used the word time and time again in a recent workplace survey.

One employee described working there as "almost like coming and getting paid to see your friends and family every day. It's a giant family." Said another, "No matter how bad of a day I have outside of Ricart, my Ricart family lifts me up."

President and CEO Rhett Ricart and his brother, Fred, co-own the business their father, Paul, started in 1953. When Rhett Ricart started working there full-time in the early '80s, the company had about 30 employees, "and then we built the business from there," he says.

Now the dealership-which offers one-stop shopping for new Ford, Mazda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Nissan vehicles, plus pre-owned cars, trucks, and SUVs-employs about 565 people, with an additional 25 new positions expected to be added in the next year, says Julie Dyer, human resources generalist/recruiter at Ricart.

"Last year, there was a 29.14 percent turnover rate, which is really, really low compared to other car dealerships in the country," she says. Ricart Automotive employees have an average tenure of 6.9 years, with the longest-serving employee marking 48 years on the job.

"When we talk about Ricart being a big family, we mean it," Dyer says. "In this instance, we get to choose our family members when they come in the door. We're choosing people very carefully. We're hiring people we want to work with. You can train job function and job duties; you can't train people to be nice and to be driven and competitive, so we kind of target in on that during the interview process."

Once hired, Ricart employees enjoy benefits such as a 401(k) match, wellness facilities and classes with a full-time wellness coordinator, plus yoga and mindfulness classes, vacation and paid time off. Employees can use company-provided Huffy bicycles to make their way around the sprawling 75-acre Mega Mall property in Groveport, occasionally sneaking in a race or showing off a trick.

The company's banking vendors visit periodically with lunch-and-learn instruction on topics such as budgeting and credit. Moreover, "I have a policy that if you coach a sports team for your kids, you have automatic time off," says Rhett Ricart. "Those are the things that show folks that you really care about them-which we do."

"We've realized over the years that our customers will never be happier than our employees are," says Dyer. "So if we take care of our employees first, it trickles to the customer…We are genuinely trying to keep employees happy about where they are and what they're doing."

In the interest of workplace transparency, employees can visit askrhett.com to submit anonymous questions, comments, or suggestions, with the promise the CEO will review each and every submission; his answers are typically included in a quarterly video newsletter for staff.

Ricart says eight years after putting the forum in place, he'd recommend it to anyone in a similar leadership role. "At first, you're not going to like what you hear," he warns. "People have things built up inside them and they reach a boiling point…But the good part about it is at least you can get it aired out."

Says Dyer, "You can ask the owner anything you want. You can make suggestions. You can compliment another employee-and we've had benefits enhanced because of that."

For instance, askrhett.com helped company executives learn administrative staff weren't being compensated for the Memorial Day holiday. "We would have never known that otherwise," says Ricart.

Not just focused on complaints, askrhett.com has also served as a vehicle for employees to praise standout colleagues, or to nominate someone for "One of 'R' Own," which provides an employer-matched means to help coworkers through illnesses and other hard times. Nominations are anonymous and vetted by an internal committee; recipients' identities are kept confidential.

The dealership also supports the annual Musicians Against Childhood Cancer Bluegrass Festival, which directs 100 percent of proceeds to St. Jude's Children's Hospital in Memphis, and is a major contributor to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio.

Thanks to such philanthropic activities, in March the Ford Motor Company named Ricart one of only three US recipients of its 2016 Salute to Dealers Award. "By valuing its customers and employees, Ricart Ford grew to be the number one retail Ford dealership in the US for more than 15 years," says the Ford Motor Company announcement detailing the award.

Dyer says the internal and external charitable efforts enhance well-being and bonding among Ricart staff. Giving back "feels good...and it's something we can do together," she says. "People can work pretty much anywhere in Columbus and earn a living. It's more important who you're working with."

"A lot of companies look at their philanthropic giving as a marketing tool. We don't look at it like that," says Ricart. "We look at it like, if there's a need and it's good for the community, and it's good for Columbus, it's going to be good for us. We don't care if it's below the radar...we don't care if it's off the radar."

Historically, Ricart, with input from the executive management team and an advisory board, has set aside a certain amount of the business' income for charitable contributions. Now, the next generation of 10 Ricarts are sorting out how they will direct donations for decades to come. "That's for them to decide," Ricart says.

And as things progress, the company remains true to founder Paul Ricart's customer- and employee-centric perspective. "My dad always told me, 'You always know the right thing to do, it's whether you do the right thing or not, and when you do it that matters,' " says Ricart.

In the end, he says, "It all boils down to sincerity, and for the people in your company to know you really care about them."

Jenny Wray is a freelance writer.

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