When you work at Car-Mart, it can be more than a job; it can be a career.
That’s why Car-Mart is committed to the professional and personal growth and development of its associates. The company’s Future Manager (FM) training program provides a roadmap for associate advancement and serves as a gateway to Car-Mart’s General Manager role and other leadership positions. Essentially, the program develops Car-Mart’s future leaders.
“Our goal is to develop our future leaders and provide them with opportunities for growth,” says Ryan Human, Director of Associate Development, whose first position at Car-Mart was as Manager in Training in 2012. Since then he’s held various positions and has learned the business, and now he’s back to his passion in training.
Associates are selected to participate in the Future Manager program based on their overall job performance, as well as in-depth assessment through testing and interviews. “We’ll work with associates to prepare them to be accepted into the training,” says Ryan. “If they’re not accepted today, together, we’ll develop a plan to get them ready for participation.”
“Besides, we like to promote from within,” Ryan adds while adding Car-Mart is committed to developing a positive associate experience.
During 2019 and year-to-date, nearly 140 associates have graduated from the FM program. Upon completion of this three-month immersion in the business, participants are empowered to effectively run their own store. Graduates are eligible for promotion, mostly to assistant manager. In fact, the company now has more assistant managers than any time in the company’s history, according to Ryan.
The training conveys the company’s commitment to its culture and how its core values are integrated into the everyday fabric of the business. Additionally, the training explains how the values originated and what their significance are to Car-Mart.
“Every aspect of our business is manifested from our culture and values, so we spend a great deal of time on this in our training,” says Ryan. “After all, we want our associates to make decisions – from buying a vehicle to selling that vehicle – that conform to our culture because it falls in line with who we are. And, what we do is not just based upon profit.”
The training also features all facets of operating a Car-Mart store including inventory management, purchasing, vehicle maintenance, merchandising, collections, sales, customer service, and customer engagement. For example, training participants learn the ins and outs of inventory – how to evaluate quality vehicles that will be sold to customers and how to negotiate with vendors.
“In the training, we focus on how to create a great customer experience and set up a deal that creates success for that customer. We also underscore the importance of helping the customer get to the finish line where they pay off their vehicle,” says Ryan.
Management skills are also part of the training curriculum, comprising time management, leading a team, leadership training, interpersonal skills, and conflict resolution.
Most of the training occurs at the associate’s store location with a combination of hands-on activities and online training. Students apply their knowledge in real-work situations. Car-Mart trainers and General Managers provide one-on-one attention; thus, enhancing the overall training experience for participants.
The self-paced training allows participants to study and work the program at their own pace. After each session, they are assessed to determine their effectiveness and knowledge of the subject. For the last phase of the training, participants travel to the corporate office in Bentonville, Ark. to meet the Car-Mart leadership team and celebrate their achievement with a graduation ceremony.
Developing leaders and running a better business
“Our Future Manager program essentially serves as a foundation to be a successful leader in our business and not just a successful manager,” says Ryan. “We want to develop individuals who can both lead others and lead by example.
“A successful leader must do more than possess strong management skills and tools. We want our leaders at Car-Mart to be respected and recognized by their teams as leaders,” Ryan adds. “At Car-Mart, we want to develop leaders.”
Since the company restructured the training in 2017, it is operating at a higher level, according to Ryan. “We’re experiencing better operational results, as well as personal and professional growth and retention of our associates.
“We’re also doing a better job of preparing our associates, and in turn, they’re better prepared to help and support our customers,” continues Ryan. “The best part is that these associates are better equipped to be successful.”
Car-Mart – a learning organization
The FM training program evolved from three-ring binders to instruction that is more engaging, relevant, interactive, fun, and innovative. In addition, the company continues to enhance all its training programs to better serve the business and its associates. The next iteration of the Future Manager program, called Car-Mart U, is scheduled for roll-out August 2020.
“We, also, plan to customize our training to the individual and individual career paths. We’ll structure our training based on what’s best for that associate in achieving their career goals at Car-Mart,” says Ryan, who has made Car-Mart his career.
“I joined Car-Mart right after college and got hooked,” says Ryan. “Outsiders see Car-Mart as a car dealership. But you don’t know the outside looking in, you see the cars and the building. For me personally, I first saw it as a car dealership. Then I saw it as a finance company, and then as I learned more, I saw it for what it is – an opportunity provider. Car-Mart is about the people and the communities we serve, it’s not about the cars.”
“It’s a great place to make a career,” Ryan concludes. It’s a special place, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Learn what other Car-Mart associates say about the Future Manager Program.