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Miller Auto & Marine Recognized as Top Workplace

November 21, 2018

The Star Tribune recently published its 2018 Top 150 Workplaces in Minnesota. Miller Auto & Marine received the #7 ranking in the mid-sized company category after a survey of its 190 employees.

An article with General Manager Chance Haakonson describes the dealership's value-based management system:

Teamwork makes for happier employees — and a better bottom line

Midsize business leaders say fostering camaraderie and common purpose is essential to their companies' success. 

The general manager of Miller Auto & Marine has lunch with every new employee.

Chance Haakonson, who also is part owner of the 190-employee dealership, said he always goes over five values: integrity, respect, empathy, excellence and teamwork.

“When it comes to teamwork, they hear from me — it’s not an option,” Haakonson said.

Teamwork, he said, creates strong engagement with employees, which is important in a competitive job market in which the St. Cloud dealership not only competes with its peers but also with other industries.

“If people don’t feel part of a team they are more likely to leave and pursue other options,” Haakonson said.

The values — especially teamwork — were part of a cultural shift in 2010 for Miller Auto, whose majority owner is Tom Miller. In 1932, Miller’s father started the dealership, which ranks seventh on the Star Tribune’s Top Workplaces list of midsize businesses.

Haakonson started at the dealership in 2001 as chief financial officer after a career at an accounting firm. He became general manager in 2008 and instituted the values-based management system in 2010.


It was slow going at first changing the culture, he said. But as ownership and management committed to the core values, employees gradually came aboard.

An all-employee lunch now draws 130 to 140 each quarter.

“When we started doing that, we felt more like a family,” Haakonson said. “We opened up. We started talking about how are we doing as a company. It’s things like that that bring it to the next level.”

The teamwork ethic also has helped bridge a gap between departments where there have traditionally been divisions. The sales and service departments, for example, have different goals and compensation plans that could cause internal conflicts if not addressed at the outset.

“The things that are important to people are for sure not always money. It’s the work environment and part of that is being part of a team. If the employees don’t feel part of a team, the retention is really hard to maintain,” Haakonson said. “And I don’t think you attract as quality an employee.”


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