With more than 15 locations employing 1,600 people and a regular stock of more than 5,000 new and used vehicles representing 18 brands, The Fred Beans Family of Dealerships has carved out a large place in the southeast Pennsylvania automotive market.

Although the company’s size and presence in its home base of Doylestown, Pa., and beyond are unquestionably large, its approach to customer and community service is far from impersonal. “We are a family business that works hard at maintaining a relationship with its customers,” Founder and Owner Fred Beans says. “We like to say that we got big by staying small.” 

For Beans, this means providing a full range of automotive services beyond the showroom floor and offering incentives for customers to do all of their car-related business with the company. One main incentive is The Fred Beans Family of Dealership’s AutoRewards customer program, which offers credits for service purchases made with the company. These credits can then be applied toward a customer’s next vehicle purchase. AutoRewards cardholders can also earn discounts at more than 100 area businesses. “We work hard to marry the customer to our dealerships,” says Beth Beans Gilbert, the company’s vice president and Fred’s daughter.

Fred Beans’ ability to offer “everything automotive” – one of the company’s slogans – helps it retain customers. The company operates a NAPA Auto Parts store, a parts warehouse, a car and truck rental facility, a detail and accessory center, a 24-hour towing and roadside assistance service, an express lube facility and a collision center. “We try to be of full service to our customers and take care of cars from beginning to end,” Beans says. 

The company’s dealerships take care of customers in part by offering them a comfortable, friendly atmosphere. All service department waiting areas include Internet access, televisions, beverages, books and magazines. “All of our facilities were recently renovated completely and are completely gorgeous from the second you walk in,” Beans says. “We want our customers to feel good about coming here.”

Customers are assigned to a group consisting of a service manager and four technicians, all of whom work consistently with that customer on every visit they make to a dealership. This allows customers and technicians to develop regular relationships, Beans says.

Any customers who may not be completely happy with their experiences at Fred Beans Family of Dealerships have an easy recourse. “I give my phone number to all our customers – if they’re not satisfied, they can call me directly at work or at home,” Beans adds. “We’re a very hands-on operation.”

Internal Investment

Fred Beans entered the automotive realm in the late 1950s, when he purchased a service station with a $5,500 loan co-signed by his mother. After more than a decade of successfully running the station and expanding its business through a combination of “out-of-the-box” marketing ideas and his own work ethic, Beans took on a new challenge in 1972. That year, he purchased a 25 percent share of a Ford dealership in Newtown, Pa., doubling its business after his first year of involvement.

In 1975, Beans acquired his first dealership in Plumstead Township. Other dealerships and businesses followed, he notes. 

Beans attributes much of the company’s success to his ability to develop talented staff members. “We try as hard as we can to promote from within,” he says. All training and staff development and other processes are consistent across the company. “We are very uniform and standardized here,” Gilbert says. “Everyone has access to the same computer system, training and resources, which makes it easy to promote people from within, regardless of which dealership they work in.”

Training programs include a one-day new employee orientation that spotlights the company’s history and mission. “We think it’s meaningful for our employees to understand what we stand for,” Beans says.

Professional development programs for long-term employees include a 14-week leadership training class run in conjunction with a local community college. Personal development programs such as nutritional and smoking cessation programs are also available to employees. “We’re trying to build a better, whole person,” Gilbert says. 

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