Q: What most notably stands out about your leadership style or what is an example of leadership success you can share with our readers?
I started at Courtesy Chevrolet as a retail salesperson right out of college 26 years ago and rose through the ranks to assistant used car manager, director and general manager. When I took over as CEO, I established an autonomous group of general managers and opened four new dealerships representing Chevrolet, Kia, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, Volvo, Isuzu Truck and Polestar brands. We’ve increased revenue 331% since I took over and will see more than $1 billion in sales in 2022. I learned a lot from my grandfather and father about leadership — treat people like you want to be treated; this has helped me hire and retain teammates.
I attribute much of our success to a deeply held personal philosophy called “The Courtesy Way.” It’s my commitment to our people and it teaches them how to treat our customers, so we gain their lifetime loyalty. The Courtesy Way is also our approach to hiring as we dig deep into the communities located around our five central and east Valley stores to find employees who, themselves, are vital members of the communities we serve. I’m proud that many of our employees are Hispanic, female and military veterans and I’m gratified that many new hires come on because a family member or a friend used to work at Courtesy.
What impact has COVID-19 or the disruptions of the past 18 months had on you as a leader?
As a family-owned business in the Valley since 1955, we like to be on the leading edge and play the long game. While we’ve all been impacted by the disruptions over the past 18 months, Courtesy Automotive Group has taken that time to evolve. As an essential service provider, we never shut down. Like others, we had some challenges with low inventory levels, staff shortages, and finding new ways to connect and work with customers. What we realized is that our staff are the most important part of bringing us through this. We strengthened our training programs, empowered our staff with expanded career paths, developed new apprentice programs and really grew our team. We have come out of these challenging times as a stronger organization.
What do you feel we can be doing as a business community to empower economic growth here?
When I look at the car business, I think the best way we can empower economic growth is to empower our employees to adapt because the speed of technology impacts everything. The way cars are made is changing. Traditionally, car engines have had hundreds of parts for our mechanics to master and repair. As the industry moves steadily toward electric motors, we are retraining our mechanics to use laptops instead of tools to keep EVs on the road. As we invest in our people so they can help move Courtesy into the future, we, as a business community, should commit to more local investment in training and development to increase skill levels. This is especially important in more difficult economic times.
What is new and notable for your company’s near future that will impact our economy?
Just as the technology in cars is evolving at a rapid pace, the way people buy cars is changing. The pandemic taught many of us that through technology we can speed up the process and deliver a vehicle to your door so you can experience physical environments virtually and feel comfortable making big purchases digitally. We now have the showroom of the future, complete with augmented reality technology enabling a unique digital/physical car-buying experience like most have not seen before. This includes test drives on your schedule in your environment. We’ll bring the car to you. In addition, EV adoption means a huge focus on training and technology upgrades at every store. The laptop will become the wrench of the future. We are fully committed to automotive retail across our gas, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and EV brands.
This past spring, we became the only family-owned Arizona auto group to have a dedicated, 100% electric vehicle store with our Polestar Scottsdale location at the Scottsdale Fashion Square. I believe EV adoption will grow over the next 18–24 months. What’s important to me is that, unlike our EV competitors, we can deliver our affordable, luxury Polestar 2 vehicles the same day they are purchased right here in Scottsdale. It’s a real differentiator for us and we are proud to lead the industry in that way.
Name of Leader: Scott Gruwell
Position of Leader: President & CEO
Organization Name: Courtesy Automotive Group
No. of Years with Organization: 26
Main Local Office Address: 1233 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85014
Phone: (602) 892-3352
Number of offices in Greater Phoenix: 6
Year Established Locally: 1955
City Nationally Headquartered: Phoenix (there is also a Courtesy Chevy in San Diego)