One-of-a-kind office, unique culture build employee loyalty

Nov. 19. 2018

This paid piece is sponsored by the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.

There’s no office in Sioux Falls quite like Carsforsale.com.

From the moment you enter the lobby, it’s clear this place has a culture all its own.

There’s a race car on the wall, which is built as a replica of the track at Talladega Superspeedway where the company’s founder, Sean Coffman, once drove the car.

Inside, most employees sit around a life-size replica of a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton.

If they need an energy boost, free coffee and soft drinks await in a cafe.

If they’re craving a little sugar, there’s the free candy corner.

For a shortcut from the second floor to the first, they take a twisted slide.

During breaks, they can unwind with game tables or step into a virtual golf center where simulators have moving floors and a jukebox plays.

“We’re settled. It feels like home,” said Coffman, who moved his business into the new Lake Lorraine location last year.

“The timing was right, the location was right, and, looking back, I have very few if any regrets. We love it. It’s been great, and we have a lot of room to grow.”

Carsforsale.com was born in the late 1990s when Coffman discovered the domain was for sale. He built his tech company around it, growing to about 200 people. It has millions of vehicles listed online for more than 20,000 dealers nationwide.

“We’re really focusing on our core business, Carsforsale.com, as our growth driver and our foundation,” Coffman said. “We are working on several exciting initiatives, and we’re very strategic with where we invest our time and energy into new ideas. We want to pick the right things and invest at the right time.”

He’s working on multiple ideas at any given time, including an offshoot called Webit, which builds and maintains websites for businesses.

“We’re seeing tremendous growth with Webit. It’s exciting and diversifies us away from just being in the automotive category, so that’s great,” Coffman said.

The company’s growth has meant hiring software architects and engineers, IT programmers, help-desk staff, a creative web team of designers and marketers, project managers, sales, customer-service and administrative staff.

Dawn Uthe, human resources director, joined Carsforsale.com about four years ago after a career largely working for major financial services companies.

“I had heard about their culture – God, family, work, community service – and how they treat their employees,” she said.

“I really enjoy what I do. The culture is unique from the perspective that everyone is treated the same. It doesn’t matter if you’re working in the coffee shop or if you’re Sean. From the perspective of hearing your voice, it’s very open here.”

The business is regularly hiring, but “it’s not like corporate America, where I used to have to put 15 people in the seat for Monday, which makes it enjoyable both for management, HR and the candidates.”

Carsforsale.com typically doesn’t have trouble finding workers, as many are referred by employees.

“We try to treat employees like family,” Coffman said. “Treat them with respect. Give them opportunities. Try to see things from their perspective.”

That’s an approach that’s even more effective than the one-of-a-kind office space they enjoy, Uthe added.

“It’s not the building that makes the business,” she said. “It’s the people inside.”

Here are others ways Carsforsale.com has built a culture that attracts and retains employees:

  • Intentional on-boarding. New employees spend their first day getting an introduction to the company “for them to understand what we’re all about and meet key players in the business, including people they will be interacting with from different departments,” Uthe said.
  • Self-management. Everyone works 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, but in between no one is micromanaged on breaks or lunch. “If you need to go shoot a little pool or swing a golf club, I will never go up to you and ask if you’ve already had your break,” Uthe said. “But it’s not for everyone. You have to be self-motivated and self-disciplined.”
  • Ongoing communication. A lower-level auditorium is used for team meetings, keeping employees informed on the company’s projects and progress.
  • Celebrations. There’s a monthly birthday party, and the company often ties fun themes to its meetings. One recent one was baseball, with hot dogs and Cracker Jack.

  • Time for fun. Popular employee events include pumpkin decorating at Halloween and turkey bowling for Thanksgiving.
  • Giving back. Employees volunteer often, including at The Banquet and Bloodmobile, and annual service projects include supporting the BackPack Program, Operation Christmas Child and The Salvation Army.

To see more workforce development strategies, read the latest edition of WIN: Workforce Information Now from the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.

One-of-a-kind office, unique culture build employee loyalty

There’s no office in Sioux Falls quite like Carsforsale.com. From the moment you enter the lobby, it’s clear this place has a culture all its own.

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