Team Winnebagoland takes a collective approach

Publish Date: 
Jan 13, 2014
By Joe Delmont

OSHKOSH, Wis. - They don’t pay sales commissions at Team Winnebagoland, and they don’t pay unusually high salaries, either. But nobody’s complaining, because this third-generation-run business pays an annual bonus based on the dealership’s overall profitability.

As evidence: In 2012 the company paid every one of its 30 employees, from the owner down to the bike detailer, $10,000. That’s right; everyone in the dealership picked up an end-of-year profit sharing check worth ten grand.

Wait a minute; even the bike detailer? Yes, says General Manager Tom Van Zeeland who co-owns Team Winnebagoland with his siblings. “He’s the last person from our team who talks to the new customer or the service customer, and what he says and what he does goes a long way with that customer. They remember him, and if he leaves a bad impression, he can wipe out all the good that the rest of our team has done all down the line.”

The dealership’s profit sharing program reinforces the idea that every employee depends on others to provide the best service to their customers.

These profit sharing checks obviously can be a big chunk of an employee’s annual compensation. Don’t employees wonder how the amounts were calculated? Probably, say the Van Zeelands. That’s why they put a copy of the dealership’s earning statement in the employee break room where everyone can see it.

“Whoever said commissions are the only way to compensate for performance?” notes brother Nick Van Zeeland.

Photos by Jeff Barger

Team Winnebagoland sells motorcycles, pure and simple, and 35 percent of its unit sales are motorcycles. “We sell what people want, and we’re trying to become a used product outlet now, because that’s what’s hot right now,” Tom says. “ATVs and SxS are hot, and we’re selling a lot of those, too, he said,” during an interview in mid-November.

Yamaha boat sales have been strong, and the Van Zeelands expect snowmobile sales to be good if the Wisconsin winter cooperates.

Used sales are important, given the economy. “When things get bad,” says Tom, “people still want to ride and they want something new. If they can’t afford new, they’ll buy used. My dad saw that [shift] and helped us forecast it. We have the cash and can buy at the right prices.”

And that’s what this Dealernews Top 100 dealership is all about. If you take its name, Team Winnebagoland, and combine that with a unique team-based compensation plan combined with team-based training, you get the essence of this business. The starting line of the company’s mission statement says it clearer than most: “In order to be successful, we need to work as a team…”

The brothers have incorporated team-building ideas from a range of sources. One came from a trip to the Green Bay Packers’ training camp, when Nick noticed the team’s extensive use of video to study and improve individual performance. Today, video is used to record dealership employees as they role-play common situations that develop within the store. Managers and employees review the video together, for as individuals see themselves in real-life situations, they can understand very quickly how to improve their interactions with co-workers and customers.