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Dealer
Dealer.com

words // Lesley Snyder
photo // Craig Thomas

When it comes to leading in corporate accountability, there’s no beating Dealer.com’s hand. An auto dealership marketing company emerging in the late 1990s, Dealer.com has become a role model for the industry. With over 800 employees between its Burlington headquarters and Manhattan Beach offices, the company manages about 12,000 auto dealership websites – and they receive roughly 36 million unique views per month.

While excelling in the marketing and website management industries, Dealer.com also champions worksite wellness. The company believes in a “work hard, play hard” philosophy and was named Outside Magazine’s 2011 Best Place to Work – and it’s easy to see why. Through their “LIFE” program, on-site fitness and nutritional resources are provided to employees – notably, an indoor tennis court and a CrossFit studio – as well as a rooftop solarium and deck complete with miniature golf and vegetable gardens to supply their organic café (In close partnership with the Intervale Center, the café also sources from 35 local farmers.) Dealer.com puts as much effort into employee happiness as they do customer satisfaction, and they’re reaping the benefits. Their innovative approach to online advertising is award-winning, having been recently named the winner of two North America Premier SMB Partner Awards by Google.

The company’s principles mirror the values of their community members, represented by an acronym that reflects Dealer.com’s unique point of view on corporate citizenship: P.E.A.C.E (standing for Planet, Eating local, Arts, Community, and Earthlings – a name for their employees dating back to the origins of the company as “EarthCars”). While community grants are on an invitation-only basis, their Earthling; Inspired Grant Program allows employees to apply for grants to local organizations – and they are awarded internally on a monthly basis. This past August, Dealer.com hosted their annual Dan Bonfigli Woody Classic Tennis Tournament. A retro-style, wooden-racket competition, the event served as a fundraiser for King Street Center, an organization that provides educational, recreational, and social programs to at-risk youth in downtown Burlington. From supporting Hurricane Irene relief to offering chair massages to employees, Dealer.com has woven Vermont values of self-sustainability, environmental responsibility, and community involvement into the fabric of their booming and burgeoning business.

Dealer.com Corporate Responsibility Director Jill Badolato and Director of Corporate Communications Alison Von Puschendorf speak with Destination Vermont and offer insight into this company “founded on the principles of doing the right thing.”

What does it mean to be a corporate citizen?

“Being a good corporate citizen, at a high level, is about being a responsible and contributing partner to the place where you live and work. For Dealer.com, that means being respectful of our community, using the resources entrusted to us wisely – both [environmental and human resources] – and making decisions that keep our company growing and successful so we can continue the cycle of giving back.”

What volunteer opportunities are offered to Dealer.com employees?

“Our volunteer program is called “People Power,” where employees volunteer throughout the community. We have always had a history of giving and volunteering, but as we’ve grown significantly over recent years, we needed to formalize the program more. This is the first year of our official company-organized employee volunteer program, and we are thrilled it’s a huge success. Employees can volunteer individually or, more commonly, as a department or team.  Some of our more recent group-volunteering efforts have been with Intervale Conservation Nursery, Habitat for Humanity, Burlington School Food Project, and the King Street Summer Reading Program.”

How does Dealer.com lighten its environmental footprint?

“Most notable is our LEED certification at our Burlington headquarters, and we are very proud of this accomplishment. Some of the features are preferred parking for bicycles and fuel-efficient vehicles, 50 kW roof-mounted solar panel array [the largest privately-owned solar project in Burlington], high-efficiency irrigation system that uses recycled water, and 35% of electricity [use comes] from renewable energy sources. We also offer commuter programs with CCTA and Go Chittenden County, extensive composting, recycling and reusing program, and an electric car charging station.”

Dealer.com is known around Burlington for hosting lavish parties for employees. Has there been a favorite celebrity guest among the staff?

“Having fun is important and stems back to our philosophy about resetting the expectations of today’s workplace. When people can come together, get to know one another on a more personal level, enjoy each other’s company, and learn something new about a colleague, that organically transfers over into a more productive working relationship. Our parties are the opportunity to bring together our entire company and celebrate this philosophy.

We have had some high profile guests among us, including Jonathan Goldsmith, who portrays The Most Interesting Man in the World. Jonathan participat  ed in an ad campaign with our dealer customers and attended our customer appreciation party at one of our biggest trade shows.  And, of course, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals have played at a couple of our parties, and they are always impressive to watch perform. We are extraordinarily proud that both of these guests also happen to be Vermonters!”

What is on the horizon for Dealer.com?

“We are continuing to grow, which is very exciting. Growth means we can continue to do more of these wonderful, impactful things for our customers, the community, and our employees!”