•Baker rides into top 25•

The story is out on how Baker Motor Co. became one of the best dealerships to work for in North America — learning the job and then improving from there.

The Charleston dealership earlier this month placed No. 23 in the Automotive News-sponsored 100 Best Dealerships to Work For. Moreover, Baker Motor ranked fourth among “large” dealerships as defined by Automotive News. And it was the only dealership from South Carolina chosen this year.

Automotive News this summer disclosed the 100 top dealerships but did not provide specific rankings until earlier this month. Friendship Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram of Bristol, Tenn., ranked No. 1.

In an Oct. 17 article on Baker Motor, Automotive News writer David Barkholz pointed to the company’s focus on employee training as a key factor for its success in the workplace. He cited how it starts at the top with Tommy Baker, the chief executive and founder.

“Tommy Baker, an ex-Marine and graduate of The Citadel military college, is big on training,” he wrote.

According to the article, Baker said his 250 employees at 11 franchises in metro Charleston — including 143 at Baker Motor Co. — get 300 hours on average of training a year. That compared with 59 hours on average for the 100 Best Dealerships, Barkholz reported.

Baker, 65, says employee training has been vital to the company’s growth and stellar customer satisfaction.

The article cited how Baker Motor’s revenue rose to a projected $200 million this year from about $50 million five years ago, selling 4,000-5,000 new and used cars annually.

Baker Motor Co. of Charleston includes Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Infiniti, Jaguar, Land Rover, Maserati, Smart and Sprinter, while Tommy Baker also owns a Buick-GMC-Cadillac dealership and a pre-owned vehicle showroom in Mount Pleasant.

“Everybody gets training: sales, managers, concierge, technicians,” Baker, 65, said.

He also talked of The Baker Way, the culture at the stores that encourages personal responsibility and professional pride, according to Barkholz.

“Let me tell you how that works,” Baker said. “When our people get within five feet of a customer at any time, they automatically ask how they can serve them.”

The article detailed Tommy Baker’s background: enlisting in the Marines out of high school, selling Toyotas after school while attending The Citadel and opening his first dealership at age 26 in Clinton, N.C.

Baker launched Baker Motor Co. in fall 1988. The dealership is celebrating 25 years this month.

According to the Automotive News piece, “Baker feels so strongly about education that his company awards two full higher-education scholarships annually to worthy employees or their family members. The winners are picked by an employee committee.”

He also sends an employee every year to the dealer academy of the National Automobile Dealers Association. Said Baker in the article, “It’s the track to management.”