Cultural diversity can be your competitive advantage

The growing diversity of the Canadian market is a business opportunity

Not long ago, in my corporate days, I remember attending diversity training. Before, the focus was on sameness. Thankfully those days are gone and we realize now the sophisticated nature of Canada’s cultural mosaic from coast to coast.

We are fortunate to live in a country blossoming with diverse cultures and customs. This is what defines Canada on the world stage. Canadians come in all shapes, sizes, orientations, cultures and beliefs.

It is a fact that not all communities will experience that same level of diverse population expansion. However, deaths are outpacing births and all of Canada’s projected population growth is expected to come from immigration (see sidebar). The issue of cultural expansion is here to stay.

Diversity has now progressed beyond a Human Resource issue to become a defining element in competitive advantage. It is no longer about avoiding the differences but rather about turning those differences into an advantage.

As you move forward with your business this decade you should ask yourself, have I turned diversity into a competitive business advantage?

The new frontier

There are many sides to this issue but for automotive retailers there are two main things to consider:

• First, your employee base is going to change to include a variety of cultural backgrounds that will require preparing yourselves and your organizations to master this change.

• Second, your customer base will change and you must quickly adopt news ways of doing business that reflect the varying needs of new clients and their perspectives.

Your minds must be open and so must your business practices and policies. You will need a culturally diverse management base in order to positively respond to your culturally diverse customer base. We live in a world of expanding customer characteristics and in that world the customer is in control.

Change is good

One area of change will be in advertising. Brands and their ad agencies still have the stereotypical customer in mind when they film their TV ads. This will have to change. Your local dealership advertising, website message and in-store language capabilities must reflect the many cultures you hope to do business with.

Creating and connecting communities are the reasons behind social networking. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and hundreds of others are all online facilitators that connect people to communities. A connected community is how dealers will perfect their businesses in the future.

Another major change will be the face of the dealer body itself. Our dealer entrepreneurs of the future will come from diverse cultural backgrounds. This is nothing new; however the rate of acceleration will increase as the current dealer principals work through their succession challenges and realities.

Diversify your methods

What can dealers do to prepare themselves and their businesses? The starting point is a market study to understand the population characteristics and municipal and regional growth planning. It’s amazing how much free information is on the Internet about most cities and towns in Canada.

The second is to then match your internal team to the community you serve. You need to understand all the pockets in your community and devise a plan suited to attracting members of those communities to your dealership. Remember, one size does not fit all. The more sizes you offer, the better your competitive advantage.

Your external dealership message must be synchronized 100 percent with your brand’s message but it can offer a local spin to make your brand more attractive. Your OEM’s national advertising campaign will aim at the average customer; however, your local advertising can be more directed at the connected communities you are targeting.

The way you spend your advertising dollars will also change. No longer will full-page ads in the local newspaper suit your specific needs. Your spending must be targeted at the communities in your market area. This will mean understanding where the members in your community get their credible information.

In all likelihood, it will be some digital source on the Internet. This will allow you to save on advertising while at the same time increase your advertising dollar effectiveness. It’s the new way. Most consumers today first turn to the Internet. As more and more citizens of all cultures and backgrounds use the Internet, your targeted effectiveness will increase.

The other area of opportunity is your customer relationship management (CRM) system and processes. Understanding the cultural nuances of various customers could expand the acceptance of CRM practices and dramatically increase the effectiveness of your efforts. If you operate a Business Development Centre you should be prepared to handle the subtleties by not attempting to treat all customers the same, but rather by respecting and responding to the differences.

The job of the dealer will be more difficult in the future than today. Hard to imagine, I know. Just talk to some retired dealers. They are happy to be out of the business. It’s still in their blood, however, they could not master the many complexities of running a dealership today. This will hold true for the future as well. The business will be there for those that can see the future and adapt. Cultural diversity will be part of that future and the choice is yours whether to turn that fact of life into your competitive business advantage.


About Chuck Seguin

Charles (Chuck) Seguin is a chartered accountant and president of Seguin Advisory Services ( He can be contacted at

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