Best of Lawrence Profile: Laird Noller continues legacy of trust, community and innovation

Editor’s Note: This article is sponsored content produced by the Journal-World’s advertising department. Businesses who received a top three award in the Best of Lawrence competition are eligible to participate in the Best of Lawrence Spotlight Series program, which includes a question-and-answer profile. Look for future profiles in the print and online editions of the Journal-World.

Congratulations on being voted the “Best of Lawrence”! How does it feel to receive this recognition from the community?

Our entire team is truly honored and thrilled to have been Voted Best of Lawrence. We are truly grateful for the support and trust our guests have placed in us. Additionally, we are extremely proud of our team that put in so much hard work to be the best!

What do you believe sets your business apart?

There are a few things that set us apart. At Laird Noller we prioritize building lasting relationships with each guest and putting the needs of our guest ahead of the numbers. We also believe in creating a culture that fosters a welcome and inviting environment for each member of our team. It truly shows in our team that we have a great culture because every guest that walks through the door is welcomed with a smile and a warm greeting. Lastly, we believe in investing in our community! We believe in supporting local business and support our local organizations. Whether it is supporting a local business for items needed for an event, or donating monetary gifts for local charities and organizations. We know that people support our local business, so we do what we can to reciprocate and give back!

Can you provide a brief overview of your business’s history, including its founding, initial goals and how it has evolved over the years?

O. Willard Noller founded Noller Motors after purchasing the Ford dealership from Mosby-Mack in Topeka, KS. He built a state-of-the-art dealership in 1960 which we still utilize today! He built a trustworthy reputation and innovation in the community. After he retired, Laird Noller took over the dealership in 1974 and expanded the operations to Lawrence, becoming the Laird Noller Dealerships. When Laird retired, Steve took over and led the company to new innovations and expanded our operations to include state-of-the-art service departments, vehicle accessories, and many other businesses. In recent years these new adventures led to becoming the Laird Noller Companies. Laird Noller takes pride in being family owned and locally operated to this day. The Noller family has always strived to provide world class customer service to every guest and to provide the best place to work for our team members. Positive experience for guests and team members is not just an idea, it’s a commitment.

How has your business evolved or grown since you first started? What key milestones have you achieved along the way?

Laird Noller continues to expand and grow all the time. Whether it is our state-of-the-art Quick Lane’s, our dealership in Olathe, the food truck and deli (coming soon) in Topeka, Boat & RV Storage in Lawrence, or our RV dealership, RV service center, and RV Body Shop in Topeka, Steve Noller continues to provide ways to fulfill needs in our local communities. However, even with all the growth that Laird Noller has experienced, the goal hasn’t changed of providing world class customer service and an incredible place to work. Which is apparent in the achievement of winning “Best of Lawrence”.

The staff at Laird Noller Ford, located on 23rd Street.

Community support is crucial. How do you engage with the local community, and how has this engagement impacted your success?

Supporting community is and always has been in the core of Laird Noller. We pride ourselves in being a great partner to local organizations. Our support of the local schools, and local foundations is always a priority! We are so grateful to our community for their support, why wouldn’t we want to support and give back? One of our favorite ways to support our community is our annual Drive Out the Cold coat drive. Every fall we purchase hundreds of new coats, hats and gloves to give to individuals in need. It’s just one way for us to show our appreciation to the community. That has a great impact on the individuals in Lawrence and they remember that we were there during those times of need.

Could you share an example of how your business has embraced innovation to stay ahead of the curve?

As so many businesses, Covid had a huge impact! After Covid there was the chip shortage. However, before Covid even hit, we were providing at home test drives, at home deliveries, and service pick-up and delivery. So, Laird Noller was already ready for those changes when it happened when so many others weren’t. In addition, when the chip shortage happened, Laird Noller had began investing heavily in our service centers. When inventory was low, we were still able to provide top notch service to those who needed to keep their vehicles in tip top shape because there were very few replacement vehicles. Also, we have had electric charging stations for years before electric became very popular. However, we have recently installed new charging stations and we even put in a new transformer and revamped our electrical in order to install better chargers at our Hyundai location here in Lawrence.

Businesses face challenges as well. Can you discuss a significant hurdle your business has overcome and the lessons learned from it?

With a business that relies heavily on face-to-face encounters, you will always find opportunities to learn and grow. Like we stated before, with Covid and the chip shortage we were faced with many opportunities to provide better service or find new ways to fill needs. When we had few vehicles in inventory, we had to step up and provide the best service departments in order to keep people on the road!

Are there any upcoming projects, events, or initiatives that you’re excited about and would like the community to know?

We are always working on new ideas and innovations. We aren’t ready to announce all of them yet, but we are excited to be able to share soon so, keep an eye out for updates from The Laird Noller Companies.

The staff at Laird Noller Hyundai on south Iowa.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who are looking to create their own successful ventures?

Two key pieces of advice that we can share is to always think outside the box. Always look for new and better ways to provide a service or fill a need. Just because our business is in automotive, doesn’t mean we can’t also run a food truck and open a coffeehouse and deli. The other advice is best said from a quote by Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, “The most dangerous phrase in the language is ‘we’ve always done it this way’.” Just because you’ve always done things a certain way, doesn’t mean you can’t improve or learn more. At the Laird Noller Companies, we are not afraid to learn from others or from experiences. You may think you are great at guest services, but you can always be better!

The “Best of Lawrence” title often indicates a commitment to excellence in customer service. How do you ensure that every customer has a positive experience with your business?

Investing in our team to put it simply. You are only as good as your weakest link. We invest in the training of our teams. We invest in providing great benefits for our employees. And we invest in providing the tools and environment for our teams to excel and succeed. You can’t provide world class customer service if you don’t have the best team!

What does being an integral part of the Lawrence community mean to you, and how do you plan to continue contributing positively?

Being an integral part of the community again has a lot to do with investment and being a great community partner. We love supporting local business, local charities, local organizations. You can’t expect people and the community to be great partners if you aren’t a great partner as well.

Reflecting on your journey, what motivated you to start this business, and how does it feel to see it flourish and earn the “Best of Lawrence” title? Our guests, and our community are our motivation. Being able to help a mom or dad find the perfect vehicle to take their kids safely to school in. Providing the best possible quote on services to keep people safely on the road. Keeping our local business men and women in reliable transportation to get to work. It’s the people of our community that motivated the Noller family to begin and continue the legacy.

What role does employee training and development play in maintaining the level of excellence your business is known for?

Our employees are everything to us! This goes along with our commitment to excellence. We prioritize team investment, recognizing that our overall performance is only as strong as our weakest link. This means dedicating resources to comprehensive team training, offering attractive employee benefits, and creating a supportive environment with the necessary tools for our teams to thrive. We firmly believe that exceptional customer service is achievable only with a top-notch team!

Could you share a memorable customer success story that exemplifies the impact your business has on the community?

Some of our most memorable and stand out stories are those individuals who have just had life come at them from every direction. Some of our guests are those who have been put into tough situations with vehicles. When other dealerships were unable or unwilling to help, we were there to provide compassion and help find the perfect and most reliable vehicle. We believe that it is important to not only provide a great experience but to provide the best possible situation for individuals. We always provide the perfect vehicle for the customer’s needs at a budget they can afford.

What do you believe has been the biggest contributor to your business’s growth and reputation in the Lawrence area?

We are committed to being a trustworthy place for our community. The Laird Noller Companies has been in business for over 60 years! We would not have been able to continue the legacy of O. Willard and Laird had we been dishonest or lacking in integrity. We pride ourselves in not just providing a fun and easy experience with our guests, but providing an honest experience. You can’t do business and expect to stay in business if your core values don’t include honesty and integrity.

What long-term goals do you have for your business, and how do you plan to achieve them?

Laird Noller began with innovation and will continue through innovation. Forward thinking is an integral part of our company. O. Willard Noller was one of the first dealers in this area to add a dedicated finance and insurance department. Now we offer a separate service department for Quick Lube to get people on the road quickly. We offered complimentary service pick-up and delivery and at home purchases before anyone in our area. Having dedicated technicians for the growing EV community. We continually look for ways to provide new and better services. It hasn’t stopped in over 60 years, and we don’t see the innovations stopping in the next 60!

Staying ahead in your industry requires keeping an eye on trends. How do you anticipate and respond to changing market dynamics?

One of the big changes in automotive is the EV implementation. Providing the best electrical vehicle technicians and advanced charging stations are one of the big areas that we feel that we will stand out. Other dealers may shy away from having EV inventory but we accept it whole heartedly. It’s coming and we are going to be ready!

How do you ensure that your business remains an inclusive and welcoming place for customers of all backgrounds?

At Laird Noller Automotive, we are committed to fostering an inclusive and welcoming environment for customers of all backgrounds. We believe diversity is a strength, and we strive to create a dealership where everyone feels valued and respected. We also prioritize clear and open communication, encouraging feedback from our customers to continuously improve our services. Our goal is to provide a dealership experience that is accessible and accommodating to individuals of varying backgrounds, ensuring that everyone feels comfortable and heard. Additionally, we actively engage with our local community, participating in events and initiatives that celebrate diversity and promote inclusivity. By embracing these values, we aim to go beyond being just a dealership and become a positive and welcoming presence for everyone we serve.

Reflecting on your experiences, what leadership lessons have you learned that you believe have been instrumental in your business’s success?

One of our favorite phrases at Laird Noller is “the speed of the leader, is the speed of the pack.” We invest in having top notch leadership and training for our leadership. We can’t expect our staff to learn and grow if we as leaders are unwilling to do the same. We also never ask our employees to do something we wouldn’t do! On a busy Saturday, you may find one of our sales managers out helping detail wash a car. Or you may find our service manager helping with a tire rotation while a tech is working on a diagnostic. If reception is short because someone needed time off, you may find someone in leadership answering and directing phone calls. None of our leaders are afraid of hard work or being the boots on the ground. Whatever the job or the need, our leadership is ready and willing to step in and help. Our employees see the sacrifice and dedication of our management team and it goes a long way.

Anything additional you want to share?

We want to again thank our loyal guests that have supported us for so many years. A huge thanks to our staff for their dedication to our company. We are truly honored by this award and we don’t take it lightly. We appreciate everyone’s vote and support. The Laird Noller Companies started over 60 years ago, we look forward to many more. We can’t wait to share our future endeavors and business ventures. Keep an eye out for our updates!