Sonic Automotive

Case study

Sonic Automotive strengthens leadership and achieves growth despite a turbulent industry environment.

Sonic Automotive

Challenge: Inspire a cultural shift while restructuring

Few companies have withstood the challenges Sonic Automotive has faced during the past 4 years. In the midst of intense industry turmoil and constant market fluctuations, this Fortune 500 company restructured and consolidated 150 dealerships into a single management system.

The BB&T Leadership Institute engaged Sonic’s executive team to build and strengthen leadership practices. What Sonic needed was nothing short of a massive cultural shift with buy-in from leadership at all levels.

Process for the challenge

  • Worked with Sonic senior management to assess needs and goals within the context of industry trends.


Approach: Remove barriers to change

How do you encourage executives to shift their leadership approach to create a leadership-focused corporate culture in such a challenging environment?

The chosen approach was to integrate a customized leadership program into the Sonic Automotive Leadership Academy. This program, built on the conscious leadership process, motivated leaders to manage and use change to their advantage and leverage behaviors that are intentional and aligned with organizational goals. This impactful leadership approach taught individual managers to understand their roles within the company and practice a higher degree of self-awareness.

By integrating leadership strategies and practices with operational management procedures, The BB&T Leadership Institute created significant and sustainable changes in the way company leaders and managers approached their work, employees and customers.

Sonic Automotive incorporated the institute’s principles into their corporate guidelines and benchmarks for success. Each leader learned the principles of leadership and emerged with a solid plan for applying this knowledge to daily workplace challenges. The 2-year program provided leaders the opportunity to practice new behaviors and approaches, build on successes, reinforce leadership growth in others, and report on new-found best practices.

Process for the approach

  • Created a custom training plan based on in-person and web learning.
  • Taught leaders to replace ingrained, limiting behaviors with deliberate behaviors aligned with Sonic’s goals.
  • Guided leaders from the theoretical to the practical.


Outcome: Remarkable results, sustainable change

This investment in leadership development helped Sonic recover when market demand improved. Results were profound, and senior leaders attribute collaboration with The BB&T Leadership Institute as a key factor that helped them achieve remarkable change.

The company’s measurement systems indicate leaders who went through the institute’s program have achieved better results in leading teams and engaging front-line employees. In addition, a leadership development pipeline for the long term was established—ensuring the company will be well-managed for decades to come.

Process for the outcome

  • Kept core leadership values strong through frequent check-ins with managers and positive reinforcement strategies.

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Case Study

Sonic Automotive

Sonic Automotive strengthens leadership and achieves growth despite a turbulent industry environment.

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