If you work for Avi Steinlauf at Edmunds.com, you can take as much vacation as you want. It may seem like a slacker’s dream come true, but Steinlauf says employees have embraced the move with just the right mix of appreciation and discipline.
“It’s something we piloted in 2011 with a few work teams and we found out that we had higher quality, quicker throughput and far higher satisfaction on the part of our people,” says Steinlauf, CEO at the leading online source for automotive information.
“We do company surveys on a yearly basis and the No. 1 thing people like about working at the company is the fact they are treated like adults. It’s a results-oriented work environment and they are getting the results. It was a bit of a leap for us, but it’s been a success.”
Steinlauf was part of a panel discussion at the EY Strategic Growth Forum® in Palm Springs, Calif., in November called “The right balance for your business.” He shared his thoughts on what it’s like being the leader of a family business.
“My father is a very active chairman with no other hobbies other than Edmunds,” Steinlauf says with a chuckle, referring to his father and the company’s founder, Peter Steinlauf. “So he’s in the office multiple times a day. That’s really what he thinks about 24/7.”
The Steinlauf family owns 70 percent of the privately held business, with outside investors making up the remaining 30 percent.
“Our goal in life is to continue to build this business, potentially for generations to come,” Steinlauf says.
“We were fortunate to have brought shareholders in at a time when the Internet was doing all sorts of crazy things in 1999 and 2000. Folks wanted to invest in anything that said dot com and there weren’t a lot of strings attached. The nature of our outside shareholders is that they are along for the ride for a period of time, and it’s up to them to determine what that period of time is.”
In terms of operational goals, Steinlauf says the company strives to make car buying easier for its customers and to foster trust between consumers and automotive retailers.
“We started off as a print publication publishing quarterly pricing guides and over the last 20 years, we have made the transition into the digital world and onto the Internet where today, we’re a fully online publisher of automotive information, pricing, specs, reviews and things like that,” Steinlauf says.
Edmunds now has an online audience of about 18 million consumers a month in the United States. The move to give employees unlimited vacation has not hurt that effort one bit, Steinlauf says.
“People are still working hard and in certain cases, are still working long hours,” Steinlauf says. “They just may not be chained to a desk to do that.”
Not a birthright
With three sons and three daughters, Steinlauf has a full house and an ample supply of potential leaders to choose from to carry on the family business. But he is quick to note that they won’t just walk into his office one day and take over the company.
“I’ve got a 10 year-old boy and an 8 year-old boy who have both expressed some interest,” Steinlauf says. “They made comments, each of them in their own way to me, such as ‘When I work at Edmunds, Dad …’ and I say, ‘Whoa, hold on a second, you have to work hard and do some things, it’s not a God-given right.’
“Hopefully they’ll have the opportunity at some point, but it is not a God-given right that they will have an opportunity to do that. I’ve still got plenty of years to consider and think about that.” ●
How to reach: Edmunds.com, (855) 782-4711 or www.edmunds.com