John Malishenko - Stepping Up

With over 20 years of experience, John Malishenko knows that a gig managing a Lexus dealership is about as good as it gets in the car business. And considering Germain Lexus of Easton was recently named one of 10 national 2007 Lexus Pursuit of Innovation Award winners, it seems his gig is even better than most.

Upon learning that their old friend had left the industry in 2001, the Germain family invited Malishenko to visit Columbus with a bit of a hidden agenda. He remembers, “They took me over to the site of their new location, and it was just an empty field. Steve turned to me and said, ‘Why don’t you come run it?’ I’ve been here ever since.”

Malishenko’s award-winning innovation concept “1 Thing,” drew inspiration from a speech given by Fast Company founding editor Bill Taylor, in which businesses were urged to tap into the collective intelligence of their customers. The dealership then turned its customers into an advisory board of sorts by asking: “What one thing would you change about the Lexus experience?” They ultimately came up with a list of 8 changes that would switch the dealership’s focus from selling cars to creating an experience. As Malishenko puts it, “Are we just selling cars? What if we could make buying a car so fun that people actually look forward to it, instead of dreading it like the dentist?”

As for his take on innovation, Malishenko said, “A lot of people think of innovation as a breakthrough, or a one-time event but it’s not singular. There are a lot of different steps, and it must be sustainable.” And as for the ongoing commitment to personalized service, he’s the first to admit that there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all customer service. “The danger [with personalization]” he said, “is that once you know what your customers want, you better give it to them!”