Looking back over my 30 years in the training business it never ceases to amaze me how our industry changes so rapidly, yet stays the same. Basic fundamentals that have made each one of your dealerships what they are today have survived the years.
When Progressive Basics started, we were a sales training company catering to new car dealers training their sales personnel. After completing a class at a dealership in Louisville, Kentucky in 1985, the owner sat with me and asked “Who provides used car training?” I told him I had no idea, but suggested that we call NADA to see if they could tell us. He agreed so we did. They told us that a lot of the training companies had small entries on used cars, but there was no real used car training foundation. On the way back to Jacksonville, Florida I couldn’t get NADA’s response out of my head so, I made a decision that the country would soon have a bona fide used car sales training company.
In February 1986, I got things rolling. Just one brief ad enticed 18 dealers and managers to show up at the “Sea Turtle” hotel on Jacksonville Beach, Florida for the first ever open forum New Car Dealer Used Vehicle Department Management Training Class. I kicked off the class standing by a blank flip chart saying “Gentlemen (because there were no women in the class) there is no way I can tell you how to run a pre-owned department because, as I told each of you before you got here, this has never been done before”. I told them that the class had more than enough experience and synergy to identify and solve our pre-owned department problems. I had their undivided attention which allowed me to take a sigh of relief. The class proceeded with a brainstorming session. Each attendee jotted down on a notepad used car department problems they had personally experienced. Then as a group we assessed everyone’s problems and came to consensus of which problems made it to the flip chart.
My first class was the most interesting two days I have ever spent in my career. Over 75% of the individual problems were related to over-aged inventory. Our problem solving session generated seven basics topics which were the basis for the original format of the Progressive Basics worksheet.
Every class that followed and still today is started basically the same way, with the fact that all the things that we have learned, we have learned together. Each time I speak, I ask what topics they are the most interested in us covering. I cover each of the seven basic fundamentals, including IT. I’m amazed to hear how far away from the basic fundamentals today’s managers have gotten. They are very interested in talking about how to hold product knowledge sales meetings on pre-owned cars. They are extremely interested in how do I get a vehicle ready to go without service absolutely slaughtering them on an internal. They want to know how do I turn over a pre-owned deal with a trade-in, and how do I justify asking for the gross to my salespeople. These are the most basic of all things any manager should know, yet they are the very things that we have all gotten so far away from by relying on a computer to answer questions for us.
At Progressive Basics we have stayed alive through some extremely hard times and we will continue to be there in front of that class, answering those questions in person as long as we are in business. I thank you for believing in us.
See you at the 12th Digital Dealer Conference and Exposition in Orlando in April,