The greatest challenge in the automotive industry today is finding leaders who will lead, managers who will manage, and directors who will provide direction. The centerpiece of effective leadership, management, and direction is accountability:
- Personal Accountability—holding yourself accountable for the desired outcome
- Top Down Accountability—holding others accountable to perform implemented processes
Service departments are famous for implementing processes and not holding employees accountable to consistently perform the task. For example:
- Advisors must do a walk-around on every vehicle that enters the service drive…with the owner present. They don’t, and there are no consequences.
- Every technician must do a comprehensive inspection on each vehicle. They don’t, and no one follows up to see why not.
- Advisors are required to follow up on declined work by calling the customers within 48 hours. They don’t, and management seems to have forgotten all about it.
Accountability isn’t a four-letter word. Dave Anderson says accountability is not something you do to somebody, it’s something you do for somebody. It’s management saying, “I care enough about you to hold you accountable. I care more about your future than your feelings. I’m hard on you because I know you can do it…and I believe in you.”
There is a common belief among service managers that techs and advisors don’t want to be held accountable. They have bought into a lie that says accountability is punitive—punishment, big brother, micro-managing—or something distasteful to employees. In fact, the opposite is true.
A few years ago I was consulting with a group of seven dealerships, and to say they were a dysfunctional family would be an understatement. There was drama and strife everywhere, and their business was in decline. I brought the techs and advisors together (without any managers) and simply asked them what was up. They listed a few minor issues and personality conflicts, but their main issue was lack of accountability. I was floored. This group of educated, professional adults wanted management to “inspect what they expected.”
Their frustration was centered around the fact that management demanded processes be followed, then didn’t correct, coach, mentor, and lead when employees didn’t follow the process. The message from management was “do it or else;” yet nothing happened to those who didn’t perform. The techs and advisors quickly learned that management didn’t really care and, therefore, they didn’t, either.
Quoting Dave Anderson again, “you will lose the respect of the best if you don’t deal with the worst!” Anderson goes on to say that leaders shouldn’t desire “to be liked” –their goal should center around “being respected.”
If you are respected, people will follow you—and ultimately like you. The leaders of the above dealer group lost all credibility because they failed to hold their team accountable. The net result was not just internal drama; it affected hours per RO, maintenance service sales, CSI, retention, and fixed ops profitability. All that could have been avoided by simply holding team members accountable. Surely, it can’t be that simple. Yes, it’s that simple.
The dealer saw what was happening and hired a new fixed ops director. Within 90 days things started to change, and six months later several of the service departments had record months. He didn’t come in and fire everyone, although some managers couldn’t be salvaged. He just laid out the expectation, provided clarity on how to meet his expectations, and did weekly follow-up (accountability) to make sure his processes were being followed.
His monthly service sales meetings are exciting, attitudes have improved, and everyone’s income has gone up! It’s a beautiful thing.
The primary reason the new fixed ops director made such a difference and turned seven dealerships around is because he practiced personal accountability. That means when he accepted the responsibility of being fixed ops director, he became accountable for the outcome.
Accepting responsibility for a task is meaningless and won’t produce any results if you don’t hold yourself personally accountable for the outcome.
Jeff Peevy, President of Automotive Management Institute, has written extensively about this topic. Peevy says:
- Personal accountability doesn’t require heavy supervision
- Personal accountability creates a thirst for knowledge
- Personal accountability pursues quality
It starts at the top. If the leader doesn’t accept personal accountability, then respect will be lost and the leader’s authority will evaporate…and you can forget about your team members ever practicing personal accountability.
Top down accountability—accountability to the manager—is important, but when your team members accept personal accountability, then you, as a leader, have hit the sweet spot. Your personal accountability has now replicated itself and now your team members have it in the fiber of their DNA.
So, what’s at stake?
The National Automobile Dealers Association put out a fascinating statistic that I had never seen before. According to NADA, 49% of total dealer gross came from fixed ops in 2017. That’s up from 45% in 2015. Of course, I’m sure you already know that most of the dealership’s net income comes from fixed ops gross.
The point is simply this: accountability increases revenue sales, gross profit, and net profit. There is a high price to pay for ignoring the impact of accountability throughout your dealership…and a huge reward for training your team to master the art of accountability!
Author: Charlie Polston
Charlie Polston is an Automotive Customer Retention and Profitability Consultant with BG Products, Inc. Charlie has been with BG’s Fixed Operations Division for over 34 years.