Build Your Store’s Direction Towards a Success Destination
Recently I took a road trip and visited with several dealerships. Many of these stores were suffering from attrition anxiety and couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Why would employees want to leave us? We are a leader in this area and do a great job of selling cars. After an extensive review, I determined a very common thread and the major causation of the problem all were suffering from. By the way, these are not small dealerships yet all suffered from the same problematic symptoms – attrition of 75% and higher.
The major cause for desertion within their ranks were the following:
- No professional interviewing and hiring process in place. Ready, shoot, aim to hiring was causing internal morale problems and bad hires.
- They had no on-boarding process in place. In other words, you get hired and they essentially tell you good luck…
- There were no policy and procedures in place. Loosely translated; do whatever you want and however you want to do it.
- There was no employee handbook. Again, do whatever you want without a roadmap.
- There was no adult education for team members to nourish their personal and professional growth.
- The management team received no leadership training. They were managing just how their manager once managed them and how his manager was managed without considering how the marketplace and leadership roles have changed. Continuing the paradigm of ignorance.
- Slow to no decision making from the management team and dealer principal. People get tired and frustrated when the management team says they will do something then it never happens.
- No fixed processes for growing the store at all profit points. Again, lacking direction towards the roadmap for success.
- No clearly stated written job descriptions.
No wonder employees are leaving. Who would want to work in an environment that breeds confusion, conflicts and dysfunctionality? People want to feel secure with their workplace. Most business owners believe their employees are loyal – and some may be. However, they are mistaken – the swell of discontent doesn’t discriminate. It’s there, right under the surface from the minimum wage worker right up to the executive team. A recent Harris Interactive poll recently found that over 74% of those employed are waiting for the right opportunity to jump ship. 74%! Studies have shown the costs related to directly replacing an employee can be as high as 50-60% of the employee’s annual salary, but the total cost of turnover can reach as high as 90-200%! Now multiply that by three out of four employees…wow!
One thing is certain. If you do not have the above-mentioned nine points in place you will not only have a difficult time keeping employees but an equally difficult time attracting new hires. The exception is hiring a sales consultant who has worked at five or six other stores because he/she is a typically a short-timer anyway. However, if you want to attract young, smart and energetic folks or military you better be able to show them these written elements for their success. If you claim to be professional – act like it.
It all starts at the top is something we have all heard repeated over and over again yet it seems to slip off lips all too easily with no action associated with it and continues to generate continued problematic issues we deal with in this industry. The primary one being lack of top-down accountability. This will most certainly encourage similar unaccountability for your sales and service managers and team members to simply do whatever they wish to do. This lack of accountability to processes then permeates the entire dealership to new levels of complacency and mediocrity and leads to attrition. If you, as a leader, truly want to develop new processes and take the store to new heights you have to stop falling in love with an average approach in the way you run your store, average people and average results. Do something that gives employees empowerment to become their best. Just wake up one morning and say adios to the status quo and develop a new day with a new way.
The following is a partial road map to consider implementing in your business:
MRD – Management Relationship Development:
An all-inclusive departmental dealership campaign must be adhered to. The entire management team must work together as a single leadership team committed to accepting and selling the positive new ideas and processes to come. The team must instill a positive atmosphere of ‘great improvements are coming to help us grow the business’ and ‘wait until you see the new and exciting ideas coming to help you become your personal best.’ Show people that they will be successful by following certain corporate principles.
PFC – Planning for change:
Yes, it will most definitely require a change of latitudes and attitudes. If you want to fall away from being average and begin to improve you must change something you do daily, weekly and monthly. New enhanced sound business processes will take you there. Break out of those old paradigms and habits and accept new and improved ways to do business in your store. The correct changes we make today will make a better tomorrow. “Starting” is the great inhibitor to your pathway for success. So, start now developing the cultural, procedural and process changes needed.
DDM – Disciplined Decision Making:
The Dealer Principal must be a part of the decision-making processes and adhere to them. According to a study of unsuccessful managers by the Laboratory of Psychological Studies of the Stevens Institute of Technology, the inability to make decisions is one of the principal reasons for failure. It is a much more common reason than lack of knowledge or technical know-how.
Therefore, you and your management team have to adopt a strong acceptance of Enhanced Leadership Decision Making in order to enhance the business. You will encounter very tough decisions that will differ and cross the “business as usual” approach you have exhibited in the past but you have to press on with the changes.
Here today gone tomorrow decision making will guarantee failure. Decision making with consistency and discipline will point you toward a successful growth venture. When you and your management team adopt certain new processes in your store, stick to them. Sure, we must be flexible to change for the better when we identify improvements to our processes, but we never retreat on our process adoption principles. Remember, we do not change a process because no one wants to do them, we change a process only to make improvements in the way we are now conducting our business. It must be fruitful. Make good decisions and be consistent in doing so because you are making a new way of life in your store forever.
Fact: Everyone wants to be thin, but nobody wants to diet.
Fact: We want to live long: not many of us exercise.
Fact: Most people want to be rich: few are willing to work hard and smart to get it.
Fact: Every dealer wants to grow the store: Few form the habit of doing things unsuccessful dealers do not like to do; recognize that there are two types of pain. There’s the pain of disciplined accountability and the pain of regret. Accountable and actionable decision making will help you sustain business challenges better. The pain of disciplined accountability is momentary but the payoff is monetary.
Once you adopt the decision to do things differently, you must consistently be disciplined with your accountability in seeing it through. It is ok to make adjustments along the way but in no way should you compromise your new processes. The most important element for success is making good decisions and this has no real value without the second, which is practicing a ‘consistency’ discipline. Do it right.
BPL – Best Practices Leadership:
One thing that continues to trouble me is witnessing a lack of leadership (not to be confused with management) in dealerships which is preventing the people and consequently the store from ever growing. A compelling reason why you have to anchor leadership in your store for successful implementation is that Real Leaders are driven by the future. It is not creativity or courage that makes a leader. You can have those attributes and still fail to be a great leader. A leader’s job is to rally people toward a better future. Leaders can’t help but change the present, because the present isn’t good enough. They succeed only when they find a way to make people excited by and confident in what comes next. This includes new processes and new store cultural changes which are going to occur in order for us to maximize process utilization which in turn grows people and the dealership.
Leaders must turn anxiety into confidence because people do fear the future. The future is unstable, unknown and therefore potentially dangerous. So, in order to succeed, leaders must engage the fear of the unknown and turn it into confidence for the future. By far the most effective way to turn fear into confidence is to be clear-to define the future in such vivid terms that we can see where we are headed. Clarity is the antidote to anxiety, and therefore clarity is the preoccupation of the effective leader. If you do nothing else as a leader, be clear. So, when you deliver the good news that processing (not just technology) is coming into your store, know what you are talking about. And, if you don’t understand what it is going to take, then get someone who does to show you the way.
Top-down strategy means you can’t be confusing. If we are going to follow you into the future, we need to know precisely whom we are trying to please. It’s a scary thing to please all of the people all of the time. So, to calm our fear, we need you to narrow our focus. Tell us how you will be judging our progress. When you do this with clarity, you give us confidence-confidence in our judgment, in our decisions, and ultimately in our ability to know where to look to determine if we have fulfilled our mission. We first have to be accountable leaders then demand accountability from each person involved with the various process in your store.
It comes down to this, if you have it or develop it you will be able to withstand a sustained growth path down the tracks to overcome the adversities which will arise along the journey. If you don’t, I wish you well because you will be joining the ‘wishing and hoping’ club; “I wish traffic would pick up” and “I hope we hit our numbers.” That is no way to run a business.
So, leaders must be clear about why you’re going to win. As a leader, your job is to make people more confident about the future you’re introducing them into. You need to tell them why they’re going to win. There are many competitors out there. Why will we beat them? We will have to add differential in the way prospects see and view our store.
In addition to the required 9 points mentioned, here are some beginning action steps I would initiate running any dealership;
- Provide a long-term company outlook to every employee; Make your dealership the dealership where people enjoy coming to work because they see security and growth potential.
- Abide by the golden rule; Builds team unity, growth and an awesome overall morale.
- Create an atmosphere where the business is like family; Comfortable environment allows for natural talents to become better. Let them know it is ok to screw up but provide them with the knowledge of how to do it right next time.
- Invest in all your employees through strategic training elements; Well-trained employees perform better and are engaged in their work thus, productivity increases.
- Challenge yourself to be the best employer in your marketplace; this will not only dramatically reduce attrition (huge savings) but attracts the best future employees.
- Develop a pattern of leadership consistency; Here today and gone tomorrow initiatives confuses employees. Consistency gives employees security and a willingness to follow the new initiatives.
- Finally, you have to monitor results closely not only internally but externally. Internal results will show up in the form of morale, processes and numbers. External being a little tricky should be administered by an outside reputation management company. As the saying goes; you don’t know what you don’t know. Get yourself in the loop with every aspect of running a strong business.
There are many more differential elements that go into your store enveloping a true professional approach. There are many obstacles in your path. Why will you overcome them? The more clearly you can answer these questions, the more confident your team will be, and therefore the more resilient, the more persistent and the more creative. If you could use a couple of additional ideas on this subject, send me an email requesting “help.”
Success doesn’t “happen.” It is organized, preempted, captured, by consecrated common sense. – F.E. Willard
Author: Chuck Barker
CHUCK BARKER is President & Founder of Impact Marketing & Consulting Group, located in Virginia. He has assisted Dealers & Corporations across the country in Sales & Service Development training programs, Management Leadership Workshops and Business Improvement/Analysis Consulting. He is a pioneer in BDC, CRM, Best Processes and Team Member Development since the early ‘90’s. Chuck has held Automobile, Corporate and International Executive positions for over 27 years. Chuck has been a monthly author/contributor for Dealer Magazine for over 11 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.