My past few articles have focused, for the most part, upon the development, retention and the engagement of your employees. The care and concern we place on our team members is the most powerful initiative you can do to raise the bar on your corporate growth. Continuing this theme, I received the following email from Marshall Upright, the Corporate Buyer for Southern Automotive Group here in Virginia and I felt worth sharing as it intertwines with this popular topic.
I just read your article in the July Dealer magazine. Wow! Just Wow! I am the corporate buyer of an auto group with 6 rooftops with parts and service as well as 2 body shops. We have a little over 500 employees.
Couldn’t agree more with everything you said about “caring.” From my view (I go to all the locations) we have people at all levels of care. At our stores, we have (like everyone) several layers of leaders. We have a lot of people that really care and want to do a great job, so I feel we have a good starting point. My million-dollar question is how do we get the top layer to get more involved with the “care” part. I don’t mean throw money at it, but really make the connection with the people on the front line.
We do have a great company, but I am looking for suggestions so I can help get us to the next level. And, slow the turnover. Training is expensive and is time consuming. I am almost 40 years in the car business so I know “old school management” as well as the way today’s people want to be treated or we just loose them and start over again.
Again, thanks for the great article and for reading my note.
My response to Marshall:
I hear your pain at dealerships all over the Nation. Too bad we can’t just put managers on an IV drip solution containing a “relationship development leadership” concoction. I have always said it takes growing managers to grow team members in order to grow the dealership. This of course begs the question; when was the last time your enterprise did something for the first time to GROW the management team in becoming leaders? Most managers came up through the ranks of sales and essentially stick to the same paradigms bestowed upon them by the acting manager at the time. The problem is we continue to manifest the same ole things not paying attention to the changing market and consumer trends. Then, we end up with the “tomorrow is today one day later” effect which does nothing except perpetuate the same.
Your statement; “We do have a great company, but I am looking for suggestions so I can help get us to the next level. And, slow the turnover. Training is expensive and is time consuming, is one common theme I hear from dealers. Well, my answer is; going to the dentist is expensive and time consuming as well but if you don’t do it you lose your teeth. Same holds true for employees. Invest in them and they will grow and when they are growing (and making you and themselves more money) they have no reason to leave you. If you don’t, the signal you send is “we really don’t care about you and we are not investing in you.” Zig Ziglar said it best, “the only thing worse than spending money on training your people and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.” CSI = ESI (employee satisfaction).
If you want me to send you some Intel regarding this let me know. Or, as Albert Einstein said with such eloquence; “Continue to do the same thing day in and day out hoping for a different result” in defining insanity.
One thing that might help you that I have suggested to my clients is when you have a mangers’ meeting make copies of an article that make sense to you, pass out copies to all in attendance, go around the room and let everyone read one paragraph then discuss each. This way, as a team everyone is receiving the good news and having an open discussion regarding the importance.
Are YOU in touch with your associates? With associate turnover at all-time high levels, ask yourselves these questions to enhance communications, reduce attrition and gain valuable knowledge …
- Do you place a high importance on being visible in the store as often as possible?
- If not, why?
- As a middle or senior manager, how visible are you on a daily/weekly basis? (“’Being’ the sheriff time” …)
- Do you and your management team practice an “open door policy”?
- How often do you meet one on one with associates? Every week, 30 days? 60 days?
- What do those meetings look like? Questions you should be asking:
- Do you feel your job is important?
- Do you have the tools necessary to do what you do best?
- Has someone talked to you about your development in the last 30 days?
- Do you feel your opinion counts?
- Does someone encourage your development?
- Has someone recognized you in the last seven days?
- Do you feel you have opportunities to learn and grow?
- Do you know what’s expected of you at work?
- Do you feel your co-workers are committed to quality?
- What are some individual things you can tell me about each associate (i.e. wife, kids names, hobby’s)?
- What does the word “quality” mean to you as a manager?
- What do you do with the information you gather from associates? (Address concerns and celebrate achievements…)
If you can honestly answer a majority of these questions by saying “yes,” congratulations, you’re one of the few. If you answered “no,” what’s keeping you from starting?
- Is time management an issue? Break down how you spent your 10 hours yesterday. Bet you had time to invest in your people.
- What can you do to ensure you’re more visible on a weekly basis?
- Moreover, will you commit to increasing your visibility?
- Will you commit to creating a structure with your managers to begin meeting with associates on a monthly basis?
Your employees are your front line and the heart of your business. Ensure their opinions matter and that they have a platform to interact with management is paramount to the success of your organization.
Future topics to dovetail into this topic to include:
- Successful hiring practices – are you asking the right questions to recruit top notch quality candidates?
- Team performance and management accountability metrics.
Hopefully this article provides you with a solid strategy foundation in the areas of; Inter-Relationship Development, Planning for Cultural and Process Change, Disciplined Decision Making, Leadership, and finally securing the ‘buy-in’ from the management team to implement them. Much like skipping some of the steps of the sale, skipping any of the aforementioned elements towards a successful endeavor, will take you much longer to accomplish or even push you to fail altogether. Yes, I know this is the ‘car business’ and some of this stuff is just plain difficult to get around to much less implement with lasting concrete. My answer to you is you need to acknowledge that the landscape of the automobile industry has and continues to change and if you want to be a part of the success stories regarding store growth and team member engagement, then you will just have to do things a new way.
Corporate America, with a few exceptions, has been doing it this way for quite some time with remarkable results yet we, for some unknown reason, feel this stuff is not for us. I am here to tell you that if your current thinking is taking you towards a “business as usual” shortcut approach, then be prepared for BDA (battle damage assessment) reports. Because shortcuts will diminish your ROI, destroy morale and will most likely provide you with a scornful attempt to grow the store and any of your employees.
If people really are your greatest asset, isn’t it time to look at your development programs as investments in your organization’s human capital and not just as an expense? Anyone can be competitive with their capitol (such as advertising) but investing in the skill sets of your people develops a stronger store and is priceless. The theory of training, like motherhood and apple pie, is inherently a good thing. But, because short-term priorities or bright fires always crowd out their longer-term competitors, it’s typically something we plan to do better next year – after all, we’ve got away with it so far, so another year won’t hurt! Right? Wrong!
You have to initiate a valid, purposeful and measurable training/development agenda on a regular scheduled time frame. Productivity increases only occur where, as a result of quality training and employee engagement, additional more efficient output can be achieved with the same or less level of effort. This implies that the organization actually desires more output and growth. If it doesn’t, then it really doesn’t matter, does it? Don’t continue to be the tallest man at the midget convention. Look up to all your employees with respect and watch them as they grow.
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.