Anyone who has ever put together a jigsaw puzzle understands the straightforward, yet far from simple premise of taking multiple, seemingly dissimilar parts and forming them into one cohesive whole. Add more pieces to the mix and the puzzle automatically becomes more difficult. It can be a tedious task for those without a firm grasp of the end goal in mind. But, for those who can see the bigger picture, the process can be as enjoyable as it is challenging. Aside from the obvious comparisons to commitment, resolve, and seeing a job through to the end, this lesson has application in the auto industry, especially when it comes to dealership expansion opportunities.
Dealerships that expand their businesses and work to acquire new locations usually find increased income opportunities. Yet, managing more franchises also means managing more people, more moving parts, and more problems. In other words, meaningful growth, and not just growth for growth’s sake, requires an ability to integrate multiple strategies and operations into one cohesive business whole.
Creating Culture and Strategy
One reason why expansion is so difficult is because a company’s culture can get diluted or spread too thin when more people enter the mix. That’s why companies that establish and codify culture are much more successful at integrating new talent and teaching new employees. Part of establishing a company culture means that every employee, from top-down, understands what the business is trying to accomplish. These employees have a firm grasp on the company’s strategy and how their individual roles further promote that strategy. Whether through acquisition, or built from the ground up, adding new locations without a clear vision of how they will fit into a company’s larger story is recipe for dealership disaster.
Contrary to popular belief, the dealer principal simply can’t be everywhere at once. As dealerships add new locations, they will need people on the ground floor at every location with the skills necessary to run a dealership on their own. It’s essential for these people to understand big picture strategy and how their particular store’s operations fit within that larger strategy. However, finding the right people is only part of the equation. If a dealership can’t keep top talent, it will never achieve the consistency necessary for stable growth.
Retaining top talent goes far beyond offering competitive compensation and benefits. The best industry employees seek out companies with a culture that matches their identities. They demand a respectful work environment, reasonable hours, fun working conditions, and technology that makes their work lives easier and more interesting. They want room to grow and a clear path forward, and perhaps most importantly, they demand and deserve the trust of the dealer principal.
Facilitating Growth through Technology
One of the most important things a growing dealership can do is adopt the right technologies. Some software tools simply promote and support growth better than others. For dealerships with multiple rooftops, the most important features tend to include the following:
- Real-time Data – Managers must be able to check in with any location, at any time. Fast, easy, and up-to-date access to a company’s information improves efficiency and performance during times of transition and growth.
- Remote and Mobile Access – Because executives overseeing multiple dealerships spend the majority of their time offsite, they need to be able to access a dealership’s DMS and other software systems anytime, anywhere. That means the systems need to be mobile-friendly, secure, and reflect real-time changes.
- Ease of Use – As dealerships grow, they need software systems that can keep up with them. That means incorporating technologies that are easy for incoming employees to learn. Getting new stores up to speed quickly is a necessity in times of growth, and with the right technologies, it’s as simple as a couple of mouse clicks.
When it comes to dealership growth, adding more franchises to the mix can either create more confusion, tedium, and work, or, they can come together to create something more beautiful than their individual parts. If meaningful growth is the goal, dealerships must learn to establish and reinforce a company-wide culture, hire and retain trustworthy, forward-thinking employees, and adopt technologies that can keep up with their most ambitious aspirations. It might not happen all at once and it might not be easy, but with a clear understanding of the bigger picture, the solution is on the table, waiting for the right people to put it all together.
Author: Paul Whitworth
Paul Whitworth is the Senior Vice President of DMS and Fixed Operations at Cox Automotive.