This article is for leaders—dealers, general managers, and service managers—the men and women who have been given a sacred trust to shepherd their employees and the dealership to success.
Once you, as a leader, have embraced the message, then I think it would be a good idea to pass this article on to your employees.
Shakespeare wrote in “Hamlet” Act III Scene I “To be or not to be.” A motivational speaker and personal trainer that I know says, “What you be, they are becoming.” One of my favorite authors says it like this, “Your employees pay more attention to what you do than what you say.” Behavior is caught, not taught.
The Draconian parenting philosophy of “Do what I say not what I do” has never worked and it never will. Yet I see this happening every day in the business world; managers have one set of standards for their employees and a different set of standards for themselves. (Good heavens, I’m starting to sound like Dave Anderson!)
So, are you a student, a disciple, or a disciple-maker? Let’s start by defining each:
Student: A learner (a person who is trained but never produces)
Disciple: A learner and a doer (a person who applies what they have learned; result: increased revenue via addition.)
Disciple-Maker: A learner, a doer, a believer, and a teacher (a person who is held accountable by their superiors to continue applying what they have learned; result: increased revenue and exponential growth via multiplication.
Rather obviously, the goal of every owner and manager ought to be to become a disciple-maker—and to have teammates that share the passion. What you be, they are becoming. It starts at the top. Let’s look at some examples that better explain each category:
Student example: Management sends a service advisor to a sales training seminar. However, the manager does not attend. When the service advisor returns from the training, he immediately goes back to doing what he has always done. He never applies anything he has learned. The manager doesn’t know what the advisor learned, therefore he does not have the ability to hold the advisor accountable. Nothing changes. It was a total waste of time and money. Unfortunately, this is the pattern that happens most often in the automotive business. Management is under the mistaken belief that the key to success is having trained service advisors. It’s not. The key to success is having trained service advisors who are held accountable to sell maintenance service—who are held accountable to apply what they have learned.
Disciple example: In this scenario, again, the manager does not attend the training. However, the service advisor has enough drive, energy, and desire that he does apply what he has learned. However, after a few days or weeks, because there was no accountability and the manager doesn’t really know or understand what he’s doing or why it doesn’t take long for him to return to his old ways. And even though he applied it for a short time, it didn’t become part of his DNA.
This is so tragic because the advisor is all fired up—ready, willing, and able to produce—yet due to a lack of support from the manager, everything fades away. This is one reason there is such a high turnover in the automotive industry. Weak managers who don’t believe in training now have a self-fulfilling prophecy: “See, I told you so. All this training gets us nowhere; it’s a waste of time and money.”
Disciple-Maker example: The manager and the advisor attend the training together. The general manager and the dealer go, also! It sends a message that training is important; that training matters. There’s going to be accountability to a standard. It’s a new day. Things are going to change. There’s a new sheriff in town. Now when the advisor returns from the training, management all the way up to ownership knows what is required of the advisor to succeed. Therefore, everyone is held accountable up and down the management chain. What’s the net result?
The sales training works because the advisors are held accountable. They now have become disciple-makers who teach and train customers, who themselves become disciple-makers with their friends and family. In other words, the service advisor’s sales presentation is so clear that not only do the customers buy the maintenance services, they “buy-in” to the concept that preventive maintenance saves them money. This is true success. This is what you’re looking for, isn’t it?
So managers, ask yourself, “Am I a student?” (Which doesn’t make me or the dealership any money), “Am I a Disciple?” (Which will add a little bit to the bottom line, but not much), or “Am I a disciple-maker?” (A game-changer, a guy who is out there getting it done and holding my people accountable to get it done.)
Excuses: These are some of the most common excuses for not becoming a disciple-maker:
- Can’t afford the time “I’m too busy. We’re short-handed.”
Let’s take a reality check for just a minute. I understand the fact that a dealer can’t attend every training event for every department every time. And I understand that a service manager can’t attend every OEM technical training class that he sends his technicians to or every sales training class his advisors attend. But the more engaged you, as a leader, are in understanding what your people are learning, the more effective you’ll be at holding them accountable to do it.
At the very least attend one training event a month with them. Additionally, you could commit to being present at the beginning of most meetings held at your dealership, simply to welcome everyone, thank them for being on your team, and to let them know you support the processes and techniques they are learning.
- Can’t afford the money “I hate to invest in people that I don’t think will be around very long. We have a high turn-over rate with our advisors and managers and we just don’t want to invest in them.”
It has been said that it is far better to train people and have them leave than it is to not train them and have them stay! If you invest in the training and hold them accountable to implement what they’ve learned, then your team will increase their production and give you a great return on investment.
- Too lazy to do it; unmotivated “Quite frankly, I just don’t care.”
(Obviously, nobody is going to say this out loud but this is the attitude that many in management have.) Their thinking goes something like this: “I’m just not that passionate about it. I’m making an average salary, I have average personnel, we have an average dealership, things are going along pretty good. I just don’t want to put out the effort to get to that next level.” In other words, what you’re doing is “good enough” and you don’t want to invest the time, money, energy and effort to be great. By the way, you know the old saying, “the enemy of great is good.”
It’s easy to get worn out in the automotive service business. Long hours, customer expectations and demands, computer issues, technicians—it can suck the life out of the most optimistic among us.
That’s why we all need to be energized with fresh ideas. Just a reminder that I’m writing to managers and leaders—you are the folks that need refreshing the most. Attending training seminars with your service team will refresh you. If nothing else, do it for yourself.
In summary, if you’re looking for maximum return on the time and money you invest in having your people trained, this is the way to get it. Disciple-makers make disciples that go on to make disciples. This is contagious multiplication. What you be, they are becoming! “Go ye therefore and make disciples.”
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.