Question: Is your dealership and its team members working under an all-encompassing business plan and processes or are you with the majority of dealerships riding on that vicious merry-go-round procrastination cycle? In a world of illusion – truth becomes a stranger.
Hopefully you are at the former two stages because if you are not, or even plan not to take the step, you most likely will never reach the successful growth potential your people and the dealership has by just sitting there on the sidelines waiting for business to fall out of the sky. The good news is, if you have not yet developed your plan it is never too late to make the turn for the better. The bad news is, if you don’t you may be in the same place next year at this time and it will be a year later, leaving tons of potential money on the table. If this is the case then those problems will still be there but worse, poor processes will be in place so you are doing basically the same things hoping for improvement but not getting any or very little. Your staff turning over and then recruiting and re-training is foremost on your manager’s task list and when you apply dollars to what this procrastination has cost you, don’t be surprised if it is most likely equating to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yes, I do mean hundreds of thousands. So, choose to make a plan or lose big dough. If you have been riding the brakes on developing an operational business plan it might be a good time to start driving the perfect speed towards developing yours.
When I was in Corporate America, I came to appreciate that the key to our success was having a solid business plan as a map guiding every area of our business. Sure, it would contain numbers, percentages and processes but one of the key benefits derived from initiating such a plan was to discover the responsibility and accountability factors within the ranks and the importance leadership played in fulfilling the plan’s objectives. Leadership develops from the inside out. Achieving a breakthrough works the same way. You have the choice to become a more effective leader if you choose to. It may mean letting go of the past and moving forward with a new focus, but you’ll be glad you started moving in a new direction as you see the benefits of reaching your leadership potential and its effect on the team when your business plan begins to unfurl.
The matter of accountability remains one of the biggest failures in our business. The Leaders of successful and unsuccessful organizations oftentimes stop holding themselves and others accountable. Surprisingly, this is a primary reason we decided to open the doors to business plan communications in the first place and bring together all departments and forces of the store which can affect good, solid changes. Yet, they and you have to remain constant toward the quest to hold people accountable and finish the plan. Once this is determined, then you must initiate the finish. Be a finisher.
Often when store results are fine and there’s no immediate crisis, the natural compulsion is, why should I rock the boat by developing and instituting better ways to improve business? After all, you are doing ok. That is, until traffic slows down, bad weather occurs, competition heats up, staff turnover starts and then you default to the “get crazy thing” and start demanding absurd tasks from your people. If you were one of the leaders who saw the importance in developing a plan you probably discovered a few good ideas for improvement like the following example; You determined from the business plan that The Internet Department needs a fresh operational face on the way they perform their job and run the department.
Maybe it is the technology that is holding them back; computers crashing, or your ISP not responding. That is an easy fix. Simply determine needs, investigate viable solutions then replace and replenish. Perhaps it is the lead generation provider who is not getting those almighty ‘quality leads’ to you. Bad upon bad will remove the wind from the department’s sails. Then the moment they do get a solid lead they blow it because they are sadly conditioned to failure in the conversion to sale attempt because all of the previous leads have been dead ends. You have to evaluate the quality of those leads every month and determine if you are wasting your money. If so, then interview several of those companies and work out a ‘trial,’ say a 90-day test of their service before you commit to any long term relationship. Most confident companies will oblige you on this request. Perhaps the problem is lack of leadership.
One of the natural tendencies for dealerships is to place someone in the Internet Management role that is strictly ‘technical.’ Most dealers are intimidated by technology so their natural default is to hire someone who is NASA trained to run the internet show thinking it is technical. Nope, got it wrong. People skills, sales skills, phone skills, objection handling and solid communications skills are the requirements. The technology really is quite simple. Getting those prospects into your store where business can be affected is usually the primary goal unless you are volume and price oriented. Personally, I still have affection for gross profit. This individual or individuals must have rock solid people skills and be able to interface with prospects from a sales level not a technical level. They are dealing with people not bits and bytes. I have seen many stores give up the hopes of ever producing big results out of the Internet Department because they placed the wrong person in the job in the first place. Establish good sound business practices and establish a standard operating procedure (SOP).
Another common problem I see in the internet departments is the Dealer ‘expects’ results without ‘inspecting’ how to get there. We expect them to connect with prospects, communicate professionally (written and spoken), develop a solid relationship and get them in the store through an appointment, yet we often do not take the time to make sure they have been given all the tools and knowledge in how to effectively do this. These individuals need to be in every sales meeting and every sales/leadership training class (which I trust you are doing at least two full days a month). Invest in your greatest assets and watch your ROI soar.
Clients often ask me to take a look at various departments to identify solutions. Ever too often I find that the individuals are not in possession of good sales, relationship development or telephone skills concepts. Nor, do they understand the importance of branding themselves and the dealership. Yet, we expect results. Time to inspect (not just expect) what you want and give these folks every advantage to secure business for the store. Selling, communications, phone and relationship building skills are so vitally important in this marketplace. Once they have these, I firmly believe that you will experience greater success. Inspect it, and if it needs improving then do something about it and do it quick before your reputation is damaged and business is lost.
Develop a plan then hire right, train right, set up processes right, then monitor regularly the results. Make certain that you are very clear with your goals for the individuals and the departments. Attempt to dig deeper into solving other traditional, problematic issues plaguing other departments and smooth out some of the bumps in the road preventing a well-operating and growing institution – your dealership, from becoming great. Remember, act on your planning now before it becomes a crisis. Believe you can do it and you will! The enemy of great is good! A successful dealership is about 80% people knowledge and 20% operational knowledge.
Henry Ford once said; “You can take my factories, burn up my buildings, but give me my people and I’ll build the business right back again.”
You can have strong people skills and not be a good leader, but you cannot be a good leader without people skills. In my thirty plus years of leadership, I’ve discovered that many people in leadership positions fail to ever gain a proper understanding of the people they lead. As a result, neither they nor their people ever reach their potential because they and their team stopped growing. Successful leaders are able to discern the needs of their people instinctively, then take action to meet them. Commit to take the proper forward progress actions to put you and your people on the road to success.
Perhaps we need to be re-designing some of the functional work activities which will put the customer in the center of our business focus. In order to do that, we need to change or enhance departmental roles and responsibilities. We do this so we will adopt new work leadership processes step by step from the beginning to the end. An example of this could be something as simple as the following leadership to do list from one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time – John Wooden :
Make and Keep Nine Promises:
- Promise yourself that you will talk health, happiness and prosperity as often as possible
- Promise yourself to make all your friends know there is something in them that is special and that you value.
- Promise to think only the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best in yourself and others.
- Promise to be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
- Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
- Promise to forget the mistakes of the past and press on to greater achievements in the future.
- Promise the wear a cheerful appearance at all times and give every person you meet a smile.
- Promise to give so much time improving yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
- Promise to be too large to worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit trouble to press on you.
Successful business leaders are able to discern the needs of their people instinctively, then take action to meet them. Commit to take the proper forward planning progress actions to put you and your people on the road to success. If you would like a list of actionable business plan ideas to grow the store, send me an email and I will forward some thoughts out to you. Good luck in the formulation of your Forward Progress.