How to prepare for growth – step 1
The common excuse for dealership complacency is: “Well, this is the car business.” If you break this slogan down, what you get is: “Yes, we are a corporation with a P&L statement, balance sheet, HR department and sometimes shareholders to report to along with all the assorted corporate stuff. But when it comes to disciplined accountability, engaged employees, solid leadership and developing a Seal Team Six of our own, well, you know, this is the car business.”
Spoken like it’s a hall pass for not being in class. We all know, stupid is not illegal, but it sure is expensive! Average is everywhere because it is typically brainless. And, one of the biggest problematic issues facing many average or below average dealerships is ‘ignorance arrogance’ when it comes to management actively seeking ways to improve and grow the business and their employees.
Some just know it all (ha) and as a defensive mechanism, become arrogant when presented with new leading edge principles, which confuse their ‘rule set’ experience comfort zone. The damage arrogance creates in the work place is boundless. Arrogance creates a blind spot and overlooks things that can help you, your people and the dealership grow to greatness. Total all unit sales last month then divide that number by the number of sales people you have. The ‘average’ sales person in the car business sells roughly 10-12 units a month. So, where do you and your store stack up? Below, above or average? If it is the first or the latter, you need to refocus on some improved agenda items or simply remain average or below – C, D or F. You wouldn’t want your kids coming home with those grades, so why settle for the same for your business legacy? Time to shoot for the A and B grades.
To get you on the honor roll, a few new agenda items to check out in your store are as follows:
Be a visionary
Business gurus continue to speak about the importance of visionary leadership in any business. Why is it this industry largely doesn’t grasp the same concept that successful companies embrace regarding adopting a corporate vision for growth? Ready, shoot, aim seems to be the mantra. This will give you progressive deterioration if left unchecked along with high attrition, lost deals, lower profits, team disintegration and wandering people lost in the desert waiting for their next job. Put on a new pair of glasses and enhance your vision by taking your team to new heights of skill achievement. Do not confuse short term motivational ‘rah rah’ locker room sessions, product, certification or technical skills with team development enhancement.
Having vision is the cornerstone for true leaders because they cast out their sight way beyond the reaches of mediocre shortsighted managers who wait for opportunities and/or problems to present themselves before they act. These are the fixers and they usually bring people down with the store. Too little, too late. No, true leaders reach out to the future and envision ideas for business getting better, their team getting stronger and envisioning a dealership synergy that bonds the team together like Bondo. This is when everyone looks in the same direction instead of each other.
We must visualize our store and our people growing to the fullest potential. Then, constantly begin seeing the improvement areas to take them there every hour, everyday, every week, every month and every year. Your reward for this ‘corporate approach’ to running your business will be rewarding in so many immeasurable ways. The galaxy of opportunities will surprise you.
Plan for growth
The importance of planning is critical for true growth. You know, major league baseball players make millions of dollars but still get into the batting cage, work on pitch techniques and take grounders or fly balls to improve their skills almost every day in and off season. They don’t wait for the big game to mess things up due to lack of conditioning. Instead they recognize the planning importance to practice, practice and practice. If you notice big league ball player at the plate invariably you will see no two stances the same. Why? Because each individual is just that, an individual. What works well for one does not work at all for another. Similarly, your entire team: sales, service, parts, F&I, admin. Everyone is an individual and their skill sets are in most cases different from one another. Therefore we need to identify strengths and weaknesses in each then capitalize on the strengths by feeding and developing those strengths. Sure we have to conduct broad training as a group but the batting averages go exponentially up when someone can interview your employees, identify individual strengths and weaknesses and develop a ‘tailored’ training program (like BP in the batting cage) for each individual. Most, pro ballplayers if not all of them, have personal trainers to fine tune individual abilities even further. But many managers are too busy counting deals, complaining about gross profits and then beating up the team for failing to fulfill the aforementioned instead of utilizing their leadership talents to identify better ways to grow the business and the individuals they serve.
“Great leaders and salespeople have an edge because they are able to let go of obsolete ideas.” –Donald Trump
Donald gets it and refuses to be pulled down by old school paradigms, which are often perpetuating the continuing madness of diminishing business and customer dissatisfaction in our industry. Everyone is saying the same things. Most web sites look the same. And, most dealers do nothing to create differential from their competitors or improve the skill sets of their sales and management team to promote solid leadership. Nothing limits achievement more than small thinking! When you start your car you should know the direction you are heading. Therefore, let your passion pull you forward and your planning give you direction for processes and development programs which endure the down times and prepare you to capitalize in the up times.
It takes time and effort to heal a sick or wounded dealership work environment. In laying the groundwork one must first recognize that a commitment to making improved changes is most important. Without this nothing happens and everything defaults to ‘business as usual’ very quickly and you lose credibility. I do not agree with the notion that in order to create an improved effective change in the way you do business takes a long time. In fact it can occur very quickly given a few cornerstones like empowering your people, sharing the plan with the team and providing them with economic news results as they occur. It enlists everyone in ownership of the initiative. When they are made a part of the initiative vs. being told what to do it sparks their ‘belonging senses,’ which in turn provides them with engagement in the position they hold. Disengaged employees cost you money, momentum and negative vibes which radiate throughout the store. So, give them the good stuff and watch them soar.
Empowerment should be a part of your overall business strategy. Secrecy breeds fear and worry. It sends a signal to your people that you do not trust them or think they are incompetent in absorbing the information. Next is investing in your people by investing in their skill set development, which ultimately makes you more money (duh). Spending money on your people over an extended time frame says to them “you are important to me and a valued asset to this organization.” The moment you clearly recognize that you really do achieve a competitive advantage through your people when they become ‘engaged employees’ everything else falls in place very nicely. Loyal customers are incubated through loyal work forces who are exhibiting the new relationship building techniques which energize them towards professional customer-centric selling skills.
A dealership can, unlike the Titanic, turn things around for the better much faster than most actually believe. How many times have you seen a sports team way behind in the game only to shock everyone by coming back strong when the chips were down to win the game? The patience element comes into play because you have to first give your team constant encouragement and pasture running room to build their skills and then continue allowing them to build them. Like a race horse, if you corral them their unused organs atrophy and never run again because you crushed their spirit. I have found that almost every sales consultant I have ever spoken with would eagerly accept the opportunity to grow and be challenged through affective new sales training strategies. Sadly, most never receive it as they wait for the next job opportunity.
No dealer or GM starts out intending to build a lousy store culture, or even just an average one. Would you get excited about going to an average restaurant with average food and service? How about hiring an average heart surgeon for your critical required operation? Maybe, but most people I know look for the best. Most dealers would like their team’s productivity to be born out of passion for the job and team synergy. Yet in this maddening marketplace, many dealers drastically fail to see the value they (and the team) can receive from well-conditioned, prepared and trained people. About the timing, I guess the question you must ask yourself is when do you want to see and experience a positive difference? If later or next year is ok then that is your mission time horizon course of action. If you want to make it happen right now then now is it. Now is always better than hemming and hawing around “until next quarter” because the stores that choose to implement now will blow right past you. Start a new agenda at the beginning of next month. Start your commitment plan for doing so now! The job never started takes the longest to finish. The biggest reason for failure to succeed is never starting. Just don’t get fooled into thinking like so many in waiting for the preverbal vacation spot – Someday Isle. Yea, someday I’ll start something new around here, someday I’ll look in to some new methods, someday I’ll train my people in new measures for success, etc, etc, etc. For most, someday isle never comes. Be the entrepreneur you are intended to be and do it now. Your people are looking to and at you for the fresh air to begin to blow. Breathe new life into the dealership and your people. Plant the seeds now for growing a harvest of opportunities down the road a bit.
In order for the action step to succeed, the aforementioned steps need to be handled first. No more ready-shoot-aim. No, you are now taking all the planned steps to reap an abundant harvest of increase so get out the Leopold scope and draw a bead. Of course, to win the battle you have to have good, well-equipped soldiers. Winning is virtually impossible if your soldiers are weaponless, cold and starving. Three things have to occur for any great action achievement: purpose, persistence and patience. One tiny spark can ignite a raging forest fire and you can ignite enthusiasm for individual and sales team growth the same way. If you take actionable steps to make improved changes to your store you will reap benefits from doing so. If this is not a priority it will be like having a flat tire; then one day in the future you have to take care of it at a most inconvenient panic stricken moment.
Here are some beginning action steps I would initiate running any dealership:
1. 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 and a they are a participant in the planning.
2. Abide by the golden rule: Builds team unity, integrity, character, growth and an awesome overall morale.
3. 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 the next time.
4. Finally, challenge yourself to be the best employer in your market place: this will not only dramatically reduce attrition (huge savings) and increase business but attracts the best future employees because everyone will want to work for you.
Ask yourself this question: “What have you done for the first time recently?”
Faith that you can do something without action is useless. Worry immobilizes; concern moves you to action. The past should not be in front of you so take your eye off the rear view mirror and throw it in drive and speed to new successes. If you would like a refreshing approach to starting a new direction shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org requesting “action” and I will send you a couple of ideas.