|As so often is the case, this month’s column is inspired by recent client contact. This time it came from the recently completed conference. It was a tremendous conference – great educational sessions, great exhibitors and, most importantly, great dealers.|
As the Special Finance Chair of the conference, I had the, as always, distinct pleasure to moderate the Best of the Best panel discussion on the final morning of the conference. It’s participants included the Special Finance Dealer of the Year, Mr. Johnny Dangerfield, Johnny’s Suzuki, Moncks Corner, SC; and, two of the Finalists for the award, Mr. Bob Cockerham, Car World of Albuquerque, Albuquerque, NM, along with Mr. Tom White; General Manager, Gorges Motor Company, Wichita, KS.
For nearly 90 minutes, Special Finance dealers asked every type of question imaginable of these three dealers trying to find the silver bullet that allows them collectively to sell over 600 units per month, at staggering levels of gross and net profit. The audience, many of them very strong dealers themselves, was determined to find that special “something” that they could emulate and recreate the same magic that these dealers have found.
If they were listening, it was there. Probably not the answers that they were looking for, but they were definitely there. Not marketing campaigns, not their inventory, not even fancy software was the answer. Sure, the three employed many well thought methods and ideas, but what they really said was – we have managed to hire, train and retain great people through which we have developed the discipline to execute our processes and systems consistently.
All three dealers credited their success to very happy employees, which is created by the dealers’ personal philosophies and the cultures that they have created. In most dealerships, car buying is not “fun.” That is just the opposite in these three stores. The employees all know the mission of each company, and that mission holds high the satisfaction and happiness of both customers and employees.
Happy employees means low turnover, and it indeed creates happy and satisfied customers – the type that make it easier to achieve beyond benchmark gross and net profits. It also means that the daily training that all three of the dealers employ can be more detailed and at a higher level that in most dealerships where, due to turnover, the focus or emphasis is on bringing new hires up to speed. This allows the consistent execution of continually evolving processes and systems. This execution delivers results.
These three dealers’ comments were amplified by other dealers’ questions to me throughout the conference and in roundtable discussions. More times than I could count, dealers and managers would either ask how they could arrange training for their new Special Finance personnel (yeah, I had an answer for that!), or they were blaming the situation on their people; people whom they were essentially “settling” for.
My advice is to look at the whole picture. It generally isn’t the department or a handful of people. Is your dealership one that can attract top quality people that you are proud to have working with you, and that have a clearly defined purpose of the organization in their mind? Do the people that you have genuinely enjoy coming to work everyday? Do they enjoy the rest of the team? Are they proud of the company and the facility? If not, you have found the place to begin.
The challenge of success in Special Finance is that it takes a lot of work – and discipline. It is an ongoing process. It also doesn’t necessarily net immediate increases in sales or profitability. Therefore, it is very easy to lose sight of your end goal and to redirect your attention to something that may give you a more immediate impact. Certainly, we all want to sell more units at higher grosses immediately. That is why we continually try to improve through training and education. There is nothing wrong with employing ideas to accomplish that. Just don’t lose sight of the big picture. Making your dealership and environment desirable to attract and retain top quality people is a never ending focus. It is a focus that Johnny Dangerfield, Bob Cockerham and Tom White maintain vigilantly. I challenge you do to so. It isn’t easy. Achieving greatness never is!
Vol 2, Issue 11
Auto retail veteran and F&I products expert Paul McCarthy has joined AUL Corp. as vice president of national sales.