|Each year, I visit dealerships of various sizes and types. I review their monthly financial statements and progress in achieving their financial goals. I talk to them daily, weekly and monthly about a multitude of problems, questions, decisions, loans, family, etc.|
|For many years, I have wondered why some dealers and their dealerships always seem to struggle, while others enjoy great, continued success. Successful dealerships face the same everyday problems with personnel, advertising decisions, high interest rates and availability of the right inventory as other dealerships.
There is no magic solution to everyone’s problems. But, there are things I have noticed over the years in this business that seem to make a difference. Some are very subtle; others glare at you intently, wanting to know when you are going to act.
1. Get an attitude! That’s right. Get an attitude! But make sure it is a positive, attentive, caring attitude. Why? Because whatever attitude you have is noticed by everyone around you. If you are positive about your efforts, attentive to details, and care about your employees and customers, it will be contagious.
2. Stand back! Study your business as if you are looking at your friend’s dealership. What would you change immediately if you could? Why? List the things you see and prioritize them with the easiest change first and end with the hardest one. Why? Get the easiest, quickest ones out of the way, so you can concentrate on the changes that will take a prolonged and diligent effort to complete.
3. Have fun! Yes, sometimes it is tough to both work at your business and have fun too. I have been told by many dealers in the past year or so that the car business is not fun anymore. They say they are working more hours to sell fewer units for less profit. You can have fun if you create excitement and look at work as a challenge, rather than a hassle each day. If something negative happens, deal with it, find something positive to offset it and move on.
4. Read Dave Anderson! Apply his principles to your business. Most of you have read his articles or listened to him at conventions or seminars. He doesn’t duck situations. He addresses them. He deals with them. Then, he moves on to the next item on his list. In my opinion, one of the best articles he wrote is, “Teach Your Employees the Business Facts of Life”. It is a list of 25 sample business facts of life defining the reality of business for your employees. Read them, and look at your employees. Then, look at yourself. Remember, you are an employee of your own business. Make sure you know and practice the business facts of life also.
5. Grow! Yes, learn to grow with your business. Grow yourself by keeping up with what is going on around you. Listen, learn and spot trends before your competitors. Talk to your employees and customers to find out their needs and wants. Stay current on trends in your industry. Remember what people say they did wrong and what they did right. Don’t make the same mistakes, and concentrate on how to do the things they did right.
6. Work at your business, not in it! You still need to pay attention to the details and everyday operations of your dealership. Make sure you end each day with a list of what you want to get done tomorrow. Prioritize the list and allow a set amount of time the next day when you can concentrate on the top three items on your list. Make sure you get those accomplished. With interruptions occurring throughout the day, it is often hard to stick with your list. There may be some days you don’t get at least the top three completed, but don’t let it become a habit.
Dealers and their dealerships that are successful, in good times and bad, seem to concentrate more on the items listed above. I can walk into most dealerships and almost immediately know if it is successful. There is an aura about the place. You have a good feeling when you are there. It is not only a pleasant place to visit, but the “feel good” attitude is prevalent everywhere in the dealership. When you leave, you still feel good. There is always a level of excitement in the air. It seems there is always a higher level of activity going on, even if they’re not busy.
Walk into your dealership tomorrow and begin to look at it differently. Or better yet, why wait until tomorrow? Walk out the front door right now, get into your vehicle and drive around the block. Then walk back into your dealership and start anew.
Remember when you started your business? You were full of energy and ready to prove to the world you could run the best and most successful dealership in your area. You didn’t pay attention to people talking about how terrible business was. You were totally focused on building your business.
To find the 25 Business Facts of Life, refer to Chapter 1 in If You Don’t Make Waves You’ll Drown: 10 Hard Charging Strategies for Leading in Politically Correct Times by Dave Anderson.
Cox Automotive’s latest Dealer Sentiment Index finds a ‘notable negative turn’ among U.S. dealers, the majority of whom took a dim view of the fourth-quarter market and their 2019 prospects.