After returning from the Special Finance Convention in Dallas, my brain was running at about a million miles a minute. I met so many talented and successful people in our industry who shared an abundance of information, insight and advice. All of this perceptiveness came from a plethora of viewpoints—from finance companies, marketing agents, consultants, trainers, special finance and sales managers, dealer principals, and so many others. And it has been truly invaluable!

It so often feels like we are the lone rangers when we are back in our individual stores. It is not as though you can call the guy down the street and ask him what is working well for him, so having a venue like Dallas really becomes priceless. With all the changes in our business lately, hearing from others helps shake things back into perspective.

Having absorbed all of this information, I now begin the task of building a new multi-franchise special finance department. This looms as an overwhelming project and a huge responsibility. In anticipation of  this new project, I am drawing from the experience of and knowledge shared by my peers.

Blueprints and maps are necessities for successful building and travel. In my new endeavors, I have to keep things simple, so having a plan will keep me on track. Being overwhelmed or unorganized will get me absolutely nowhere. Since time and money are most always factors, an excellent set of blueprints and an accurate map would be in order. So, goal setting and target planning will go hand in hand. I need the most cost- and time-effective set of strategies to build my business. It goes back to the premise of working smarter, not harder.

Using the SMART goal process to lay out my business plan will be the best way to tackle my new venture. Each and every aspect of what needs to be done to be successful must meet the criteria as follows:


Specific means setting precise goals. Saying, “I want the department to sell hundreds of cars a month,” is not really a goal; it is actually an outcome of the goal. To master this, step one must be straightforward and clearly identify what you are going to do to arrive at the desired objective. Questions to ask yourself are:

What is my goal? Precisely define the final result.

When do I plan on meeting my goal? Set a time frame in which the task should be completed.

Why did I set this goal? Establish a purpose – a very clear and concise reason for accomplishing the goal – and define its specific benefits.

How will I meet this goal? Decide by what means the objective will be achieved. 

It is crucial that you make each and every goal explicit and uncomplicated.
Measurable means establishing a criterion by which you gauge your progress. You cannot manage what you cannot measure. When you have a clear chart of your progress, you are able to stay on track to reach your targets. Frequent evaluation lets you know what is working and will give you the factual information to continually inspire you to press forward and achieve your final goal.

Attainable means identifying realistic outcomes. Don’t make the mistake of downgrading your goals so that they are too easy to reach. Weigh what you want to achieve against the demands on your time and your experience level. If you set your goals at too lofty a height, however, it will be difficult to reach your final destination.

Identify what results are most important to you and contemplate the ways you can make them become a reality. The process will teach you to develop the habits, skills and attitude needed to succeed. Further, you will see opportunities you may have previously overlooked and now find within your reach.

Realistic means nothing more or less than do-able. I once read, “Realistic is not a synonym for EASY … the learning curve is not a vertical slope; the skills needed to do the work must be available and they should fit the overall strategy and goal of the organization.” What that said to me was, the goals should push people to greatness, not break them getting there. Devise a plan, be realistic about methods and actions and set the bar high enough to have the satisfaction of achievement.

Timely means assigning a timeframe to your plan. Anthony Robbins said, “A goal is a dream with a date set to it.” If you do not regulate the duration of your project, then you’ve missed important previous steps. Your goal will not be clear nor will it inspire a firm commitment. Being in the car business has taught me that you never have enough time or money, so make sure you are clear on both when it comes to the amounts you’ll need to attain your goal. Be certain your time is measurable, attainable and realistic.

The SMART formula has provided me a simple and clear way of setting my goals for my new endeavor. I feel more confident having the benefit of a time-tested plan. However, if I have learned anything over the years, information alone is not power; the power lies in what you do with it. So, work smarter, not harder. Put this plan to use in your own unique way to make your next significant undertaking a critical success.
Special Finance Insider Vol. 2, Issue 5