I recently took up scuba diving. After completing the basic instructional course and spending 40 minutes breathing underwater and observing sea creatures and shipwrecks up close, I was hooked.

Of course, in almost any venture — new or familiar — you have a choice: You can stay at the entry level or work toward becoming an expert. Many of my classmates simply wanted to be able to strap a tank on their backs and dive once or twice a year on vacation, but a few of us were already itching to do more. I want to dive deeper, dive at night, explore caves and swim through wrecks. Yes, the entry level will let you get in the door, but the biggest rewards are earned through ongoing education and extra effort.

There are any number of classes you can take to hone your scuba skills, just as there are many different ways you can improve your F&I production. Here are three surefire ways to graduate from business office bubble-blower to F&I dive master:

Streamline for Peak Performance
In Scuba Diving: Too much or too little weight will cause you to struggle to stay at the right depth. Streamline your gear to avoid generating unnecessary drag. You will enjoy longer dive times with less effort.

In the Finance Office:
Paperwork is the dive weight of the F&I office. Don’t get bogged down in it or miss forms. Streamlining your paperwork completion process will result in smoother deliveries and higher CSI. 

  • Put together deal packets with every form you need for a typical delivery to streamline your printing. I have a few folders that cover different scenarios, so I can reach behind me and have everything I need ready to go at a moment’s notice. No time is wasted searching for forms, and when you are training a new person, it drills into their head exactly what is needed for every deal.
  • Read the callbacks carefully and make sure everything is in place and correct. Nothing hurts CSI quite like making the customer come back because you missed something.

Cave and Wreck Diving

In Scuba Diving: To explore new and potentially dangerous areas, you must create a plan for success — or risk disaster.

In the Finance Office:
The desk may seem like a shipwreck sometimes, but those F&I pros who are truly advanced can successfully tackle a deal that others find too difficult to take on.

  • Spend time on the desk to make sure deals are being structured properly for maximum front- and back-end profitability. As a finance director or manager, you know the available rates, advances and programs better than anyone. Jump right into the middle of the sales “cave” and create a plan that benefits you, the sales manager and the customer. 
  • The best closers in the dealership are generally in F&I. After all, we close customers on intangibles all the time. Don’t waste your time waiting for a deal to come to you. Get out there and make it happen! Working with the sales department will gain you the respect of the team and help them recognize you are on their side. There may be no better way to ensure solid TOs.

Photography and Identification
In Scuba Diving: Take pictures, and lots of them. Try every camera setting and look for new angles. Identifying different species of sea life requires attention to detail — subtle differences in the shape of a fin, for example, can make a difference.

In the Finance Office:
You guessed it: Take a snapshot of your numbers and look for areas of opportunity.

  • Review your numbers daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly. Compare them to the prior month and the same month last year. Notice any trends? Look at every detail you can. Is there a finance source with which you consistently make more money? Why is that? Is there one salesperson who brings a really high outside financing percentage? Explore and record, and once you have identified that elusive ideal deal, focus on getting more like it.  

These are simple concepts, but they will help move you in the right direction. And just like diving, there is always something new to learn and explore. Keep that energy and enthusiasm up and there is no limit to what you can do!