True dealership leaders are not afraid to confront challenges, make informed decisions, and take whatever action the situation calls for. Photo courtesy Paramount Pictures

True dealership leaders are not afraid to confront challenges, make informed decisions, and take whatever action the situation calls for. Photo courtesy Paramount Pictures

Most dealerships are not failing in every measurable category. Most are failing in one or two, have trouble in three or four, and the rest are probably doing OK. As the leader of your dealership, you need a reliable method for prioritizing your resources. Follow these four action steps to identify the operational components that need repair right now:

1. Look Within.

To impart on your managers and staff the vision you have for your dealership, you must ask yourself a number of tough questions. Have you defined what success will look life and communicated that to your team? Have you offered the training and development they need to bridge the gap between failure and success? If so, have you started leading more and managing less?

This short list of vision-building questions should correct the dazed and confused looks and lack of effort from your team. Create a compelling vision everyone can and will buy into. Then train it, monitor it, coach it, and reward it.

2. Be Visible Everywhere.

Break the “office in the a.m.” habit and get into the “in the service drive” habit. Don’t answer the phone, read emails, or do anything else until you have spent an hour in the service drive — at a minimum. Want more success? Don’t leave the shop until 10:00 a.m.

Dealership leaders who try this find they are able to solve any number of customer issues, create an atmosphere of esprit de corps, and uncover common goals, all of which leads to increase performance.

In the beginning, many people will assume this is your new “flavor of the month.” They will expect your management style to return to normal after it has run its course. If you are serious about making a permanent change, you need to hold yourself accountable. Don’t skip a single day.

Your goal is to rebuild and rekindle relationships with your personnel and your customers, in the service drive and beyond. Be available and accessible. People need to feel like you will listen to them and act on the information they give you.

3. Make Better Decisions.

If it’s good for the dealership, it’s good for the employee, and it’s good for the customer, it’s a good decision. If it fails any of those three tests, it’s not a good decision.

People want you to be fair, to be just, and to act quickly (if you can). They don’t expect everything they suggest to be enacted. They just want to know that you will listen and then decide and take action, one way or another.

4. Rethink Your Processes.

Determine what is funky, missing, or sad in your dealership processes. Dealers know broken processes lead to performance, profits, and personnel failures, but almost every store has at least one.

Your service advisors don’t know how to get the appointment? Teach them the phone process. They don’t have a walkaround process? Train them, and don’t forget to follow up.

The CSI management process — or lack thereof — is another common failure point. Decide what you need to ask, say, or do. Teach your advisors the process and let them make the word-tracks their own. By the way, you are not allowing your cashier to manage the CSI process, are you?

If you are missing a process for service-drive sales, customer service, or anything else, Google it. You will find at least one has already been developed for just about every situation. If that doesn’t work, call your factory rep. I guarantee they have one.

Finally, make sure you haven’t changed or abandoned a process merely because someone found it too hard or time-consuming. This issue falls into the category of “easily fixable.”

Making a change in dealership performance begins with a change to your personal performance. Follow these action steps to start the process today and, as always, track everything and inspect what you expect. Create checklists and be ready to coach. Within a short period of time, you will start solving problems and hitting your goals.

Leonard Buchholz is a leadership and service sales process coach, a well-traveled trainer, and a former Marine. He is the founder of CarBizCoach and the author of “200k in 200 Days: Developing a Culture of Profit and Professionalism.”

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