The other evening, I was caught off-guard while hanging out with a co-worker and rising star in our auto group. This co-worker is a recent college grad who played a number of leadership roles at school. He had earned an impressive amount of admiration from students and faculty.
“So I ran into a former professor the other day,” my friend said casually. “He asked me when I was going to drop my fascination with cars — that the auto industry’s dying.”
My friend promised me his professor was joking … mostly. But it got me thinking: What if he wasn’t? What if even a small segment of influencers like college professors truly believe the industry’s “dying”? And, worse yet, what if a lot of them are sharing that crap with potential sales, office, service, or parts personnel?
If they are, they’re derailing so much of what we’re doing at dealerships. We’re always looking for intelligent, hard-working, honest people willing to discard the industry’s negative stereotypes and get to work. And from what I’ve heard, most dealers are trying different ways to find and hire people — attending on-campus recruiting events, job fairs, and more. And that’s just to find them; the benefits we’re now offering, as dealers, make the old brass fall out of their chairs.
But for those people to be our next generation of leaders, they have to believe in the automotive industry’s future and its potential. Right?
We can’t control what happens on campuses. We can control what we’re dishing out, though, as industry wonks, so here are a few nonsense-killing ideas worth considering:
1. Do the Educating!
Contact local universities or community colleges and ask if they’d be open to a guest educator — someone (you!) to come in and help students understand the complexity of running a sales and/or service-based operation. As an former outsider myself and one who is often cynical about the complexity of the car business, I can now say my eyes are open to the reality that running a dealership is no walk in the park.
2. Connect With Your Chamber of Commerce.
Encourage one of your younger sales professionals to participate in your Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professionals group. And if your chamber doesn’t have a YP group, encourage that employee to start one. (Bonus points!)
3. Sponsor a Demolition Derby.
If you’re lucky, you have at least a few techs who fanatically obsess over their derby cars. Support that stuff! Sponsor a car or create an internal contest. Fixed ops personnel will take notice when a GM or dealer principal throws even a little money to support something like a derby. And it may just give you a leg up on your competitors when you’re looking for your next Master Tech. … Which, let’s face it, is always.
Ultimately, the best way to help college professors and the like understand reality — that the industry isn’t dying — is through our collective behavior on the showroom floors and in the service drives.
Behavior wins the day, especially if we hope to end the annoying purr of death and dying.
Aaron Filipi is director of communications and employee engagement for the Omaha, Neb.-based Baxter Auto Group.