F&I profits have consistently increased since my departure from “the box” — and it’s all happening in conjunction with my fuzzy slippers. - IMAGE: Getty Images

F&I profits have consistently increased since my departure from “the box” — and it’s all happening in conjunction with my fuzzy slippers.

IMAGE: Getty Images

It’s 9:15 a.m. and I hear, “Mom, can you help me with my math?” This question brings me a level of contentment and happiness I never dreamed possible. Hi, I’m Rhonda, homeschooling mom to one incredible sixth grade boy and full-time remote F&I manager to two dealerships in Southeast Michigan. And yes, you read that correctly, I work fully remote. 

For the past pandemic-filled 24 months, I have been performing my job from home full time, while simultaneously homeschooling my 11-year-old son. An innovative and groundbreaking attempt at paving the way for finance managers everywhere working bell to bell longing for more time with their families. Let me tell you, not only can it be done, it can be done quite successfully. In fact, F&I profits have consistently increased since my departure from “the box,” as so many of us have affectionately coined it. And it’s all happening in conjunction with my fuzzy slippers. 

The shift that leads to freedom!

Prior to this drastic change of scenery, I’d recall being in my office and hearing a salesperson announce the slightly less than popular off-site delivery. Immediately, I’d feel like I’d lost the battle. “When was the last time you bought something over the phone from a stranger?” I’d ask. I dreaded off-site deliveries more than cash deals. Now, every sale is essentially an off-site delivery, only I’m the one that’s off site. And, you know what I’ve found? A gigantic shift. A shift in how I portray myself, a shift in the customer’s openness and willingness to engage in conversation with me, and, best of all, a shift in my department’s profit margins. 

Selling is out and helping is in!

Since I began performing my job solely over the phone I’ve embraced a new role, the role of consultant or advisor if you will. No need for a fancy title of business/finance manager. I’m simply Rhonda from XYZ Dealership calling to go over the details of your purchase and offering advice on how you may want to protect your newly acquired investment. Often, I will reach out to the customer prior to their arrival while they are still in the comfort of their own home or office, and I’ve found this provides a much more relaxing, non-salesy experience for them. I introduce myself, acknowledge and share in their excitement of new car day, try to engage them in some sort of light-hearted laughter, menu, close, and congratulate. My process takes about one fourth of the amount of time it took when folks were stepping into my office, and now no one is trying to devise their escape plan. 

Changing with the times!

You see, I’m not just working from home for myself, I’m working on revolutionizing a much-needed change in the old industry standard. Times are changing, the way we cater to customers is changing, car buying is changing, and change is okay. Change equals growth and opportunity. If you’re passionate about your job and you do it well, you can do it from anywhere. It simply is not necessary to be in the store 100 hours a week. I feel a bit like Dr. Seuss when I say I can approve a loan on a boat, with a goat, in the rain, on a train, in a house…you get the idea. And, while we all know we do so much more than simply approve loans, the evidence is clear, it is possible to achieve phenomenal results from beyond the glass walls.

How many of you reading this would love to imagine what dinner with your family looks like on a Monday evening? Or are tired of never being the parent to tuck the little ones into bed on a school night? There are countless days over countless years I left the house before my son woke up and arrived home long after he’d gone to bed — sound familiar to anyone? 

A paradigm shift!

Some of you may be thinking this sounds impossible, she’s out in left field, or we can’t conceivably do business this way. We tend to associate our job title with a multitude of habits and procedures that have been in place for as long as finance managers have existed in dealerships. But even the Constitution has amendments. Innovation is never easy, but it’s also not impossible. When I initially came home, it was due to the onset of a global pandemic. Suddenly, I had to change my mindset. I encountered a mild moment of panic, several moments if I’m being honest. Then, I had my first customer, and I fumbled my way through a phone call with some drawings and a lot of hand motions the customer couldn’t even see. I remember how relaxed she was and how unexpectedly great the conversation went and breathing that sigh of relief after she said yes to what I was offering. I knew at that moment where there is a will there is a way and I began to think that I might just be on to something, a remote possibility perhaps.

Believe and achieve!

In 2021, my first entire full year remote, I surpassed a 14% increase in profits with little more than my laptop and cell phone, outperforming all my prior years in the business. I also saw a significant increase in my own income. So much so that it made me question why this strategy was proving so much more successful than I anticipated. But really, it’s not rocket science. My performance and productivity have continually increased since transitioning home, and the proof is in the numbers. I attribute this to having a better work-life balance, I am more relaxed in my environment, and I am able to better harmonize working and taking care of my family. There is no stress. Simply put, I am happy, the happiest and most fulfilled I have ever been in my 27 years in the automotive industry. My family has also been impacted by my homecoming in an immensely positive way. We are all thriving significantly better, we are all much healthier, happier, and closer than we have ever been, and the trickle effect of those changes on our lives has been monumental. To say I am blessed to be a part of this company is a vast understatement.

We are a large volume store and I do stay quite busy, but without missing out on watching my kiddo grow up, and the commute is much better too. I am nearly two full years into proving the successes of this endeavor. Now, during my down time, instead of figuring out which of my free bank pens writes the nicest or who gave me the coolest pad of sticky notes, I get to help with math.

Rhonda Jones is a 25+ year veteran of the automotive industry.  During her career span she has held multiples roles, often simultaneously. Her attempts at escaping the car business have only proven what any veteran knows, that once you’re in you never really leave. 

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