The Benefits Can’t Possibly Be Measured

“If you begin to look at things differently, then things will begin to look different” – Albert Einstein

Stop and recognize that everything you do will fail unless one thing is in place. That one thing which has to be present for any Customer and Employee Relationship Development’s success falls squarely on the dealership’s “Top Down Leadership Strategy”. This is without a doubt the absolute most critical component. A change in the way you do business is where it begins and ends. Our business is so accustomed to performing toggle switch like tasks one way and one way only that it has led us to be absorbed with fixed paradigms which are preventing us from seeing the magnificent multitude of new creative ways to do business.

Put on a new pair of glasses. To ensure successful design, implementation, and effective production from CRD, changing the way you and your employees do business has to be in your foundation. I particularly like the quote from Herbert Kaufman; “Failure is only postponed success as long as courage “coaches” ambition. The habit of persistence is the habit of victory.” Persistence is what you as a leader will have to have to ensure total success. You will be leading your team where no one has gone before in your store and you will most likely encounter sizable resistance. Do not compromise your position, be persistent, and charge forward with robust leadership showing the way. Leaders know the way, go the way, and show the way. It is your job to take the vision and make it reality.

The automotive business is quite unique. It has a history of being riddled with doing things a certain way, usually attributable to paradigms (the way we have always done it), laziness or in a lot of cases, just not knowing. You don’t know what you don’t know. Most managers were at one time a 20 unit/month salesperson. Not many ever experienced employment in corporate America, went to business school, or have received contemporary leadership training. So, don’t blame them if none of the aforementioned areas have been experienced.

What you need to embrace is the fact that managers have to become leaders by being developed, on-board with, promoting and adhering to your store’s CRD/ERD culture, through thick and thin. Leadership must be a part of the decision making processes and a consistent adherence to following them. According to a study of unsuccessful managers by the Laboratory of Psychological Studies of the Stevens Institute of Technology, “The Inability to Make Decisions is one of the principal reasons for failure. It is a much more common reason than lack of knowledge or technical know-how.” Therefore, the Top Down management teams have to adopt a strong decision towards acceptance of Enhanced Leadership Decision Making in order to enhance the business. You will encounter very tough decisions that will differ and cross the “business as usual” boundaries you have exhibited in the past, but you have to press on with the new and improved changes.

The single most critical change will be the decision to vow to Top Down accountability with consistency. How many times have we implemented a new training program or procedure only to have it go away after two weeks? Perhaps it was your policy of ‘mandatory 100% managerial turn over’ for every customer a sales person touches, that lasted maybe a month because the business revitalized on its own and we forgot all about the policy.

Remember the times you paid significant money to send a sales person or manager to one of those 2 day training classes in another city? Airfare, hotel, meals, and class fees really added up. The employee returns from this class and is so pumped up that they can barely contain themselves. Then, a strange thing occurs. After a week or two, everything they learned goes away and they default to doing business the “same old way”. Why? Because there were no consistent accountable processes in place to reflect and support the new processes learned in the class. The locker room atmosphere of the training got them pumped up but being the only person pumped up and using these new techniques left the employee alone and unsupported by management. How about your book shelves cluttered with various outdated tapes, CD’s and workbooks which were the fix-all, cure-all ‘training program of the month’ all of which now have at least 1/16 of an inch of dust on them?

Good Top Down decision making helps you to begin realigning the dealership’s professional culture. It is the Top Down accountability and consistency to any new processes that encourages, sets the stage and allows you to finish the journey. The pain of disciplined accountability is momentary but the payoff is monetary.

Many dealers who installed CRM software or a BDC and expected it to be the instant magic wand to improve their business were largely disappointed. Much like those dealers who scrambled early to the Internet, built a website, and waited for things to change for the better. It didn’t. Why? Well, much like the magic wand software, they did not and many still do not have a solid team process and/or training in place which is critical for it to work. It was like building a house and starting with the roof. Without a rock solid Top Down foundation the roof has nothing to make it stand up and it collapses. Remember that technology represents 10% of the overall CRM equation with proper training and processes making up the remaining 90%.

In order for a store to grow, it must have Top Down managers growing in process leadership skills before they can grow their people or the store. This applies not only to sales but service, parts, and administration. Relationship Development needs to be an all inclusive dealership campaign. It starts with ERD or Employee Relationship Development because if your people are treated with care & respect they in turn will treat their prospects and customers similarly. If the team is berated and polluted, that message moves down stream to the customers as your employees await their next job opportunity. Stop wasting time on useless masquerade and folly.

The tone of the store’s culture starts at the Top. Conversely, without effective Top Down leadership charting the course the store’s culture becomes a rudderless ship going anyway the wind blows it.

Where do we go now? We start again at the top of course. Top down strategy simply means that everyone in management has to be committed to the “development” business strategy, design elements, planning, implementation, managing, and leadership of this process. This includes the dealer/principle. A critical important step in this process is the relationship with the management team. They have to work together by looking in the same direction toward the same dealership goal attainment instead of at each other. Getting them involved early in the planning stages and letting each member know that they are playing a very important role in the building project is important.

Keep the management team in the loop and you are more likely to engage them in the process long term. Constantly remind them that they are valuable and essential to the project’s success because quite frankly they are. When the rest of your store sees this team working together as one team, it sends a signal that there is buy-in at this level and therefore it must be something good.

The business process at this juncture involves not the transactions, but people and the Top Down leadership business relationship between with them. If you do what other dealerships won’t do, you will have what they will never have.

Identify; what are the strongholds limiting your motion in the direction of good processes? What’s got a grip on you? You will never conquer what you won’t confess to. Then, do something about it. It may be people, lack of direction, lack of knowing, training, or simply lack of caring. Whatever it is get it nailed down so it can be corrected. The quality of your business life will be enhanced when you decide to soar with confidence in affecting good solid changes towards improvements. You will produce what you envision. Keep those new glasses on. If it is different on the inside than the outside then you will have a problem, because a house divided against itself cannot stand. Believe it can be done and seek help from subject matter experts if you need it.

Begin seeing yourself, the store, people, and processes improving to a higher professional level, getting better, making stronger relationships, getting healthier and let the image of ‘victory’ take hold. Do things that build yourself up and others around you. Let that seed grow inside first and nurture it. Paint a new picture of yourself and the store using all the colors. Focus on your possibilities because when you do you there are great possibilities. Without them there are none.

Forget the new glasses for a moment because frankly, you should see more with your eyes shut than with your eyes open. Make some ‘think time’ and develop a new vision of things that could be and will be with you and others leading the way. Develop an unshakable sense of confidence and eliminate all negative thoughts. You must control and get your mind going in the right positive direction because you cannot have two drivers of this bus.

Enlarge your vision and let the seed take root on the inside then watch yourself grow on the outside. Put yourself and the store in larger places of opportunity. Just get off the porch and do something. Stretch your world. If you stay there that’s where you will stay. Only you can change things. Don’t wait; you will be surprised how old you get waiting. The time to refocus is now.

In closing, remember there is a vast difference between “Knowledge” (having the facts) and “Wisdom” (applying those facts to life). We may amass knowledge, but without wisdom, our knowledge is useless. Live out what we know is best because everything we do today creates tomorrow. Today needs to be organized advancement. It’s the actions we chose to increase the opportunities for tomorrow. How do we do it? Begin your day with something positive, new and goal filling.

Get everyone on the same team by letting them understand Top Down Leadership is in town and with him/her are new and improved processes. There will be some redesigning of functional processes in order to make it successful. If anyone is not on board then get someone with the peripheral vision that will. The rewards will be awesome.