Just Do It…Right!

I consider the Most Underused Business Opportunity in the automobile business to be not having solid processes throughout the entire dealership and/or enterprise. It seems this has always been a problem in the automobile industry and doesn’t appear to be getting any better. Prior to helping out in the automotive field, my years in Corporate America taught me that if you want to target growth in your business and your team members you have to figure out, develop and implement a “processed” plan to do so. Else, you become a prisoner to advertising and ill-focused knee-jerk ideas. I was known back then as the guy who would come to corporate branches and assess, itemize and define a growth plan based upon processes. Guess what? When we developed & promoted the plan and accumulated “willingly” everyone’s buy-in for the plan – it worked! And it kept on working as long as complacency, laziness or wrong attitudes didn’t get in the way. It all started with one simple step- Starting.

Expectations are often premeditated disappointments without a plan.

The word Process is defined as;

“A business process or business method is a collection of related, structured activities or tasks that produce a specific service or product (serve a particular goal)”.

Just parts and pieces when strung together promote business and personal growth. Not sure why the industry continues to turn in failing grades for this awesome opportunity to naturally grow their business. Maybe it is because this industry does things differently. Litmus test; Next time you are at a 20 Group ask for a show of hands for who has a 3 to 5-year business plan and see what that yields. If no plan then most likely no processes.

Some corrective measures which need to be in place to ensure process success:

  1. First, recognize that things could be improved,
  2. Have a thorough understanding of the importance and complexion of adopting new solid business processes,
  3. Get creative and add differential attractiveness to your store’s people & processes in order to make your store the store prospects decide to actually consider doing business with.
  4. Provide an ‘academic-like’ think space to be able to concentrate and perform well at setting up your business processes,
  5. You must be developing and monitoring that processes are not only in place but consistently being performed. We only change them to make them better, not because no one wants to do them.
  6. If you don’t know where to begin – get some outside help.

You must create an environment that leads to success. This is the first step in building a winning team.

You may ask; “Is that it?” “Is that all I have to do to impact the results of process development?” Unfortunately, it is not that simple. No one-liner responses are going to get you there. What will, however, start you in the right direction is good solid planning, execution, and consistency in this area. But it doesn’t end there either.

I realize many of you have heard all this before, but to some of you, this might be brand new information. The problem with writing these articles is we have dealerships out there which are at different levels of process attainment, understanding, and accomplishments as it relates to dealership structure. After some review, it seems that most dealerships fall into one of five categories.

  1. Dealerships with no process in place.
    The following will not apply to all stores in this category, but it fits perfectly for most stores not having any processes in place. Usually, everyday is wishing and hoping that business will suddenly show up and your customers will continue to love you. We have no clue where we are headed or how we got here but keep on selling. I call this the rudderless ship. The wind blows from the East your boat goes to the West, or vice versa. Usually, the boat ends up going in a maddening circle, making all on-board a little nauseous. Every day is all about “how many have we sold today?” Forget planning for tomorrow. Then the nerve-rattling anxiety rears its ugly head when the “10 day month” appears towards the end of the month. This is where we have to make it hit our numbers and when most of our good sense goes out the window as gross profits come crashing down just to close the deal. No way to live. Attrition is often higher due to brain damage caused by the confused craziness that occurs. The good news is that there is more than hope for you to reach new plateaus. You will have to want to improve though in order for it to be so.
  2. Dealerships with rudimentary tools but no procedural process or follow up mechanism.
    Dealerships which have ‘no procedural processes’ in place and do have some basic CRM reporting in place to figure out where the business is coming from and going to will have some problems. Remember 90% of CRM is made up of processes and people skills. The fact that you have some tools in place is a good thing and shows that you have some ‘analytical’ instincts in realizing that you do need to inspect what you expect. You will need to grow in the area of fine-tuning your technology but those end accomplishments will pale in comparison to adopting solid processes. Your technology should support and facilitate your processes. Then, you will begin seeing improvements in every area of your store. Without good processes, you will keep on analyzing but will not receive the benefit of growth.
  3. Dealerships with CRM tools and some process in place, and use minimal technology or a manual process to track activity.
    Dealerships which do have ‘some processes’ in place yet are using manual reporting elements or minimal technology to monitor, facilitate, and assist the business are at least on the right compass heading. Good for you. Similar to the last category continue to improve your technology and processes.
  4. Dealerships with CRM technology overload but no processes in place to complement and support store growth.
    You know who you are. Analysis paralysis got you down? Every possible angle of the business is analyzed and reported on your computer screen. The results typically reveal just how much better your business could be doing. You may be saying “I can’t believe that we have 239 telephone inquiries and only 29 appointments”. So what’s missing? You got it, phone skill processes in order for all that technology to have something to do other than be the bearer of bad news. Add this element and then you will see a difference in attitudes and results.
  5. Dealerships that have achieved mastery. All the tools and processes are in place and hitting on all cylinders.
    Hallelujah, you have been able to put the whole package of essential elements together and are soaring to new heights. You have been working hard to improve all facets of your business. You have technology, processes, and people seamlessly working together as a single unit. You have not stood for shortcuts because you understand that shortcuts are only disguised long journeys which never really get you to where you hope to be. Some of the fruits of your labor are; lower employee turnover, higher team synergy, managers with ambition and drive who are actually growing their people, constantly improving CSI scores, more sales attributed to appointment attainment, closing ratios going up, better training agendas, worthwhile one-on-ones with your team players, and the list goes on. Sure you paid the price and labored over all this and had to change and improve store culture. You now know that it was all worth it. And, you might add (and I hear this all the time after working with dealers), “I can’t believe we did things the way we did back then” and “How can I improve from here because I realize I must constantly be improving?”

Based on the above, how would you honestly rate your dealership? Earl Wilson said, “If what you did yesterday still looks pretty big to you, then you haven’t done enough today.” In other words, becoming successful doesn’t justify hitting the cruise control and taking a vacation. In fact, when you are the leader, it takes a greater level of innovation and commitment to stay there. You must instill a solid process for; hiring, onboarding, incoming inquiries, mentoring, appointments, follow-up strategies, no-shows, prospecting, managerial customer calls, internet inquiries, customer letters, owner base, referral obtainment, service advisers, public relations strategy and everything else you do! It also must remain constantly reinforced and adhered to as your store culture. Then and only then will your technology lift the people and the store to a higher level of achievement.

The single most important element for any of this to succeed is quality leadership from the top down and then permeate it throughout the dealership. Plug all the holes where leadership is lacking because it will sink ships if left un-repaired. You must create an environment that leads to success. This is the first step in building a winning team. The environment must support and encourage all individuals to be followers first and then leaders. Managers have to follow in learning these new processes before they can lead. Leadership must value the individual talents of the employees and celebrate the successes of the team. Goals must be established for the collective, not the individual. Leaders must know each of their individuals in order to provide them with what they need to be successful within the team. If one needs many specifics and another requires parameters and then room to run – provide it for them. Leaders are always ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the team pushing in the same direction. Learn, grow, gain feedback, be open to new ideas and processes, and be passionate about the team. The minute a leader believes he/she knows it all is the minute he/she is going in the wrong direction.

Our talents are continually strengthened as we learn, grow and work in the areas in which we are naturally drawn. A skill is transferable from person to person, not situation to situation. A talent is transferable from situation to situation, not person to person. Talents will continue to grow and develop quickly if nurtured. Don’t be sundials in the shade; have the courage, creativity, and discipline to weed out things that don’t celebrate your team’s talents!

William Danforth said, “The best cure for a sluggish mind is to disturb its routine.” It’s true that the secret to success lies in a person’s daily routine. But to remain ahead of the game it is necessary to occasionally disrupt daily routines to better foster these fresh ideas and innovative process solutions – because yesterday’s methods don’t stay fresh for long. Always be aiming to be different from your competitors and the skill sets of their employees. Influence; Don’t Manipulate.

In searching for the proper way to address the vastly differing dealerships it occurred to me that perhaps in some of my articles I may be speaking from outer space to one audience and from ground zero earth to another group. Then there could be the ones who want to learn the ‘how to’ and those who could probably teach the ‘how to’. I feel deep in my soul that I need to be trying to reach as many of you as possible where I am able to offer you the greatest impact for your business improvement. Every dealership should be thinking about; Designing, Developing, Implementing and Committing to new Processes. If you don’t, tomorrow will be today except for one day later. And, next month, next year, next decade.

Please take a little time to send me any questions you may have and I will do my best to point you in the right direction, and I’ll send you something to help you identify your current processes. Thanks and keep your plan charging forward.