When you succeed at one level you keep going or stop – it is your choice.

My last two articles covered conversations I had with Don Hall the CEO of Virginia Automobile Dealers’ Association which provided a multitude of revealing insights regarding our industry. If you missed Part I and Part II, you should check them out because they are filled with innovative topics you should be aware of. Don and I have a very similar alliance in looking at dealerships and one, in particular, is the lack of “corporate planning” at the store level. Sure, the big guys do it but most small to medium size stores don’t. My corporate background taught me valuable lessons about the importance for this critically valuable element in order to develop and grow any business so I thought it a good idea to share a simple approach any store can implement.

You cannot occupy leadership space without insisting on and build a solid foundation. This is still a good time to look forward and initiate new foundational plans for Business Development and Growth solutions.  Remember though, ninety-one million Americans every year make ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ and after only one week, seventy-one million of those who committed to a new resolution – break them.  If you need confirmation on this just go to your local gym the first couple of weeks after the first and you can nary find a parking place.  Then go back next month and you can pull right up and park at the front door.

Equally, if not more important is to first understand that there is still time to reflect on the year just completed and along with your ‘entire’ management team write down and discuss every mid to major adjustment affecting ‘certain processes’ you implemented. This could range from technology enhancements to people placed into more appropriate leadership roles to the design and installation of a Customer Relationship Center. It really does not matter what you speak about because what matters is the simple fact that you are communicating with your team members.

Going over the good things your store accomplished throughout the year always stimulates new concepts and ideas for moving forward especially when you recognize those who were responsible. You may even point out some of the difficult trials you may have encountered and how they were solved and who was involved in those solutions.  Henry Ford many years ago astonished his assistants by always responding to bad news delivered to him by responding with a “Great, thank you.” When approached as to why he always responded to bad news this way, he told them “You can always find good in any given bad situation if you are able to look for the good.” Then he pointed out an example whereby the bad news had to do with production being down. Upon examination Ford was able to replace a couple of key machines which in turn then increased production beyond the original levels achieved. Look for the good.


An important place to invest time and energy is to begin moving in the direction of a strategic-based business and marketing plan. Many of my clients have initiated a more focused and cohesive plan of attack after going through these exercises and I know you will too if you stop, take a breath and plan a couple of meetings with your management team. My friend Dave Wadsworth invited me along recently to participate in management meetings with eight different dealerships who were all on board with this concept. Each store was experiencing consistent growth due to the investment of getting the management team together monthly and assessing all the numbers and ideas. It works if you want to experience real consistent growth. But, you must want it.

First step is to combine all managers together, for in doing so, you will yield cross departmental suggestions to allow everyone to step out of their box and just maybe hear new ways of doing business. Below are the first steps to getting control of your growth and developing leaders to get you there. Adjust them to fit any particular needs you may have then print them so you can distribute the sheets at your first meeting. Start out with the easy stuff then ramp up to the meat which will drive the processes and inspire your people.

Here is an outline of the topics to focus on in your meetings. The items I write about here are on worksheets that meeting participants would complete at your sessions. If you would like me to send you the actual worksheets, send me an email requesting them.

2017 Management Planning Workshop
Initial focus is on how your dealership and its people can become better. Start the discussion and ask for specific suggestions regarding overall ideas from each participant.  Then, look at how each individual department can improve. Next you want to see how each of your managers can personally improve their own performance.

Now for some strategic planning:

  1. Ask each manager to develop a Vision Statement for their department. This is where; if you had a magic wand you would visualize and put down in writing a ‘utopian’ department including personnel, tasks, functions, training needs and growth potential.
  2. Develop objectives for each department:
    Objectives could and should be inclusive of personnel needs, financial expectations, technical solutions, organizational programs you wish to implement, cost containment plans, improvement of problem areas and general improvements which can be affected by yourself or with the assistance of other management personnel.
  3. Identify your target market and business strategies:
    Think about: Who is your customer, who needs to be your customer, how would you go about locating and attracting more customers, how would you go about marketing and eventually selling those prospects, what do you think customers want, how would you advertise to attract more customers, what could your department do to enhance the “customer service” attitude, are you prepared to take on more customers, and what elements would go into you being prepared?
  4. Next, you want to discuss what manager’s think is the single biggest problem in their departments and what is their solution to fix the problem.
    Now that you and the group have identified some target markets and strategies you need to focus on identifying what roles the management team will fill and what their duties should be.Managers need to manage group dynamics, run productive meetings, facilitate joint decision-making, and unify individuals into a single-minded cohesive team. Duties should include leading, coaching, teaching, training, advising and reinforcing the team. Not directing, deciding or dictating. Total “Consensus Style Leadership.” In this way, you can draw out strong opinions and effectively funnel them into equally strong collective “buy-in.”Dealership management should have an initiative to develop and implement a Strategic Marketing Plan including an: Executive Summary, Vision Statement, Objectives, Target Markets, Market Segmentation, Segment Strategies, Needs and Requirements, Competitive Forces, Communications, Success Keys, Service /Support Strategies, Relationship Emphasis, Expense Budgeting and Sales Forecasting, Measurement and Comparisons, Marketing Organization, Critical Issues and Management Summary.  Be facilitators and designers of guidance with clear instructions which will be necessary to develop the plan.  And, don’t forget to create an environment where your team members can come up with other ideas to enhance performance and efficiency.Having a Master Plan will help provide guidelines and principles to your leadership team and greatly improve the overall organization. Put an emphasis on team building, strong teamwork and continuous improvement.  Effective organizations also incorporate a Problem-Solving Resolution Plan. This will help recognize, analyze and solve problems that come up throughout the year. Develop multiple solutions if possible and try as many as you need to solve these issues. Keep your teams involved in deciding which solution is the best, and work together to implement the solution.There you go. By following most of the aforementioned guidelines for a Strategic Business and ESM (employee relationship management) plan you will most certainly engage your management team into a new way of thinking. And, you just might rouse some of those latent ideas stuck deep in the minds of your team. Communication is a wonderful thing and can launch you towards a more productive and growth-oriented pathway.  If you choose not to implement this initiative, you will most likely end up at that far away place called ‘Someday I’ll.’ You know, someday I’ll do something that radiates making a solid plan of attack, someday I’ll engage my management team in good thinking skills, someday I’ll utilize consensus style leadership, etc. Because, if you continue to do the same things day in and day out and hope for a different result, then you are dreaming.  Good fortunes can come your way by strengthening your team.

Build a High-Performance Team Approach by adopting the following guidelines:
Total Team CRM/ERM Management Guidelines:

  1. Team Support:
    Maintaining it for the long haul.
  2. Diversity:
    Using it to benefit the whole team.
  3. Communication:
    Improving skills for team efficiency.
  4. Change:
    Breaking way to new opportunities.
  5. Trust:
    Building and maintaining it.
  6. Creativity:
    Use it in solving complex problems.
  7. Decision Making:
    Process improvement.
  8. Leadership:
    The power of flexibility.
  9. Positive Options:
    Resolves team conflict.
  10. Team Success:
    Recognition & celebration; the greatest motivators.
  11. On Track:
    Follow-up strategies for continuous improvement.
  12. Technology:
    What technology elements will facilitate the aforementioned?

Ok, so where do we go now?   We start at the top of course. The top-down strategy simply means that everyone in management has to be committed to the business strategy, design elements, planning, implementation, managing and leadership of new processes. This includes the dealer/principal. This first process is the inter-relationship with your management team. They have to work together by looking in the same direction toward dealership goal attainment. If you need a few additional ideas, send me an email.