For 12 years, I have been writing monthly articles in Dealer magazine regarding what I see as the “State of the Union” so to speak regarding the automotive industry.  Subjects for the articles deal with developing good processes and work practices, leadership, team member development, dealer consulting and just about anything that can help dealers become better.   Most of these ideas come from actual field experiences either from my time in Corporate America with Harris Corporation or working in a Toyota dealership for 3 1/2 years to visiting and listening to various dealerships around the country. Recently I interviewed Don Hall, CEO of VADA (January & February issues) who gave me quite a few new topics or at least topics I could expand upon.  One of those topics stemmed from a question I asked Don; What do you think are the three biggest problems dealers have today?  His response was “People, People, and People.”

This response leads me to ask a few dealers & managers how they felt about this.  Everyone I spoke with agreed. One, in particular, a well respected North Carolina based General Sales Manager by the name of Jason Pies whom I have known for many years was excited about expanding on this very subject. His observations from first-hand experiences over his 27-year career lead me to share with you these observations from a perspective everyone reading this could align with.

Below, Jason provides some solid input observations from the “Manager’s” standpoint as well as the “Leader’s” standpoint on this article’s title “Enthusiasm on fire is 10 times more effective than knowledge on ice” as it relates and exposes problems as well as solutions to Don’s response – “people.”

All too often “Managers” hire perceived equals or subpar individuals for fear of being “outshined” or outdone by their new recruits. This creates a mediocre team when the “Manager” is just managing to recruit an average team and keep them in this status.


Jason held a totally different mindset when approaching the management vs. leadership role in his recruiting efforts. As a leader, I wanted the most talented individuals he could find. He did find it better to hire individuals without experience as a result of the subpar standards of most dealers in the industry creating bad habits and a “slacker” culture. Slacker meaning: smoking on premises, leaning on the receptionist tower or anywhere else in the store, walking in the showroom while on their phones or tablets, not addressing the “Guests”(not customers) properly and promptly, hawking the lot while hanging out in the “huddle of doom,” chewing gum while carrying their Taco Bell cup to the closing table and so on. You get the picture. Creating a culture of professionalism was and is priority number 1. This was easier with “green” recruits or extremely pliable and humble inexperienced individuals.

You must find that WINNING is a habit and talent which is apparent in the individual’s successes in their personal and prior professional lives. If, as a recruiter, you look to spot these individuals you can create a store full of energy and enthusiasm, not to mention a group of soldiers championing the leaders cause. This is the quickest way to increase volume, CSI, and gross. Recruit winners and lead with direction and culture that sustains itself subsequently launching the team to want to be bigger and better. If you are hiring winners they are naturally competitive and the rest takes care of itself. Keeping in mind the direction and culture MUST be in place prior to hiring these winners. And, you must have a well thought out and professional “onboarding process” to attract the best of the best else, you will continue to attract average people. Well above average onboarding facilitates well above average employees.

Most dealers have “Managers” who hire the enthusiastic individual and considers themselves beneath the manager. This is why the manager chose them in the first place. Right?  The Enthusiasm lasts around 90 days at most. The sales consultant came out on fire and produced sales and the managers helped them because the enthusiasm is contagious and the consultant usually leaves the manager no option but to smother them…yet. This “Enthusiasm on Fire” is very powerful and produces sales for most new hires entering the industry as has been the case since I can remember dating back to April of ’93. This Enthusiasm results in knowledge, experience and a “know all” mentality which ultimately turns to “ICE” or “Knowledge on Ice.” Now that the salesperson has greeted 40, 50 or 60 guests they feel they have seen it all and can pre-judge situations in advance of knowing facts. They can “horse trade” with the guest on their trade in and the price of the car they are selling. They can quote payments because they know the “20.00 per 1,000.00 financing rule. They can tell them all about how the manager is going to try to make money but they will get them a good deal. This “knowledge on ice” sickness is usually the end of the “90-day wonder.” The managers then get upset with the salespeople for not being as good as they are or once were. The salesperson is no longer enthusiastic as a result. This is the cycle. Then the General Sales Manager must go recruit more subpar individuals to beat down and do it all over again. We all know that if a salesperson has 2 or 3 bad months in a row there is a 90% chance they will find another way to make a living and move on.

Hire winners, teach and train culture, treat the salespeople as professionals because that is what you need to see them as. Pay them accordingly for performance, monitor that performance Daily, Weekly, Monthly and Yearly with reviews offering your assistance/guidance to make them better than before. Harness the enthusiasm and promote the energy it brings. This will prevent the eternal hamster wheel of hiring and move towards growing a powerful forward thinking team.

Jason has in his personal experience, been able to raise the bar at multiple franchises. The latest being a Lexus store which was producing between 75 to 85 new cars a month in 2012 and most recently produced 300+ new cars in December of 2016. This was a concerted effort in hiring and developing winning, dedicated and enthusiastic salespeople. Over four years we were able to build a team and train them to be part of the mission to continually win the day, the week, the month. Our belief in each other and the dedication to culture resulted in a very powerful enthusiastic group which supported each other in all conditions. We ended our meeting with “WE CAN, WE WILL” and always did. We did not miss a single objective in the last 16 months even though some of our objectives were set at 120% of the previous year’s same month.  Somehow the belief in themselves and the team always prevailed over rainy days, slow market conditions, state fair week, winter months with short days and other less than desirable conditions.  Our mission was to uphold culture and keep the days fresh. Be present 100% of the time. The “present” term meaning be aware and on point always. In lieu of the lack of experience some may have had, they showed up, set a daily goal and charged like Rhinos through the day to accomplish the necessary results required to make it happen. This is the enthusiasm on fire methodology. After all, sometimes your best is not good enough. You must do what it takes to succeed or, in other words, simply follow through.

Jason delivered some fairly potent observations and corrections in dealing with team member and dealership development as well as the realignment of managerial attitudes towards new and current hires. The biggest problem I see as preventing improvement will be determined by the self-esteem and forward thinking of the manager. I personally experience this at some dealerships.  I suggest a few good ideas, processes or training initiatives and the one manager who “thinks he knows it all” will be the one who is not of favor.  Not in favor of increasing 20% revenues, not in favor of increasing team member skill sets, not in favor of stronger everything?  Why? Well, the reason lies deep beneath the surface.  He/she does not want to be superseded in knowledge, experience, rational solid development and frankly one of the biggest…insecurity. These managers will very consistently keep you, the store and its people down. Time to switch horses if the aforementioned describes any of your managers. Don’t be a prisoner to a 1985 business model in a 2017 marketplace.

I think the following pretty well sums it up. The South Carolina Basketball Coach, Frank Martin was recently asked by a young reporter the following question; What’s more important to you when you coach and teach, your players’ technique or their attitude?  His reply was; Attitude comes first. We have to have guys who believe in our mission. They have to believe in what we want to do and when they believe we can show them the technique.

Always be improving with everything you do then sit back and watch the difference it makes. If you could use a couple additional ideas in developing your team, shoot me an email.