Historically, during the week between Christmas and New Years, we all breathe a huge sigh of relief that the Christmas rush is over, and we then reflect over the success or failure of our business over the past year. A meeting with Comptroller/CPA Firm usually takes place, where the true profits are discovered after taxes, bonuses, LIFO adjustments, depreciation, etc. Our minds then shift to setting business goals, usually a percentage of increase in units and sales over the performance of the year past by! While in our personal lives, many of us set goals, we call New Year’s Resolutions to perhaps lose weight, eat healthier, stop smoking, spend more time with family, etc. This year, let’s consider actually setting New Year’s Resolutions at our dealerships, which could revolutionize the way we are conducting our businesses, hence positively reflecting on the bottom line!
1. Setting Measurable Goals – The key word here is “measurable”. Most goals are set with great intentions, but incorrectly as they are too general, lacking detailed specifics, or a game plan. If you want to set a goal of retailing 100 more new cars this year, it needs to be broken down into month, week, per salesperson, and what you need to do to accomplish this goal in regards to inventory alignment and marketing schemes. Now, weekly and almost daily, these goals can be monitored, measured and tweaked to get you back on track! Remember: “You can’t manage what you can’t measure!”
2. Evaluate Your Staff – Yes, take a real hard look at first your management staff and then each and every employee individually. Take time to sit with each manager and discuss both their personal goals and career goals, and enforce management doing the same for their team members. Put a monthly assessment plan into place where all employees’ performance is graded in 3 areas: attitude, performance, and profitability. This in itself will cause all to bring their game up to another level and expect ramifications if they do not meet required levels of performance. Stop settling for mediocrity in your workplace, as you know the old saying, “If you can’t fire them up, fire them!”
3. Train, Train, and Retrain – Why is it that everyone knows the most important step to success in your dealership is having well trained, knowledgeable employees representing your brand, your name… your shingle, yet they still don’t do it! The face and the voice of the dealership, everyone who comes in contact with a prospect or client needs to know how to look, how to act and what to say, to make the most of each opportunity. Missed opportunities equate to lost sales which is the greatest profit leak in your stores in all departments. Well trained employees, equipped with professional word tracks, product knowledge, sales techniques, and a great likability factor, will minimize your lost sales and guarantee more repeat and referral business as well! Rethink training as on-going process, time set aside daily allocated for just training, rather than an orientation event!
4. Delegate and Empower – Successful “leaders” have learned the art of delegating and empowerment, two very different things. While delegating assigns a task to someone with the hopes it will get done, empowerment is so much more! Identify your strengths and weaknesses and those of your staff, as your staff members will have skills and talents allowing them to do a job better than you! Empower projects to them wisely according to their skill level, while allowing them more authority and flexibility over the assignment. The art of empowerment involves your employees, making them a part of the problems and the solutions. You will then be awarded with a committed, proactive team of individuals, whose unique skills are being developed, producing exceptional results for your dealership!
5. Create a Positive Working Environment – We all know that a positive, friendly, clean, and spirited work environment will boost employee morale, improve productivity, while reducing turnover cost which again contributes to the bottom line; however, we all do not know how to accomplish this! By human nature, employees crave structure in the workplace. A well designed handbook, job description, monthly evaluation will all contribute to helping them understand your expectations of them. Set your expectations high and they will work to exceed them! Communication is the key to building a team environment; be approachable, share company missions and goals. Show you care about each and every employee by listening to them and respecting their ideas, and extend appreciation and give recognition when due, as everyone needs to feel they are valued! Lastly, have some fun; a happy working culture breeds effective leadership, team-building, and will attract clients who want to do business with a company which breeds a positive and spirited working culture!
6. Engage in Social Media Platforms Effectively – Social Media: namely, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter for now…To engage or not to engage…That is the question! Well, YES, to be a prominent force in your marketplace, your community, you should engage, BUT engage wisely! I say this because so many dealers have Social Media accounts but are doing a poor and ineffective job engaging with their community, maintaining daily activity via posting relevant information, and learning to be an interesting and fun friend! If your dealership is not properly staffed with numbers and talent to handle this very important responsibility, consider outsourcing your Social Media. Your activity can be linked to your reputation via review sites, which will act as a 3rd party testimonial site, boosting the integrity of your business, while at the same time, increasing your search engine optimization! With over ½ billion people engaged in facebook alone, who would not want to participate effectively and even advertise on these platforms for a very cheap price? Take the leap, engage in social media wisely, and the results will be infinite!
7. Look at Your Operation through the Eyes of Your Clients – It’s January 3rd, 2011 and you are driving into work… Imagine yourself as one of your prospects driving to your dealership for the first time. Maintain this role throughout the entire process of parking your car, walking up to the building, entering the building, interacting with folks, visiting the restrooms, service drive, customer lounge, etc. From an omniscient view, take a whole new look at the retail operations of your business… Is the parking clearly marked? Is the building updated, clean, and welcoming? Are the employees resonating friendly, professional, and helpful? Is your customer’s time respected? Are organized processes in place? Is the customer lounge accommodating to all clients? Not only should your facility be conducive to its employees, but more importantly an attractive and proficiently run business for its prospects and customers!
8. Examine Your Current Prospecting and Marketing Practices – Are your traditional marketing and advertising methods working effectively for you? In 2011, try reexamining the allocation of your advertising budget and align funds according to what’s driving the consumer to your stores! Is your web-site current and refreshed daily? Other then inventory, are you updating service and parts specials, including “What’s New” content through blogs and video? Why not empower your employees to make testimonial videos differentiating you from your competition… “Why should people buy from you?” Perhaps focusing more attention to your on-line presence and email/text blasts would be more beneficial than the emphasis on the traditional print ads and radio commercials. Who really buys a car from you because they heard a loud, obnoxious ad on the radio followed by ten seconds of disclosures screaming “marketing gimmick”? Brand Imaging provides the perception of your dealership’s personality, heart and soul…Although the ROI may be more difficult to measure; the proof lies in the bottom line!
9. Wrap Your Arms Around Your Community – When was the last time you and your staff reached out to the community and made a difference? Many dealerships very generously make annual contributions to causes and various charities in a monetary fashion…and that is great; however I am not talking about that! Get your entire staff involved in volunteering their time and making a mark in the community. Perhaps organizing a “clean up” day, planting flowers in town, visiting a nursing home on Valentines Day, or helping with 4th of July events! Encourage all employees to join local groups or organizations such as Lions Club, Kiwanis, Small Business Associations, etc. as this will open the door for most to engage in community affairs! Highlight local youth in your company newsletter, host a car wash for the local cheerleaders! The members of your community are prospective car buyers; however, if you enter this endeavor in the true spirit of caring, the rewards will be fruitful!
10. Schedule a Compliance Audit with a Reputable Firm – Automotive Dealerships are one of the most stringently regulated businesses in this country and our exposure to non-compliance fines and penalties is overwhelming! Do not take the risk by performing only self-audits in your dealership, but hire an expert in this field! Areas of concern include but are not limited to Privacy and Red Flag, Safety, Sexual Harassment, Deceptive Advertising, Finance Practices, Buyers Guides and Monroney labels, Right to Know, Employee Law, Cash Reporting and much more…probably over 100 federal and state regulations and requirements for car dealerships! One Attorney General Claim or lawsuit could put you out of business with actual penalties, legal fees, and the associated costs incurred through the negative publicity! Don’t let this happen to you!
Perhaps all 10 resolutions I mentioned above may not apply to your dealership, maybe just pick a few and have fun with it! Gather a group of inspired, committed individuals together to form a focus group who will create a “plan of action” to put these items in motion. They can be responsible to monitor the progress or lack of, and empowered to tweak where necessary. Now buckle up your seat belts, and hold on to the dash… A Revolution for Change at your dealership in 2011 will take you to new heights in the way of profitability, as well as becoming a dominating force in the market place! Good Luck and Happy New Year!!!