While most of my 20 Group members close out their month by the third or fourth working day of the month with no problem, it’s clear that there are many dealerships around the country who struggle to get month-end finished in a timely fashion. If your dealership needs a little help getting those numbers in on time, here are my suggestions for streamlining your process.
Set firm deadlines and stick to them
First, the owner/general manager and controller must agree to a month-end “Document Due Deadline” in the office for all car deals, service and parts tickets and expenses. I recommend either noon or by the close of business on the first business day following the last day of the month. No exceptions!
I think you should make it clear that any new or used car deals, service R.O.’s, part tickets or other items need to be submitted on time or they will be moved to the following month’s business. And that means they won’t be paid commission on them until next month, too! With this policy in place, a strong management team will make sure that as many documents as possible get on the current months’ financial statement.
Develop department-specific processes that work
Now that everyone knows when month-end documentation is due, each manager must create a process to make sure this close-out goes smoothly. You can’t wait until the last minute to start going through a pile of deals, invoices, and expenses and expect to get it done on time!
I recommend that all month-end processes start at least a week before the end of the month in preparation for close-out. The only items submitted the last day of the month should be car deals, CP, warranty, internal repair orders, and parts tickets from the last one or two days of the month. (This process also greatly enhances your dealerships cash flow during the month.)
Here are some specific suggestions by department:
Sales and F&I. All car deals submitted to the office during the month must be “cashable” and ready for funding; no “bill and returns.” This requirement forces the sales staff and F&I department to collect all needed documentation and signatures required to “cash” the deal before it goes to the office. Always enforce the rule that no commissions will be paid until the deal is in the office!
Accounting. Your accounting staff also should be assigned specific schedules and reports to reconcile and review in time for the controller to review with them no later than the 25th of each month. While processing this information, have accounting staff note and forward to the dealer/GM for their review any adjustments over $100. (Or other value that you prefer; you pick the number.) Cross training your office staff as much as possible also enables them to help each other and spread the workload when necessary.
Accounts Payable. The accounts payable person should be responsible for making sure all invoices are accounted for when paying the vendors statements during the month. When checks are signed, any missing invoices should be noted and determined if they were expense-related or inventory-related. A large number of missing expense invoices will obviously negatively impact your bottom line in a future month!
Service. The service manager should be responsible for the work in process report “WIP” and report on any open R.O.’s. Are all customer vehicles still in dealership’s possession? Are any employee tickets still open?
Make the most out of month-end
Now that you’ve set firm deadlines and outlined a process by which staff should gather information, month-end should run smoother than ever. Before running the financial statement, I suggest your management team should review a 13-month trend of all expenses to be sure no large outlays have been missed and to review any expenses that show an increase or seem out of the ordinary. Also keep in mind that there may be some expenses that need to be accrued due to invoices not received by the third of the month, such as advertising and monthly factory invoices.
As you can see, it takes a team effort to bring it all together at the end of the month. But it is all worth it to have the month closed with accurate numbers and the management team now focused on getting the new month off to a faster start!
If you haven’t looked at NCM axcessa lately, it is the best software program in the marketplace to drill down into your financial numbers and immediately see opportunities in sales, gross, expenses, and productivity. And our product LiveAudit gives you instant insights to accounts payable information. Both will make the month-end process less painful!