When Darin Wade purchased a Ford dealership in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 2012, there was no question that he was facing a challenge. “Nobody ever says,” he jokes, “‘Hey, our dealership is doing so well that we just want to give you a piece of it!’”
New employees, new challenges
So it wasn’t a big surprise when Wade realized that his new staff had no idea just how poorly they were performing. A big part of it, he clarifies, was the preexisting culture.
“I’m one of those dealers who believes in sharing all of the numbers with my team,” he explains, “because I have found that if you don’t share the numbers, they typically make it up. And they usually don’t make up the numbers in your favor.”
“Sure enough,” Wade adds, “most of the employees that were over here … the numbers weren’t shared with them. So, they had a pretty good idea that they weren’t doing very well, but they didn’t know.”
Quick solutions for a high-performing culture
“There was some lack of training,” Wade says. “So, when my NCM moderator called and thought that our store might need help … well, he knows me, and he was dead-on correct!” Wade made arrangements for Lee Michaelson, one of NCM Associates’ consultants, to evaluate the store and develop an improvement plan.
Michaelson and Wade began working together to address the dealership’s most pressing concerns. (They continue to work together to this day.) And, because the consultant came to the dealership each month, the approach had minimal impact on the overall operation. “This whole concept of bringing a trainer to your store is great because our number one challenge anytime we take people out of our store is that not only do we struggle with production going down, but we also struggle with the expense of getting them somewhere. Especially in Albuquerque, New Mexico: I mean, it’s a plane flight for quite a bit of distance wherever you want to go!”
Get the most from every expert visit
Success takes more than having the consultant onsite, Wade explains. Like any improvement process, consulting requires commitment. Here are Darin Wade’s must-do steps to bring an expert onsite.
- Make it mandatory for your team. “You just can’t have any interruptions,” Wade explains. “We know when Lee is coming in, and it breaks down to four hours tops, maybe three. You have to have an environment that’s a locked door deal, and you have to have the rest of your staff able to cover the positions. And it will be three hours very well spent.”
- Be there. “The general manager or dealer principal needs to be in the meeting 100% of the time because it shows his people that he’s serious about it.”
- Take advantage of goal setting. “NCM’s format is great on goal setting and commitment time,” Wade comments. “Every department head will be asked to do a commitment plan, and write it down. The sheets will be turned into not only the dealer and GM but also to the consultant. And I think the best use of the time is that every 60 days that you do the consulting, we also start with the commitment and did we get there or not? I think if you do that, you’ll grow your store.”
A powerful combination
While Wade was already a long-term NCM 20 Group member, adding consulting to the mix was exactly the right combination to bring Power Ford back to benchmark. “The format for the NCM deal,” he says, “is phenomenal.”
“I think NCM does a good job of recruiting people that have done things before,” he adds. “I mean, Lee Michaelson has run a dealership before. And, when a vendor comes in and speaks the same language and can actually walk the walk, not just talk the talk, people in the retail industry can see into that very quickly.
“When you have a 3rd party who’s validated like that … and saying the same things that you say … it adds another layer of credibility to how you run your business.” And your employees pay attention.
At Power Ford, consulting got the staff quickly up to speed and transformed how management and employees communicated: “Suddenly you’re having business conversations instead of guessing, even at lower levels, whether a department head or even just a manager. It helps them connect the dots between what their daily routines do and how they affect the financial statement and the numbers.”
Laying the foundation for success
About a year after taking ownership, Wade reported to Albuquerque Business First that sales were up 300 percent over the previous year, with car sales up more than 50 percent and trucks up 6 percent.
Four years later, Power Ford continues to be a top-seller in the area. While his new leadership clearly was the driving force behind the dealership’s transformation, Wade is quick to praise his partnership with NCM consultant, Lee Michaelson. “It was our moderator being the catalyst for change. Sometimes the general manager and dealer principal can say it, and everybody understands that. But when it comes from a different source, sometimes that’s the extra thing that’s needed that can help your team realize that they need to … they actually need to do the action in order to get the results.”
See how NCM 20 Groups and in-dealership consulting can help your dealership improve, just like Power Ford.