As dealers, General Managers, and departmental managers, we realize the retail automotive industry is an ever-changing landscape, and if this year has taught us anything, it is that changes can come out of nowhere. During this uncertain time, many of our dealer clients have had to make tough choices, many mangers’ roles have evolved, and the responsibilities of our front-line people’s normal day-to-day has changed significantly over just a few months.
It is from these changes that a question has started to emerge from many leaders in our business. “Do you know what it is like selling cars today?” While many of us started out selling cars on the front line, many higher-ups have not physically sold a car in quite a while. Again, our industry is always changing, and selling cars is certainly not the same as it was when I learned. This same idea permeates throughout the dealership and can be applied to fixed and variable operations. What challenges are your employees facing with your customers, team members, and processes? Even your parts department has had to change its stocking practices to satisfy fill rates and factory-driven ordering.
It’s from these questions that I pose a challenge to dealers, General Managers, and departmental managers looking to truly understand how their business is run. In dealerships with the best culture, everyone is a part of a team and supports each other. One best practice we recommend is requiring all new hires to spend time in each department within the dealership. We do this because it’s important to understand how it all works – how it takes all employees, in every department, to create successful operation. So, the challenge I pose to you is this: spend a full day each month performing or assisting each position within your dealership.
Becoming A Hands-On Leader
While you still need adequate time to perform your own daily responsibilities, anyone can work their schedule to utilize ONE day a month to help and learn from a specific position in your dealership.
For example, if you want to start with your service advisors, schedule a specific day with the service department that will allow you to help while minimizing any disruptions. Show up early to your shift and perform the role of a service advisor for one full day. This means you will put an out of office response on your emails and silence your phone. You are here to BE an advisor, perform the meet and greet, walk around the vehicle, write the RO, present recommended services, and anything else that is part of an advisor’s role at your store. Additionally, I challenge you to stay in the service department until closing and be the last one out of the door. Believe me, this exercise will be enlightening, and will provide you with more respect for the employees you have in this role. Better yet, it will give you a much better understanding of what it takes to succeed in this role!
Rotate Roles Throughout Your Dealership
Like I mentioned above, this exercise can be performed for virtually every role within your organization. Next month, be a sales consultant for a full day. The following month be an express technician for a full day, and so on. To get a total understanding of how your business operates vs. how you think it operates, I recommend you spend an entire year completing this exercise – one day a month working different positions throughout your organization. The results will not only be incredibly valuable for you, it will also be inspirational to all your team members. The best way to build culture is to live it, and when you lead by example, your team will take notice and continue to follow your lead.