Through the Eyes Of the Bold, Part 22

It takes a team.

In June of 1989, I accepted a position to build a department from the ashes. After observing the department in a separate building and getting the big picture, I talked with the general manager and dealer and said that I could not be a selling manager as the previous manager was and get the job done. After some lengthy discussion, we agreed. What was happening before is that the only one making any money in the department was the manager. This is big problem having a manager compete against his own salespeople. That makes no sense to me. So, I started from the ashes with the team I had and built from that. Only one of those that started survived. In the process, I had to find new team members and I found one gem just a few months after I started.

We were like the rag-tag team, but we were a team. We worked together well and moved the sales dramatically from where they were. I focused on building by seeing what I wanted to accomplish and getting the tools and support we needed to continue to grow. Buying a good database was a very high priority to me and we had virtually no budget for that, but I pursued it and we ended up getting $10,000 to buy the whole database on disk. We did it in about 4 payments at reasonable intervals, but we got it. That was the best decision ever. It was the database that moved us forward.

Just prior to the database first purchase, I decided to sell upfitted trucks to generate new income for the dealership instead of cheap selling the retail inventory. Since this product wasn't being sold by the dealership now, it would all be incremental business and fresh profit. We started with one service body and built from that. Within about two years, we had our own lot across the freeway from the main store. That is quite a growth curve. We started in the back corner in a trailer and moved into our own lot in two years.

It takes a team. If I had come in as a selling manager, it would not have happened. Focus is everything. Consider how it would be if the dealer opened a store and he or she was the main salesperson as well. It probably happens, but I can guess how large they are and how long they have stayed that way. I worked a very short time for one dealer who used to change all the florescent light bulbs when they burned out along with other maintenance tasks. That's not a great use of talent. They aren't in business anymore.

The team needs a leader. A good leader. Someone with the big picture of things clearly in their mind and how to break that into pieces the team can deal with. A leader needs to develop systems of accountability and performance while being the best encourager around. The leader instills confidence and fights the corporate battles that keep the team running smoothly. This is a superior arrangement.

I see a lot of dealers where they have a fleet/commercial manager and that is it. What can you expect? 15 a month? 20 in good times if they are good at what they do? I know a lot who do less than this as well as couple who do more, but there is a limit what one person can do no matter how good they may be. It is not a good arrangement for developing a department. You might as well have one salesperson on the retail side and call it a retail department. It is not effective. I see some who have more than one fleet/commercial manager, but they are all the same thing, doing the same job--for themselves. It is not really a department.

For maximum effectiveness and long term growth and profitability, having the team structure will be best. That is a non-selling manager to focus on the plan, implementation and growth, more than one salesperson who is focused on sales and an admin person to focus on the database, paper flow and support. This allows the manager to do more training, assist and encourage the sales staff and grow the department to be a serious profit center for the store. It then becomes a department within the dealership and it is a plan that I know for a fact is a great plan and produces great sales results. Yes, of course, it is through the eyes of the bold.

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