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Steve Hall

Why Dealers Should Be In Express Service

Express Service

Dealers know you must provide fast, convenient, and competitively-priced service in order to retain your customer base.  They also know that oil changes and light maintenance are the most requested service items by customers.  Knowing this, why do dealers continually fight express service?

I’ve heard all the excuses: it hurts my hours per repair order; it hurts my gross profit percentage; it hurts my effective labor rate; I can’t make any money in express service; the list goes on and on.  Shouldn’t we think about it differently?

Isn’t it logical that if a customer comes to you for express services, you will have an advantage to getting the remainder of their maintenance and repair work?  Customers generally do business with people they trust.  If you start to grow that relationship from day one, when the only things that are needed are express-types of items, won’t you have the trust of the customer when the “real” repairs come into play?

We need to realize express service is the gateway to real profits, and if done properly you can make plenty of money along the way.   After all, how do you think all the mass merchandisers and independents stay in business?

Let’s look at it this way, have you ever taken a low profit (or no profit) deal on a new vehicle?  I’m sure that every dealer has, many times.  Why do you do this?  Often times it is because you are getting a trade-in you feel you can make money on.  Other times it is so you can move a unit off the lot to reduce your inventory costs, or maybe to help you reach unit bonus levels for factory incentive money.  Possibly, it was just so you would have an opportunity for the F&I department.  Whatever the reason you decided to take the short deal, you have a plan.  The loss of front-end gross on that unit gave you opportunities to make more money in the long run.  You had to make the deal to gain all of the other benefits.

Can you relate this thought process to express service?  We must retain the customer in order to get all of the long-term benefits.

But express service has an added benefit.

If properly structured, you will make money in express while retaining your customer.  That is a win-win, both short- and long-term!

Take a few minutes and examine how much money is spent on a single vehicle over the lifetime of that vehicle.  Include average warranty work, recalls, oil changes, maintenance, tires, brakes, breakdowns and everything else that happens eventually to every vehicle.  Once you add all of these dollars together and look at the complete picture, you really see what the customer is worth over the lifetime of the vehicle.  Now you must develop your plan to make sure that customer never goes anywhere else, and express service has to be part of that plan.

Let’s look at express service for what it can and should be, a profit center with long-term financial benefits.  Remember, customer retention is a good thing.  Get fast, get efficient, get competitive and get profitable!

Increase performance while increasing profits with NCM OnDemand.

Click here to take a free test drive and see what NCM OnDemand has to offer.

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Tom Hopkins

Winning Demonstrations

Car selling or auto buying

When it comes time to demonstrate a vehicle, you need to be very well prepared. Too many automotive salespeople invest most of their preparation time in vehicle knowledge, which is very important, but spend little time thinking about how to actually demonstrate vehicles so their clients quickly envision themselves as owners. There are very specific things you can do to accelerate their acceptance of a vehicle thus leading to more closed sales.

Before getting to the point of demonstrating, you have to use your other selling skills well. Let’s say you did just that. You used some of your excellent prospecting strategies to find a couple who need a new vehicle. You made a competent original contact and warmed them up nicely. They seem very comfortable with you. You qualified them as to their needs, by asking the right questions, and are confident you have a vehicle that will truly be good for them.

Now, it’s time for the show to begin, and you are the master of ceremonies. Are you properly prepared for this step in the sales process?

It’s important you note here that the vehicle is the star of your demonstration, you are not.

View yourself as a sort of matchmaker. The two parties you believe are a perfect match for one another are your product and this prospective client. It’s your job to introduce them and give them an opportunity to get to know each other.

Many salespeople falter and lose sales because they try to make themselves the stars of the demonstration. They want to show how well they know the vehicle. They spout off technical information about engine size, fuel economy, and handling that may be of little or no interest to the client. In fact, the client may not even understand what they’re saying.

Learn this now: Get yourself out of the picture. Let the vehicle shine! The people you are demonstrating to should be up close and personal with the vehicle. If they ask a question about the navigation system, tell them which buttons to push to make it work. Don’t do it for them!

The same goes for any buttons, dials or displays in the vehicle. You are the tour guide, not the chauffeur! If you’re not getting them directly and personally involved with the vehicle, you’re not selling. You’re showing. You need to get yourself off stage and be the one directing the performance instead.

When it comes to discussing service or warranties, be sure to have brochures and other items you can hand to the decision-makers that provide the details you will deliver verbally. Hand them your calculator to run the numbers for any questions that come up. Show testimonial letters from other satisfied clients. This creates both physical and emotional involvement.  The more involvement you get during the presentation, the more comfortable they’ll be with long term involvement with your product.

At the very least, have the stories about other clients who purchased this type of vehicle in mind, and how happy they are with it. Perhaps the experience of others might be just what’s needed to help this new client off the fence and into the driver’s seat.


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Joe Basil

“We can’t seem to hire the right people.” Sound familiar?


How many times have you heard this from dealers, managers, and business owners? How many times has it been on the 20 Group agenda topic list?

Hearing this statement so often, one would think that it is a priority in every business and car dealership to have a process and system in place to identify, select, and hire “the right people.” So what is it that keeps so many dealers and managers from learning the skill set or even recognizing the fact that they lack the skills?

Let’s start with how most dealers grew up in the car business. The majority of them came up through the sales or front end of the business. The front end is a very people-oriented area of the business. Anyone with experience in that department has probably hired and trained hundreds of people. When you examine training strategies and concentrations in the front of the store you will typically find the overwhelming amount of time and money is spent on sales process, sales desk deal management, F&I process, closing techniques, word tracks and other productivity focused skill sets, often times, without determining if you are training “the right person.”

If you were to ask dealers how much training time and money they invest in teaching those employees with recruiting, selecting and hiring responsibility how to identify and select “the right people,” some wouldn’t know what you were talking about.  Others, who have invested the time and money to develop selection skill sets and processes, would know exactly what you are talking about. For those that don’t understand this approach, they don’t even realize that they may be investing training dollars and time in the wrong people to start with.

Let me give an example. I’m sitting with a dealer who says “I can’t seem to hire the right people.” I ask him to explain his hiring process and who has responsibility for hiring decisions. The first step in the store’s process is an initial interview by one of three front-end managers, then a secondary interview by one of the other two managers and/or the dealer. I ask, “Who has final authority for the hiring decision?” He explains that it goes back to the manager who conducted the initial interview. So I ask the dealer to give me his description of the “right” salesperson. He responds, “They have to be energetic self-starters with good people skills who set goals and achieve them; a good closer, good grosser and they have to be a team player.” Next, I ask permission to ask the three front-end managers the same question. Here’s what I found…

Manager number one described the right salesperson as someone who is organized, punctual, follows procedure, and covers all the details.

Manager number two described the right salesperson as someone who can gross, close deals, sell cars and build a book of business.

Manager number three described the right salesperson as someone who is friendly with customers, always takes care of their needs, never has customer complaints, and has strong customer satisfaction.

So, based on four different descriptions of the right person, it’s no wonder this dealer can’t hire the right people. One manager would hire a “neat nick,” the next manger would hire a “slammer” and the last one would hire a “consumer advocate”—and no one would hire the dealer’s sales person!

Patterns indicate that most people with hiring authority tend to hire people that match their own description of the right person as opposed to hiring a person with skill sets proven to result in developing a “top performer” in their position. So how do you learn to identify “top-performing” skill sets?

One simple answer may be right in front of you. Make a list of your best salespeople, not your top salesperson, your best salespeople. Now jointly, along with those people with hiring authority, describe the personality traits, tendencies, habits, preferences, skill sets and accomplishments of your “best” salespeople. Assuming you have top-performing salespeople, you should begin to see a pattern. For a point of reference you could perform the same exercise on your “worst” salespeople.

From my experience the most effective approach to implementing a recruiting, selecting and hiring process is to hire a professional trainer or consultant. Going back to my earlier point about determining if you are training the right person, you may first want to have your management team evaluated to confirm that you are training the right people to start with.

Should you have any hesitation about investing in a process to improve your selection skills, let me conclude with the following question:

Between the date you hired them and the date you fired them, what did you discover about them that you didn’t know when you interviewed them? And how much did it cost you? This should be a no-brainer!

Want to learn more about hiring? Attend the NCM Institute’s new course: Finding Top Talent. Click here for details. 

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Dave Anderson

Building a High Performance Culture (Part 17)

This article is part of a multi-part series titled “Building a High Performance Culture” by Up To Speed Guest Expert, Dave Anderson, of LearnToLead®.

Young businessman adjusting his tie

Words that Work: Committed

Words that Hurt: Interested

In this seventeenth post on building a high performance culture, I want to put in each the “words that work” and the “words that hurt” column a word that separates the good from great in any conceivable endeavor; one who is committed versus one who is merely interested.

I’ll expand on committed vs. interested in a moment, but to bring you up-to-speed on this culture series, please review the following points and words from past posts:

  • Culture is never done. Thus, the “words that work” concepts must be consistently woven into your culture to strengthen it.
  • The “words that hurt,” and their ensuing mindsets, must be just as diligently weeded out of your culture.
  • These two categories are designed to build an evolving portrait of what a high performance culture looks like so you can evaluate your own culture and continuously strive towards the ideal.

Words that work:

Earn: to acquire through merit.

Deserve: to be worthy of; to qualify for.

Consistent: constantly adhering to the same principles.

Hope: grounds for believing something in the future will happen.

Catalyst: a person or thing that makes something happen.

Responsible: to be the primary cause of something.

Tough-minded: strong willed, vigorous, not easily swayed.

Loyal: faithfulness to one’s duties or obligations.

Passion: a strong feeling or enthusiasm about something, or about doing something.

Discipline: an activity, regimen, or exercise that develops or improves a habit or skill.

Words that hurt:

Fault: responsibility for failure.

Blame: to assign responsibility for failure.

Excuse: a plea offered to explain away a fault or failure.

Mediocre: average, ordinary, not outstanding.

Wish: to want something that cannot, or probably will not happen.

Entitle: a claim to something you feel you are owed.

Sloth: reluctance to work or exert effort; laziness.

Complacent: calmly content, smugly self-satisfied.

Maintain: to cause (something) to exist or continue without changing.

Apathy: a lack of enthusiasm, interest, or concern.

I’ve had leaders attend my workshops whose first reaction to my asking if they’re interested in, or committed to, becoming a great leader and building a great organization is: “What’s the difference?” Frankly, the difference is staggering. Take a look:

  • Interested: to be curious about.
  • Committed: to have pledged oneself to something.

Consider how weak, unconvincing, and uninspiring being interested sounds when compared to commitment:

  1. I’m curious about what it would be like to become a great leader.
  2. I’m curious about what it would be like to build a higher performing culture.
  3. I’m curious how it would feel to have our best year ever.

On the other hand, “pledging oneself to something” indicates you are willing to pay a price; and understanding that it’s not likely to be a one-time, lump sum payment; it will be an installment plan. But you’re willing to keep plodding on for the long haul because you understand that the prize of excellence, the payoff for operating at your fullest potential and achieving what you never dreamed possible, is worth the price.

Eventually, every parent, spouse, team member, business leader, coach, teacher, pastor, everyone, must decide which column they’re in: interested or committed. All must embrace the reality that high performing cultures are shaped by, strengthened by, and protected by, those who are committed to consistently excellent performance.

By the way, the column you choose doesn’t have to be announced. You never have to tell others, “I’m committed”, because when it’s true, they can tell by watching you. They see the price you pay, the disciplines you develop, the tough decisions you make, the sacrifices you endure and, ultimately, how your talk about becoming great and your daily walk align.

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Robin Cunningham

Is Your Used Vehicle Manager More of a Sales Manager or an Asset Manager?

Car key, credit card on a signed sales contract

This may seem like an odd question, but it’s at the root of a lot of challenges so many dealers have in being as successful and profitable as they can be in their Used Vehicle Departments.

Over the last two weeks at the NCM Institute, I was able to work with both a Used Vehicle class and a General Manager Executive Management class, where the primary discussion was used vehicle management.

One of the facts we deal with is that the average Used Vehicle Manager at a dealership has been in that position for less than one year.  For discussion sake, let’s say that one of the reasons could be that their predecessor got promoted to GSM or even GM.  The rest likely failed at being able to move the department successfully and profitably forward.

Two weeks ago during introductions, in the Used Vehicle Management I class, a young man stated that he had just been “promoted” to Used Vehicle Manager 2-3 weeks prior.  He had been the New Vehicle Manager for about a year before that and sold cars for a couple of years before that.   Without trying to  put him on the spot,  I casually asked him how much training he had gotten all the way back to his “selling days,” and then as he became a New Vehicle Manager.  He was given very little as a sales person and effectively none upon being “promoted” to a New Vehicle Sales Manager.  This really is the norm in our industry.  The very good news for this young man (and the dealer that chose to send him to us for some education and training;) is that he is going to have a much better chance to be successful in his new and very challenging position as a Used Vehicle Manager in today’s unforgiving marketplace.

This scenario of someone being “promoted” to Used Vehicle Manager from a New Vehicle Manager is very common, actually.  It is likely that this person has become a good closer and desk manager.  They may even have become good at working with salespeople on a daily basis to help them become more successful and productive.  This, however, does not prepare the person for almost any of the skills necessary in becoming successful as a Used Vehicle Manager.

Maybe one of the most key skills is the appraisal process.  This is every dealership’s #1 source of Used Vehicle Inventory.  We had a dealer’s daughter in class late last year who spent a number of years outside the dealership gaining experience in other environments.  This included working as an appraiser/buyer at Car Max.  When we were going around the room talking about people’s appraisal experience and philosophies, this young woman kind of stunned the guys in the room with just how thorough of an Appraisal Process she learned and performed while working at Car Max….it took her five minutes to explain the process.  When she was done, the one question that had come to my mind was how much training was she provided in order to do appraisals that thoroughly.  She thought about it for a second and said 6-7 MONTHS!!!  I then went around the room asking others how much training they had before they were allowed to appraise cars.  As you might imagine, the consensus was pretty close to zero.

As I often say we are only trying to uncover upside OPPORTUNITY for our students to identify and return to their dealerships with realistic ways to achieve them.

So, going back to the title of this blog: Is your Used Vehicle Manager more of a sales manager or an Asset Manager? More and more dealers are realizing that in today’s market, if they are going to get the greatest gross profit, and equally or more importantly, the maximum return on investment, they need someone to be a full time asset manager of their multi-million dollar investment in used vehicle inventory.

So beyond just the appraisal process that is so vital, there are also the STRATEGIES for: the software tools we use (AXX, First Look, vAuto, Red Bumper, etc.); pricing and re-pricing; reconditioning; internet presence (price, pictures, descriptions, placement); wholesaling (both primary wholesale and over-aged wholesale); tradeWalk/stock walk; model inventory, and so much more.

With the majority of salesforces being combined, selling both new and used vehicles, there really are plenty of people that are good closers and desk people.  So think seriously about making sure you have a dedicated Used Vehicle ASSET Manager – It’s more than a full time job itself.

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Tom Hopkins

Setting Realistic Sales Goals

Success conceptAchieving sales volume goals is one of the biggest challenges any automotive salesperson faces. This is a pretty straight forward industry. If you’re not making the cut, you can quickly find yourself cut from the team.

There are so many factors that can affect that final number, that you have to stay on top of every aspect of your sales activities and keep making client contacts.

Hopefully, you are dedicated, professional, and motivated to achieve your auto sales career goals. If you are not, read no further. Instead, start looking for another product to market, something that lights a fire in your belly, something you truly believe in.

If you aren’t truly excited about the product you are offering, it will show in your demeanor or in some little thing you say or do while with potential clients. They’ll sense it, and little doubts and fears will arise in them about purchasing your vehicle. So, first and foremost, in order to achieve anything in this business, you have to believe in your line of vehicles, in the company you represent, and in your own ability to excite others about them.

Let’s assume for now, though, that you do have the knowledge, the belief and the right attitude in place. How do you set and achieve the sales goals? Start, by setting a financial goal for yourself for the year. Break it down into quarters and months. Is the monthly goal realistic? If not, you either need to downsize your goal or super-size your skills. You decide.

Next, consider the average amount you earn on a typical automobile sale. Divide that into your monthly earning goal to see how many vehicles you need to move this month. Consider your gut reaction and first thoughts when you see that number. Is it one of “Hey, I can do that”? Or, is it, “Wow! How am I going to do that?”

If it seems easy, consider increasing your sales goal. If it seems like it will be a challenge, good. Your goal should be something that both excites you and makes you stretch a bit each month.

When you’re in stretch-mode:

  • You’ll be open to learning new ways of connecting with people.
  • You’ll look forward to making follow up calls and contacting those who are referred to you.
  • You’ll get out of bed in the morning with excitement to face the day and accomplish something positive.

This next step in achieving your goals is critical: Multiply your sales ratio by the number of vehicles determined above to learn how many people you need to connect with this month. Do you typically sell every fourth client you meet at your dealership? If so, your ratio is 1:4. If you need to get people happily involved in 10 vehicles to achieve your earnings goal, you’ll need to meet 40 of them in order to do so. That’s when you’re working with the law of averages.

Is it realistic for you to meet 40 people this month? If not, again, you either downsize your goals or learn new and better ways to meet people, put them at ease, and get them to like you, trust you, and want to listen to you.

That’s the bottom line of what selling is all about. People buy from people they like.

  • If you’re not like-able, you’re out of luck.
  • If you’re not knowledgeable, they won’t trust you.
  • If you want people to listen to you and take your advice about vehicle ownership, you have to learn to listen to them.
  • If you ask questions and get them talking, they’ll tell you exactly what they want to own…not just the make and model of the vehicle, but the features, the economy, the cool color, whatever it is that will make them say, “Yes, that’s the car for me.”

So, in getting back to these 40 people you need to meet this month, where are you going to connect with them? Hopefully, you’re not one of those salespeople who waits in the lot, hoping the company advertising campaign will bring ‘em in droves. To achieve your automotive selling goals, you have to invest time in reaching out to people all on your own.

Call your past clients to see if they’re still happy with their vehicles. These calls shouldn’t take more than two minutes each. It’s just a way of touching base, making them feel important and giving them an opportunity to tell you once again how happy they are. If they’re happy, you have the right to ask them for referral business. If they’re not, you need to know about it because their unhappiness can cost you a lot of future business.

Knowing your target for meeting people is the way to achieve the sales goals you’re reaching for.


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Kevin Cunningham

Imitation is the highest form of flattery for 20 Groups, too.

Business Team

Peer collaboration can come in many forms; it can come from conferences, blogs such as this one, news publications, discussion boards, and social media platforms.  Those are all good ways to share ideas, but there comes a time when surface-level chat doesn’t cut it.  When it’s time to get serious about taking your business to the next level; when you know you need to step out of the day-to-day business in order to work on the business, there’s no better platform in our industry than a 20 Group. Granted, I’m biased, but if you’re in a 20 Group or have been in a 20 Group in the past, you know nothing compares to the idea sharing and consistent and ongoing operational improvement and accountability that comes with peer collaboration among similar sized, like-franchise dealer peers in a true 20 Group environment.

But what is it that makes a 20 Group unique and separates it from other ways of collaborating?

As the automotive industry pioneer in 20 Groups, we’ve found that in order for the members to get the most benefit from their 20 Group experience, the following must be present:

  • Confidentiality
  • Non-competing dealerships
  • 20 or so members—that’s the peer collaboration sweet spot
  • Detailed analytical tools to help you compare your operation to your peers and Benchmark-level performers
  • Vigorous business discussions among all group members
  •  Members control agendas, meeting locations and who can join

That last point is an important distinction. We’ve found that when the members of the group have ownership over whether a dealer is or isn’t a market conflict, who to include in the group, where and when they meet, and what they discuss when they meet, the group will be more cohesive, stable and self-sustaining.  On a related note, your moderator should not arbitrarily bring in guest speakers, or dominate your meeting by consulting or selling; at least with NCM, we are going to let you control your meeting.

Those of us at NCM Associates have thoroughly enjoyed watching our innovatively-simple idea blossom into what is an invaluable asset to many car dealers and dealership managers, and to business owner-operators in many other industries as well.  We also consider it flattering that so many have emulated our concept.

We have seen other organizations and individuals offer traditional 20 Groups over the years, but don’t be fooled—a discussion platform, a conference or a training seminar is not a 20 Group. These formats have a place in the conversation, but they will never match the power of face-to-face collaboration where many lifelong friendships and accountability partners are born and endure.

So, remember:

  • If your competition is or can be there, it isn’t a 20 Group
  • If anyone can join, it isn’t a 20 Group
  • If there are hundreds of people involved, it isn’t a 20 Group
  • And if you don’t control the conversation, it isn’t an NCM 20 Group!

What do you think?  Are you confused by all the talk about what is and isn’t a true 20 Group?  Are you in a traditional 20 Group or have you found another form of peer collaboration that works for you?

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Jeff Cowan

The Myths of Writing Service Part 1


Myths are dangerous things. They are created from misinformation and the unknown.  For example: it was only a few thousand years ago that it was generally believed that if you sailed too far out to sea, you would fall off the end of the earth. It was only when man sailed out beyond what they had previously sailed out to that they proved the myth wrong. There was a time when people actually believed that the moon was made of cheese. That was disproven with the aid of powerful telescopes. Or that myth that if your wife is happy, everyone is happy. Wait a minute, that last one is not a myth, or at least that is what my wife tells me.

In the automotive industry, there are myths that exist today regarding service writing even though they have been disproven many times over by service writers themselves actually disproving them. Even though they have been disproven, many still hang on to these myths. Why? I believe it is because by allowing the myth to exist, it can be an excuse not to change. An excuse that allows many to be lazy and not recognize problems. Problems that may require change or some simple sweat equity. Or it could be that the myth has such strong reasoning behind it that we just accept it as truth.

Today, I list some of the most common myths surrounding the writing of service and hopefully, once and for all, make the many believers of these myths see otherwise.

Myth: If you write service and have a high closing ratio and high customer paid repair order averages, then it is impossible to have high survey scores and/or high customer retention.

Fact: I know hundreds of service writers who complete the trifecta month after month year after year.  The difference is how hard you are willing to train a person and hold them accountable. If you expect and allow the myth to come true, it will, but it doesn’t have to. Think high-end restaurant here.  If you visit a five star restaurant, like Ruth’s Chris you will experience servers that please people, sell plenty of appetizers, desserts and drinks, and have people return in the future and request them.  As a matter of fact, if they cannot do those things, their service will not be retained and they will be let go. They accomplish the trifecta because they are trained to and then held accountable.

Myth: It takes at least a year before a service advisor can be a top producer.

Fact: If it takes that long, you simply hired the wrong person, did not train the person to be successful, or the person has no goals and desire to perform. If a new service writer is not meeting or exceeding your minimum standards within ninety days of their start date, it is likely they never will. If this is a concern for you, change your interview practices and/or your training program.

Myth: Finding a great service advisor is next to impossible.

Fact: The average service writer makes $65,000 annually, gets two weeks paid vacation, and has a benefit package that rivals some of the biggest industries.  An employment package like this puts them in the top twenty-five to thirty percent of income earners in the country. It allows them to have a house that will average 2300 square feet and drive a new vehicle in the thirty-five thousand dollar range.  And if they have a spouse that works, add in another vehicle and another eight hundred square feet of house.  All that said and you can’t find these employees? You need help with your ads, your interviewing techniques and help in knowing how to sell a marvelous, highly satisfying, and rewarding career like service writing.

Myth: A great service writer rarely makes a great manager.

Fact: Not if you pull them out of their job writing service one day and then stick them in the manager’s chair the next without any coaching.  The mistake I see here is we constantly put people in management because they understand the technical side of the business, are well liked, and appear to want to go the extra mile.  The first and most important thing to look for in a new manager is their ability to lead, make decisions, and make those around them better. Those are things, just like the technical side of the business that can be taught and learned by a willing student. To develop tomorrow’s leaders from today’s service writers, you have to teach them how to lead and make good decisions as they perform today’s job. Teach them to prepare for the next step up the ladder as they occupy their current step.

Myth: Service writers can handle more than fifteen customers a day.

Fact: Not if you want to have high survey scores, high customer retention, high closing ratios, high customer paid sales and the maximum profits. For years, I have said this in nearly every meeting I conduct. If you allow your service writers to write more then fifteen repair orders a day, then forget about the high numbers in the fore mentioned areas. If you choose that path, you are now limiting your service writers to be high volume clerks.  You can and will make some profits off the high volume sales template, as that is the very way most dealerships allow their service writers to work. But the other numbers simply will not be there for one reason: lack of time.  If you want to have high survey scores, customer retention, closing ratios, hours per repair order, and maximum profits, you have to give your writers the time to sell and work with the customers. You only have the right in my mind to expect high numbers in all categories if you limit and control the number of tickets written in a day to fifteen or less.

Myth: Service writers will not do what is asked of them like walk around vehicles and memorize word tracks or respond well to authority.

Fact: No, they do not respond to weak leaders and weak leadership.  If that is your problem, then your problem is clearly a question of you or your manager’s ability to lead and command respect. Think of your service writers as vendors.  It is a business deal.  You require them to do what you ask, and they either do it and get to remain on your preferred vendors list or they do not do what you require and you find a new vendor.  Easy to do. Read myth three again.

Myth: It takes a special service writer to be able to handle high line vehicles because high end customers are different.

Fact: High line customers are rarely different than the non-high line customer.  As a matter of fact, they many times are the same exact customer. Literally.  For example, I drive a Mercedes, my wife drives a Ford.  Furthermore, look at the very street I live on.  There are fifteen houses.  Each driveway has either a Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Porche, Tesla, or Lexus in it. In addition, each of those driveways is Ford, Chevy, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, or Honda. Regardless of which vehicle we drive, we simply want to go to a place where they are enthusiastic, caring, honest, can get the job done, and where their skill and approach make us want to return for future visits. My CFO is a perfect example.  When she needs service, she drives past her Infiniti dealership to do business with the Toyota dealership simply because, in her words, “I get better service at the Toyota dealership.

As I have noted many times, I am a student of history.  Studying history I have seen time and time again that once a myth is dispelled, great advances routinely follow. In the future, whenever you hear something that sounds like a myth or hear an excuse from your staff and those in the business that impedes your ability to advance; question it, challenge it, and test it before succumbing to its restraints. Then you will be poised to break free from the myth’s chains that bind and make advances that will make your Dealer Principal happy. Because, in the end, it gets down to one simple fact-like being married, if the Dealer is happy, everybody is happy – and that ain’t no myth.

Jeff Cowan is considered the creator of the modern day walk around and selling processes for service departments everywhere. His company, Jeff Cowan’s PRO TALK, Inc. is recognized as North America’s number 1 fixed operations training company.

©Copyright Wm. Jeff Cowan 2015

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Tony Albertson

Are Your Managers Being Followed or Just Tolerated?

business team in meeting on dark background

So there I was, the third newly-hired General Manager in two and a half years in a struggling automotive dealership and faced with the task of evaluating the competence of the existing department managers. These were the managers that would be required to support the renewed vision of the dealer and institute the processes that would hopefully get the store on its feet.  I needed leaders. Were they worth keeping? Should I just blow them all out and start fresh? How do you know?  I of course wanted to give them the opportunity to be successful, but do temporary results lead to long term progress?  At one time or another in my career I have read and studied every management book I could get my hands on but the question remained. Where to start?  It is often funny where our answers come from…

As a young man I had this old guy that lived next door.  I would see him from time to time out walking his fuzzy little dog and didn’t think much of him.  What I didn’t know at the time was that he was a highly decorated retired naval captain and, typical of many combat vets, he lived in total anonymity being mostly taken for granted by the casual observer. At seventeen years old I was just as self-obsessed as anyone my age, but one day this “old guy” got my attention. Initially it was a result of his slightly dark, self-deprecating sense of humor.  I noticed this first as it was being directed at me and my frustrated attempts to get a stubborn lawnmower started.  I thought to myself, “Wait a minute…the old dude that lives next door, that I don’t even know, is making fun of me.”  When I looked up to proffer an indignant teenager scowl and snappy retort, I was greeted by the ornery smile of a mischievous schoolboy pasted to the face of, well, an old guy. I liked him instantly.

Over time, the old captain shared many sea stories and descriptions of combat that would keep me enthralled for hours at a time. He shared both the horror and the glory with a deep sense of humility and grace. Fast forward many years to my current situation in taking over a new dealership, and one particular conversation stood out.

I had asked him what was more difficult, following orders or as his career progressed, assigning the people to carry out the orders? He thought about this for a moment and shared a about time he was required to pick two young lieutenants to lead men into harm’s way. The mission was important, dangerous and had to be accomplished, but who were the right officers to lead it? He had many young lieutenants under his command to choose from.  Some were all spit and polish, some were by the book and cautious, most were equally trained, and all wanted the opportunity to prove their worth as officers.  Every officer under his command understood the importance of planning, logistics and execution of a plan, and all, in theory, should be able to lead the mission.  But the question came down to this; if, in theory they can all lead…who would be followed?

We have all seen this at one time or another; an intelligent manager with all the knowledge given the responsibility of leading a group to an expected result and falling short. Ultimately because he or she was not being “followed” by their subordinates—they were just being “tolerated.”

These same managers have read all the books, attended the seminars and in the end were pronounced a “qualified leader.”  If you happen to work for one of these qualified leaders they frequently feel the need to remind you who the boss is because you are obviously not smart enough to remember.  If they happen to work for you they are the first to sing their own praises, point out the deficiency in others, and the validity of their own ideas. It is not unusual to see people roll their eyes as they pass and the so-called leader remains oblivious.  Would you follow this guy?

At the end of the day, what is a leader?

Simply put, a leader is someone that is being followed, not just tolerated.  Take a look at your managers.  Are they just being tolerated because your employees care enough about you and the store not to leave?  The net results of this situation are mediocre at best.  Or are they following the person that you appointed to carry out the company’s mission to its highest result?

A manager can have all the knowledge, bright ideas and understanding of your vision, but it is the ability to build conviction in others that makes the leader.

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Dave Anderson

Building a High Performance Culture (Part 16)

This article is part of a multi-part series titled “Building a High Performance Culture” by Up To Speed Guest Expert, Dave Anderson, of LearnToLead®.


Words that Work: Discipline

In this sixteenth post on building a high performance culture, I want to put in the “words that work” column a word that fuels the consistency that separates good performers and organizations from great ones: discipline.

I’ll expand on discipline momentarily, but to improve your perspective on this culture series, please review the following “words that work” from past posts.

  • These concepts must be consistently woven into your culture to strengthen it.
  • The “words that hurt” and their ensuing mindsets, must be just as diligently weeded out of your culture.
  • These two categories are designed to build an evolving portrait of what a high performance culture looks like so you can evaluate your own, and strive towards the ideal.

Words that work:

Earn: to acquire through merit.

Deserve: to be worthy of; to qualify for.

Consistent: constantly adhering to the same principles.

Hope: grounds for believing something in the future will happen.

Catalyst: a person or thing that makes something happen.

Responsible: to be the primary cause of something.

Tough-minded: strong willed, vigorous, not easily swayed.

Loyal: faithfulness to one’s duties or obligations.

Passion: a strong feeling or enthusiasm about something, or about doing something. 

Words that hurt:

Fault: responsibility for failure.

Blame: to assign responsibility for failure.

Excuse: a plea offered to explain away a fault or failure.

Mediocre: average, ordinary, not outstanding.

Wish: to want something that cannot, or probably will not happen.

Entitle: a claim to something you feel you are owed.

Sloth: reluctance to work or exert effort; laziness.

Complacent: calmly content, smugly self-satisfied.

Maintain: to cause (something) to exist or continue without changing.

Apathy: a lack of enthusiasm, interest or concern.

Discipline is defined as: an activity, regimen or exercise that develops or improves a habit or skill.

To help grasp the importance of disciplined people working within a disciplined culture, consider the following points on discipline:

  1. Discipline serves as fuel for consistency. It powers the development of healthy habits and routines instrumental for reducing the wide up and down swings of business performance.
  2. A narrower focus on who and what matters most stimulates discipline. The marriage of narrowed focus and more discipline makes decision making easier; it helps you know what to say “yes” or “no” to so you can stay on track and do more of what matters most.
  3. Discipline without direction is drudgery. Discipline simply for the sake of discipline does not inspire. But when discipline is developed because it leads you towards a compelling purpose it can help make you unstoppable.
  4. Discipline isn’t about doing a lot of things every day; it’s about executing the handful of daily activities most necessary to move towards your goals.
  5. Disciplined people have more, not fewer, options as they progress through business and life. Discipline isn’t a jailer, it is a liberator.
  6. Disciplined people, pulled forward by a compelling purpose, consistently do what is right day-in and day-out; not just when it’s easy, cheap, popular or convenient.
  7. Discipline isn’t “punishment,” it’s a morale builder. You always feel better about yourself when you do what is right, what you’ve committed to do; whether it’s saying “no” to the cheesecake when dieting, or making the ten calls you said you’d make before leaving for home.

As a final thought on discipline, I’d like to suggest that the alternative to discipline is disaster. Evidence of this principle abounds in the lives of businesses and individuals who waste time and resources chasing silver bullets, quick fixes, and implementing successions of failed flavors of the month, while their disciplined counterparts steadily plod along to new performance levels.

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