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Chris Kahrs

Chris Kahrs

Author's details

Name: Chris Kahrs
Date registered: September 17, 2015


Chris Kahrs brings more than 17 years of experience to NCM, with extensive expertise in multi-facility management and dealer operations. He joined the automotive industry in 1997 at Ewald Ford Lincoln Mercury in Wisconsin, working his way from sales associate to finance manager, and then to new car manager at the Ewald Automotive Group. He joined the John Amato Automotive Group in 2002 as the Mazda new car manager and progressed to become the vice president of variable operations for John Amato’s three locations in Milwaukee. Before making the move to NCM, Chris worked as a general sales manager and general manager for the Mossy Automotive Group in California. He attended Martin Luther College in Minnesota and the Golf Academy of America in Florida with concentration in Business Management. Chris resides in Mesa, Arizona.

Latest posts

  1. Building Your Bench Strength — November 10, 2016
  2. Don’t Let a Volume-First Culture Distract from Maximizing Gross — May 12, 2016
  3. Training: Revenue Priority or Corporate Risk — December 1, 2015
  4. Don’t Lose Your Best: Employee Retention Starts Day One — September 17, 2015

Most commented posts

  1. Don’t Let a Volume-First Culture Distract from Maximizing Gross — 2 comments
  2. Don’t Lose Your Best: Employee Retention Starts Day One — 1 comment

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Chris Kahrs

Building Your Bench Strength

Weight lifting

Addressing personnel changes and challenges can occasion lengthy conversations. I’d say that the most often asked question is, “Where do I find my next manager?” As dealerships continue to experience rapid turnover and acquisitions—and promote good employees into management—many organizations struggle to find replacements for vacancies.

Prepare for the unavoidable

It’s generally when they’ve lost an employee that dealers realize they have no one in their organization to assume that particular role. Dealers are forced to search outside their organizations for a candidate who shares their business’s values, culture, work ethic and vision. This hunt can be exhaustive, and the process is disruptive to the daily operations of the organization.

Why your team is critical

To use a sports analogy, each team has its starters suited up and ready to go for each game. When one of those starters gets hurt, a “bench player” is the next man up to assume that role. That bench player has been preparing for a scenario like this and is ready to perform. Yet in a lot of automotive organizations, there isn’t a bench player who has been coached to assume the role of the starter should there be the need.

How to create a strong bench

Weak bench strength is a problem for a number of reasons. First, it means you must spend time and money to find an outside replacement. And, more importantly, that unnoticed bench player is likely to leave. I honestly believe that one the greatest threats to your dealership is for an overlooked bench player—one who is not being groomed for advancement—to leave. And they will. Sensing the lack of opportunity, individuals like this will typically depart for greener pastures should they have the opportunity, thus leaving your organization searching for yet another replacement.

Here are my suggestions to improve your bench strength:

  • Train and educate from the top down to develop future organizational leaders
  • Cross train for diversity
  • Create peer-leader relationships
  • Create a career path with clear and defined advancement opportunities
  • Train, coach, motivate and encourage personal development

Filing managerial vacancies can be challenging for many organizations; however, you may already have an individual eager and ready to perform if given the opportunity. By building your bench, you can create future leaders from within your organization. Work on developing one to strengthen your overall talent pool.

Learn more about Chris Kahrs and how he and his NCM colleagues can help your dealership through 20 Groups and in-dealership consulting.

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Chris Kahrs

Don’t Let a Volume-First Culture Distract from Maximizing Gross


With the rising pressure to hit volume objectives in the new vehicle operations, have you developed a volume-first culture? If so, it might be leading you astray.

Now, I’m not suggesting you abandon volume. That would be absurd. However, I am suggesting that you look at your processes to maximize every opportunity while simultaneously obtaining volume objectives and inventory turn.

A volume-first culture may cause inconsistency in your deals.

On the first of the month, you have established your new vehicle target number with your management team; yet, if you are like a lot of dealerships, you work the deals differently on Day 1 than on Day 30.

At the beginning of the month, we are more focused on the gross of the deal. We tend to work each deal to the end and try to maximize every dollar that we can and no matter what, make the deal.

As the month progresses, though, we lose that focus and begin to take each deal without maximizing the opportunity. By the time the last day of the month arrives, we have now become order takers rather than deal makers. If you closely watch your monthly trend report, you’ll see that the pacing of volume and gross becomes quite different by the last few days of the month. In most cases, the volume tracks upward while the gross trends downward.

It’s not just volume—gross matters, too!

What’s the difference between Day 1 of the month and Day 30 of the month? Your focus on the bigger picture. Yes, the team is meeting the volume goals set earlier in the month, but they’ve achieved volume at the cost of revenue.

The trick to reaching volume and maximizing income is to stay true to your processes. Here are my suggestions:

  • Recognize that you are going to take the deal.
    • If there is a way to make the deal, you are going to take it.
    • Negotiating the deal is not a bad thing: Remember, you are going to take it anyway!
  • Start each deal like you have already hit the month’s volume objective.
    • No matter what day of the month it is, adopt the mindset that you have hit the number and are going to maximize each opportunity. (Remember, you are going to take the deal. We both know it.)
  • Stabilize the desking process.
    • Your desking process is your process and shouldn’t change, regardless of the day of the month.
    • Make sure everyone that works a deal knows the process inside and out to maintain consistency
  • Don’t change your T.O. process.
    • Your manager intervention/T.O. process should remain the same no matter what.
    • Establish who is best for each situation.
  • Stick to your finance process.
    • You have your submission, introduction process and reset processes set. Use them 100% of the time.
    • Make sure your process is sustainable through slow and extremely busy times. There can’t be a weakness or shortcut to this process.

Volume and gross create strong margins

You already have the mindset to take every deal. And, you do that to meet volume objectives. That’s fine, but that volume-first approach doesn’t mean you have to lose the gross opportunity, too.

How much more money would you have made last month if you would have added $100, $200, $300 or more to each new vehicle you delivered? Now, look at the last ten days of the month and compare to the first ten: How do the grosses look? Are they similar or drastically different? You still took the deal on Day 1 as you did on the last day of the month. How did your processes change between the two? Most likely a lot.

You can’t afford to cultivate just a volume-first culture. Instead, adopt a philosophy that your dealership will maximize every opportunity and follow your processes to drop more money to the bottom line and still obtain your volume objective.

What have been the impacts of a volume-first approach at your dealership? How do you balance gross with volume? Tell us below.

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Chris Kahrs

Training: Revenue Priority or Corporate Risk

business team having meeting in office

It’s a common corporate dilemma: What if we train people and they leave, taking all that knowledge—and investment—with them? But what if they stay and we haven’t helped them improve? Are the risks worth the reward?

Employee needs are corporate needs

Balancing business needs against staff development is tricky. But, no matter the product or service, companies need good, highly-skilled employees. Investing in the continued professional development of people is beneficial, both for employee morale and the corporation’s bottom line.

Training improves revenue

Training in the Automotive Industry needs to be a priority and effective. According to “Training Magazine” sales and product knowledge training lead to increased revenue and market share, while service training can lead to better customer experiences and brand loyalty. HR Magazine reports that companies investing $1,500 or more per employee per year on training averaged 24% higher profits than companies with lower yearly training investments.

Stop talking and start doing

Talking about training and executing a defined training plan are not the same thing.

Training must be a priority within your organization. The auto industry needs to change our mindset from thinking training is a cost to be minimized to view it as an expense that can help our company achieve its goals. Learning and development programs need to keep pace with the shifting company goals.

That doesn’t mean that “training for training’s sake” is a good use of resources. Each organization needs to critically consider its goals for the coming year, and determine how likely it is your staff can meet these milestones with their current knowledge. If you identify a gap, address it immediately—the sooner your staff is trained, the sooner you’ll be meeting or even exceeding annual revenue and sales goals!

How do annual goals and projections influence your dealership’s training needs? Has targeted training made the difference?

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Chris Kahrs

Don’t Lose Your Best: Employee Retention Starts Day One


I read something shocking the other day.

According to Forbes, the average annual raise an employee can expect is 3%. But our high inflation rate means that’s really about 1%.

But, if a top employee chooses to jump ship? They can expect anywhere from a 10 to 20% bump in salary. Sometimes as much as 50%.

FIFTY PERCENT? That’s a lot of money. No wonder employee turnover can be so bad!

Money is a motivator, but not the only one

What?! I know you’re thinking. I can’t afford to give a 20% raise each year, no matter how great an employee he is!

I get it. But the fact is that top talent is leaving every day and, unless you do something to stop it, you are likely to see your best people walk out the door.

Fortunately for us, people are motivated by more than money. The Pride Staff 2015 Employee Retention Survey reports that 17.5% of interview job seekers were looking for more money. But nearly as many – 16.2% – were looking to leave because they didn’t like the company culture or wanted more training! That’s means we have an opportunity to fix things.

Good retention starts Day One

When you have a great company culture, top talent will be willing to invest in you. I recommend that you establish your company culture early, starting with a solid onboarding process.

Here’s my 10-Step Onboarding Process:

  1. Before the first day, tell them who to ask for when they arrive. Ideally, have this be someone involved in the hiring process. A familiar face upon walking in the dealership is very welcoming!
  2. In that same conversation, tell them where to park so they aren’t embarrassed by being asked to move their vehicle on the first day.
  3. Email—or leave on their desk – their first month schedule. Include details about meetings and list a goal for each day.
  4. Prior to the new employee’s start date, tell the entire organization to expect them and encourage them to say hello.
  5. Clean and prep their work station before their arrival. Do they have all of the tools necessary? Does everything work? Make sure everything is in order.
  6. Have their paperwork packet ready when they arrive. Most, if not all, new hires know there is important paperwork to sign. This shows the new hire you’re prepared and value their time.
  7. Prepare all needed log-ins and passwords and set up their voicemail. (This helps you, too. Remember: This new employee has told several people where he is working and he/she may get calls on day #1. No voicemail = potential lost opportunities!)
  8. Give them a thorough tour of the facility when they arrive, and introduce them to the staff.
  9. Clarify the schedule for the first week and month. Review the expectations of the employee in their new role.
  10. Explain your organization’s goals and future outlook and how he or she fits into them.

Retention matters … every single day

You can’t forget about retention once that new employee is settled in. If anything, it’s more important than ever!

Show your staff that you’re willing to invest in them with training and career development. Not only will it improve their performance, but it will give them another reason to stay with your business.

My last recommendation is to keep your eye on the ever-changing market. Make sure you stay up-to-date with current employment and benefit trends, so you attract – and retain – the best staff for your business. Review your procedures, such as the onboarding process I outline above, with your management and make sure they are following it.

Remember: The better your company culture, the more likely you are to keep your best talent!

Have a great retention tool at your business? Comment below and share your expertise.

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