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Rebecca Chernek

Is Your Menu Working You or Are You Working The Menu?

Car key, credit card on a signed sales contract

AutoNation USA, the #1 publicly-owned automotive retailer, opened its doors as a mega “one pricing” pre-owned operation in 1997. It built elaborate showrooms; county records show one was 218,000 square feet. The showrooms included a café, a playroom and an aftermarket display platform.

Kiosks with computers were placed throughout the store enabling consumers to efficiently check out in-stock inventory or to submit a loan application. Customers were greeted at these kiosks by F&I personnel, which meant that all deliveries were made out on the floor. The finance office was used strictly for printing documents.

Most importantly, AutoNation was the principal leader of full disclosure selling in finance—a transparent, upfront sales philosophy. Using this philosophy as its key initiative has served them well. In a recent 2013 article posted by Bernie Woodall in Reuters, AutoNation’s earnings beat Wall Street estimates. Michael Jackson reported that he expects “U.S. industry new vehicles sales to reach the mid-15 million range in 2013, which would mark a rise of about 7 percent from last year and the highest sales total since 2007.” Its F&I profits also reached an all-time record, up 31 percent from the fourth quarter of 2011. F&I Showroom’s February 21, 2013, issue reported that AutoNation’s total revenue reached $4.2 billion, up 13% since last year.

Those are impressive numbers.

You’re thinking that managing $1,300 per car isn’t always achievable, but it might be, if you shared their zero tolerance for deceptive practices. If your customers walk away with any hint of dishonesty, you can almost assure yourself of a chargeback. Your “best practices” application begins with the menu presentation. Where do you stand? Do you disclose every single buying term before presentation of products? Do you try to work the system – and fail to realize that full disclosure selling is the means to significant sales achievement?

Since implementing menu selling for the AutoNation mega dealer in 1997, our division has presented thousands of menus on the showroom floor. The F&I PVR increased significantly year after year. We used paper menus. Unfortunately, F&I managers today are using a variety of online menu versions that inspire “rush” service—service that might not present every part of the menu or full disclosure 100% of the time. The menus are super-streamlined and programmed from one software provider to another; they make a list of claims about your potential to significantly increase your F&I profits, if you use their software. You might. For a time. Especially if you don’t fully understand the reason behind full disclosure selling and why, if the terms are removed from the menu verbiage in the software menu version, the dealer is open to potential law suits.

Inspect the menu version you’re currently using. Does it itemize buying numbers, APR, terms or base payment of the vehicle purchase? Is every product listed with full discloser? Does your state (like California) require the discloser of the base payment prior to presentation of products? Do you take whatever time is necessary with every customer to clearly disclose what they’re paying for the vehicle and all terms?

Tom Hudson, in F&I Magazine, said, “So, even if federal law and the law of your state do not require the disclosure of an optional products menu, would I advise a dealer to use one and to disclose a ‘base payment’ as part of the menu presentation? Without a second thought.”

Menu selling isn’t a time-wasting chore.
Think KISS—Keep it Simple Silly.

To be successful with menu selling, be consistent. Establish a well-rehearsed system that is interactive with your customer. Know the terms; define them with clarity. Don’t pack an endless number of products on the menu. Stick to basics. A menu is not a scroll. Itemize all products and offer two payment options. Be upfront and customer friendly. Offer all the products 100% of the time, but stick to the point. Don’t ramble. Throw out the sales jargon, pitches and props, Get rid of the aftermarket sales kits on the walls or your desk. Act like the professional you are, but treat your customer with the same courtesy you would your neighbor. Don’t think of your menu presentation as a gimmick.

If your online menu or next best menu presentation takes longer than five minutes, consider utilizing a printed menu that keeps you on track. Remember, less is more! A delivery should take no more than 30 minutes. Most customers would rather work with an F&I manager who presents a paper menu effectively than an automated menu that promises a quick fix! Automated online presentation technology might represent the paperless, so-called “green” future, but it won’t take the place of hands-on customer service that comes with the presentation of menu products on paper that can be held.

Follow AutoNation’s lead. It has demonstrated convincingly that full disclosure selling is the driver behind their success. They have mastered the F&I office, and their ethical standard of business practices prevails. If you aren’t achieving over $1,000 PVR, ask yourself: Is your menu working you or are you working the menu?

Becky Chernek is a regular contributor to the Up To Speed blog on F&I best practices. To learn more about Chernek Consulting or to find out if your desking process supports full disclosure menu selling, visit, email, or call 404-276-4026.


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NCM Associates

What are You Thankful For?


In honor of the holiday, a few of us would like to take a moment and share what we’re thankful for this year. Let us know what you’re thankful for in the comments below.

“I am Thankful for my family & friends. I am thankful for the opportunity to work with a company that has an ESOP and cares so much about the future of its customers and employees. May God bless each and every one of us.”Kim Mishmash, NCM Retail Operations Administrative Manager

“This year, I am thankful for: Phenomenal orchestral scores that tug at my heartstrings; delicious foods that make my mouth happy; the necessities (enough food, shelter and money) that allow me to live the kind of life I want; supportive (and sometimes silly) coworkers who enhance my work days; steadfast friends who walk with me every day of my life; sensational family that I honestly couldn’t do without; crazy felines who make every day an adventure; precious canines who can turn my frown upside down with a wag of the tail; an amazing husband who stands by me no matter what and loves me unconditionally; and the baby girl growing inside me, whom I just can’t wait to meet. I’m also thankful to work for a 100% employee-owned company, which gives me a vote in my company’s board, a say in the company’s overall direction and knowledge that what I do really does make a difference.” - Ashley Halloran, NCM Meeting Contract Coordinator

“I am thankful for all our clients who have placed their trust in us to be the resource they are looking for.” - Kevin F. Cunningham, NCM 20 Group Operations Director

“I am thankful that I have a job that I love and wonderful people to work with. I am thankful that my mom is happy and content at her new home at Manor Care Nursing Home.” - Susy Campbell, NCM Travel Solutions Manager

“Almost three years ago my wife Karen and I relocated to the USA from Canada. I always have and always will have a great love for the ‘Great White North’! That being stated, all my life I have watched the United States with fascination and a strong desire to spend more time here. My wife was born in Glendale, CA, but spent the majority of her life in Ontario Canada. She has always wanted to return to the US. In early 2011, with kids leaving the house, we decided it was time, we relocated to Austin, TX. Karen and I are SO thankful for careers that are a PERFECT fit, for weather that allows us to spend our personal time doing what we love: boating and golf! We are thankful for family and great friends that love to come visit us! Lastly, we now get to enjoy TWO Thanksgivings: the Canadian one in October and now the US Thanksgiving in our adopted country! This year we are VERY thankful to the ‘Canadians Living in Austin’ network, we will be enjoying Turkey, FOOTBALL, and great Canadian friends ‘living in Austin’ at our home in Lakeway, TX. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!” - Paul Kechnie, NCM Executive Conference Moderator

I am thankful that my son made it to Lackland Air Force Base in one piece and I pray the next eight weeks will fly by! - Jenifer Lefort, NCM Executive Administrative Assistant

What are you thankful for? Tell us by submitting a comment below!

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Garry House

Leaders are made…not born!

h--rek-pictures-blogs-leadership-thumb_Over the last 15 years, NCM Associates has provided hundreds of educational programs that delivered unparalleled training to thousands of dealers, general managers and department managers. However, there is one area in which we have admittedly fallen short…focused leadership training. Up until now, our primary focus has been on the “nuts and bolts” of dealership management. However, the NCM Institute faculty members, as well as many of the dealership personnel that we teach, understand that there are significant differences between leadership and management. Both are important to the success of the dealership, but in our industry there are a lot fewer effective leaders than there are effective managers. Many dealership managers recognize their leadership deficiencies and are craving in-depth training in that critical area.

Early in 2012, NCMi® committed to address this leadership training need, beginning at the general management level. I have personally accepted accountability for developing and teaching this class.

In putting together the content for this class, my research resulted in some revelations for me (and probably for the GMs who attend) that I like to refer to as “punches in the nose!” Though I didn’t get physically bloodied, these surprises really got my attention:

  • Right now, 77% of business leaders believe their employees are not giving 100%; apparently they’re not far off in their assessment, because 72% of employees admit they are not giving 100%!
  • Employees don’t leave dealerships…they leave managers.
  • In order to effectively challenge and motivate an employee to excel, you must successfully connect with the employee on an interpersonal basis.
  • Leadership cannot be taught, it can only be learned. (Maybe that lets me off the hook!)

That first bullet point is pretty scary. Nearly 75% of our employees are giving less than 100%…and more than 75% of our managers know about it!

Looking for help in developing your own or your general manager’s leadership competencies?  Call us at 866.756.2620 to discuss your needs; we’ll listen and help you find the resources appropriate for your situation.




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Joe Basil

Musclecar Dream Engine Comes True in Modern Technology

LT1This column is typically reserved for “next practice” tips for better retail automotive management, but today we’re paying homage to the source of our passion for this industry — the allure of the automobile and all it signifies. It stole our hearts and captured our imagination with dreams of speed, power and freedom on the open road. For me, the passion was sparked by the Chevrolet musclecars of the 1960s and 70s.

For all you other musclecar motorheads who used to have hair with a color other than gray, the 2014 C7 Corvette Stingray LT1 engine is a motorhead’s dream come true. It’s got all of the technology you dreamed of in the day but had no idea how to bring it to mechanical life. Just go back to the 60s and early 70s, when you were 18 and building that small block drag car. Yeah, when you pulled up to the Sunoco gas pump and cranked the octane lever to 110+; when the gas filler was behind the tail light on a fin or behind the license plate; when you burned a full tank of premium on a Friday or Saturday night street racing with your hottie.

That’s when you spent hours and hours talking to the guys at the track, trying to get the latest tricks from the speed shop and spending lots of bucks building that small block to put out every bit of horsepower you can squeeze out of it. You remember, putting in that highlift cam, swapping out the stock intake for an Edelbrock high-rise topped off with an 1100+(or larger) CFM Holley. Pulling off the heads and putting on the double bump angle plug 2.02’s. And since you switched the rear end gears and you threw out the stock distributor you had to replace it with an HEI mechanical advance and had the advance curve tweaked. Oh and don’t forget those “Hooker Headers” and a couple of Cherry Bombs just for effect.

And then when it came to race day, on the track or on the street, you checked the temperature to see if you were going to swap out those jets on the Holly, reset the base advance, and maybe adjust up those rocker arms to change the cam timing. All of those little tweaks you did under the hood with tools are now being done by computers in milliseconds without ever touching a wrench.

Back in the day, I was a musclecar motorhead and even with gray in my temples, I guess I still am.   That’s why I’m so excited about a very special event coming up later this month in Tonawanda, New York.  Where the heck is Tonawanda, New York?Tonawanda is a suburb of Buffalo and it happens to be the home of the GM powertrain plant where the 2014 C7 LT1 Corvette Stingray engine is built.

The C7 LT1 has it all. Let’s start with 450 hp out of 6.2 L. By the way, that’s 378 cu in. No need to make any adjustments anymore since we now have computer-controlled direct injection, variable valve timing with 2.13 intake valves, and computer-controlled ignition timing. By the way, remember using “plastiguage” to check your bearing clearances? Now the clearances are measured in microns. A micron? Yeah, a micron; that’s one millionth of a meter.

So how would like to see these engines being built? On August 23rd and 24th the General Motors plant in Tonawanda is having an open house. So what? It’s an engine plant, you might say; well, there’s history that goes with this plant and the Chevrolet musclecar engines it produced. When they look under the hood of 60s and 70s musclecars, collectors always look for a little rectangular sticker on the valve cover that reads “Produced by Chevrolet Tonawanda.” Not only is the Chevrolet Tonawanda engine plant noted for producing 60s and 70s musclecar engines and big block marine performance engines, it holds the world record for the most number of engines produced in one day — 8,832 (in 1988).

The plant is celebrating its 75thanniversary and is having an open house and classic car show on August 23rd and 24th. You get a full tour of the plant and the actual crews that build the engines will be explaining and showing you how they do it. I was in this plant quite often in the 1970s when we had a Chevy store close by and serviced the plant cars. I went on the tour a couple of years ago and what a drastic contrast!

It’s a great opportunity to fly into one of Buffalo’s  private aviation strips, bring your off shore boat and do some “street” racing on the Niagara River or Lake Erie, or just cruise your favorite musclecar ride to the car show. Last but not least,don’t forget to visit Frank and Teresa’s Anchor Bar (where chicken wings started) for some wings and “beef on weck.”

For details just go to GM Powertrain Tonawanda Engine 75th Anniversary on Facebook ( or give me a call and let’s wax nostalgic about the days of our shared musclecar mania!

Formerly of the Basil Automotive Group, Joe Basil is a 20 Group Moderator for NCM Associates.  NCM has many GM nameplate 20 Groups including Buick, GMC and Chevrolet dealer groups. For information, call 877.803.3631 or to reach Joe directly, email


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Gene Daughtry

Know Your Representatives

legislatureI was at an industry conference not long ago listening to a keynote presentation about our industry when the speaker said “Embrace the regulations, you cannot do anything about them.”  I was shouting to myself, WRONG!  Federally it is tough, but on a state level, you can do something.

I have been working in our state capital with my dealer association through the last two sessions of the legislature. The sessions always start slow with small bills designating post office names, highway names and recognition for sports teams. Simple bills are introduced as everyone gets acclimated to the job and procedures. As they get about half way through the session, more serious legislation starts to show up like abortion, tax reform and other, more defining bills. This is when the bills that affect the automobile industry begin to show.

Lobbyists for other industries get bills submitted that will help their industry make more money, have more control or loosen up regulations. When bills are submitted by one group to make changes, you can bet other groups are affected equally, though in different ways. Most improvements for one side are a detriment to another. You know, sales tax, towing legislation, salvage titles, driver’s license requirements, and so on.  I have worked with representatives trying to stop one bill or get another passed.  This is done by dealer association members reaching out to their representatives as local business people and asking for support or a “no” vote, depending on what is needed to help guide the lobbying effort in the right direction. Generally, your independent auto dealer association will work with other related associations that benefit from similar outcomes and reach out to their members to make calls to the politicians.

How can you as a local dealer – or any business person – help?  Know your representatives personally. Support their campaign efforts and make sure you meet with them when they are in your area. Find out who the staff members are for each representative, congressman and senator. This way, when your dealer association reaches out to you to make calls, your voice carries more weight with those who represent you.

As most legislative sessions end, shell bills (bills that are introduced without any substantive language with the intention of later being amended with the details of the proposed legislation) are piled in by everyone wanting to get consideration. This is where some really bad legislation gets rammed through via “deal making.”

Your association lobbyist and some fellow dealers are at the capital every day of the session meeting with politicians and other lobbyists working a plan of attack and trying to help guide outcomes in our industry’s favor. Is everything going to go your way? No, of course not; but there is always the next session where what you needed to have happen can come up again.

Help the people who are working on your behalf by making sure you know your representatives (and that your representatives know you) so when your association representative reaches out for help, you can make a call that counts. You can make a difference and “do something about it” if you will do a little work year-round by supporting your state dealer association and by knowing your government representatives. I have seen the results.

Buy Here Pay Here

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NCM Institute

Celebrating Independence Day in America

Today we’re taking a break from the traditional automotive retail best practices information we usually share on the Up To Speed blog to celebrate the birth of our great nation.  We thought you would enjoy some interesting facts about the Declaration of Independence we found at Read

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Jeremy Anwyl

Is Your Auto Dealership’s Sales Process Customer-Approved?

Today, we’re introducing a new Guest Expert to the Up To Speed blog. Jeremy Anwyl, Vice Chairman of will be contributing a series of articles on consumer-centric and cost-efficient marketing strategies for automotive dealerships.

customer-approvedEvery few months or so we have groups of dealers visit the Edmunds office in Santa Monica. The idea is to get “street level” market feedback and stay current on any issues dealers might be wrestling with.Along these lines, we also get together with consumers regularly to develop insights and understanding on their views on the vehicle buying process.

Some time ago we had a group of dealers in and decided to try to bridge the two exercises; basically, to get dealers thinking like consumers.To make this work, we asked to dealers to participate in the following exercise:“Imagine you have been asked to deliver the keynote at a fictional prestigious automotive conference. (Think TED for autos.)

Your selection was based on how you have reshaped the retail sales process, removed customer pain points and achieved a remarkable level of business success. In your speech, you share your secrets.”We split the dealers into two groups and give each 40 minutes to outline their speech. I found the result interesting.

Here’s the combined work from the two groups: First, the dealers identified the pain points; the things that consumers valued, but also found frustrating.

Pain point #1.  It just takes too long. The dealer nailed this one; it is a recurring theme from consumers as well. The interesting thing in talking with customers is that it is not the entire process that takes too long.  Some aspects of buying a new vehicle consumers actually enjoy. Things like checking out options or touring/viewing vehicles in inventory. Some dealers are trying out an extended delivery at the consumer’s home that consumers really like, as well. The parts of the process that take too long and the customers don’t enjoy, are getting in and out of F & I, and the back and forth of negotiations.To address these areas, the dealers talked about how they launched digital contracts, where most of the consumer and deal information could be entered online. They also proposed integrating the tools that consumers use across the Internet so the same information doesn’t have to be entered over and over again. The dealers didn’t focus on this, but it would also seem to emphasize that customers set appointments before coming into the store so the personnel can be ready and waiting.

Pain point #2.  The customer worries about paying too much. (Ripped off, using the dealers’ words.) The dealers proposed transparent pricing as the solution.

“Transparency” is a catch all term these days. Sometimes it means access to info on what other consumers paid for the same vehicle. In this context, the dealers were referring to pricing info that is freely available, with no or limited negotiation.

This worried the dealers a bit as they made the leap that if/when this kind of transparency arrives it is going to drive down margins. There is a tension they expressed as “new world pricing with old world expenses.” The dealers correctly see being more efficient as being essential to survival in the future. But also feel they are being pulled in the opposite direction by manufacturer demands for facility upgrades, etc.

The risk that margin pressure will increase is real, but there is also a chance we might be surprised in how this plays out. So far, transparency has been about a single price; specifically, a new vehicle price. But we all know that a deal involves many elements. The new vehicle price is just one.

Testing a theory, I asked our analysts to run some data. They ranked a set of new vehicle transactions, in order, based on the new vehicle gross. This ranked list was divided into four groups.

My suspicion was that for deals with a lower new vehicle margin, dealers work harder to make up for the “loss” by pushing for higher margins in other areas.   (Think of the old four square.) Charging a bit more for the loan, or offering a bit less for the trade. This might not work in all cases, but across a broad enough number of deals a pattern should emerge.

The group with the highest new vehicle margin was a bit of a surprise in that the interest rate paid was also higher and the appraised value lower than the other groups. Apparently there is a group of consumers—even today—that makes a mess of buying a vehicle. They pay way over the norms in all areas. (They averaged paying over $2,000 more overall!) Let’s forget this group for a moment.

There is also a small subset of the deal with the lowest margins. These buyers are very savvy shoppers who are willing to put enormous time into getting the absolutely lowest price, often have no trade and don’t use dealer financing.  Let’s ignore this group as well.

Looking at the remaining transactions—roughly 60% of the market— there is a pattern where the new vehicle gross and the margin on other deal elements are inversely correlated.

Seems to me that this accounts for much of the frustration that consumers associate with vehicle purchases. The greater the focus on the new vehicle price, the greater the level frustration with the overall negotiation.

The dealers see a future with more transparent pricing around all the elements of a deal. What is preventing dealers moving in this direction today is the fear that offering this level of transparency will just make it easier for consumers to take the new vehicle price and shop another dealership; a dealership where it is simple enough for a salesperson to offer a lower price and work to make it up on the trade, etc.

The irony is that consumer behavior is the impediment to consumers getting the simplicity and straightforwardness they crave. The dealers didn’t have a solution for this, but it is clearly a puzzle we need to figure out.

The final pain point: Confidence in making a purchase.  I put this pain point in my own words as the dealers were focused on the customer feedback that is scattered around the Internet. I rephrased this because what we see consumers looking for when they look at customer feedback is the assurance that the vehicle and/or dealership will perform as promised. One way to ease this concern is to look at the experience of other customers.

As the dealers pointed out, currently this feedback is a bit of a mess; some is useful, much is not. There also is no single source—either for the consumers to rely upon or the dealers to stay on top of.

As I think about this area, it is clear that if we focus on the pain point for the consumer, there are ways to deliver confidence that don’t involve customer reviews. Referrals, for example, are a source of business for dealerships where the store has great credibility. (A customer is hardly going to refer a store to a friend if they had a bad experience.)

I am not sure that customer feedback on the Internet is going to prove to be the best way for customers to feel confident about a decision. The source data is just so unreliable. But in identifying this pain point, the dealers again tied closely to what we have been hearing from consumers.

In fact, that is what struck me the most about this exercise with the dealers.  They get it. What consumers are looking for in the sales process is not a mystery. (We are hearing the same things from consumers as well.) What may be a mystery is figuring out how to remove these pain points in a way that supports a profitable business.

I have some thoughts on this that I will start to explore in the next article.


Jeremy Anwyl began his auto industry career in 1979 working with auto dealers who were looking for more consumer-centric and cost efficient ways of marketing. In 1991 he began working with manufacturers—again on projects that focused on retailing and marketing efficiency. Anwyl joined Edmunds in late 1999 where his years of experience working with dealers and the manufacturers on retail opportunities have been a key part of Edmunds’ success. To reach Jeremy, tweet @JeremyAnwyl, call 310.309.6393 or email

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Joe Basil

How to Convert Auto Dealership Objectives and Goals into Results

NCM's Joe Basil shares how to achieve dealership goals

We just returned from a 20 Group meeting and it was the most invigorating workshop we have ever attended. We completed an assessment of our dealership operations and identified major sales and profit opportunities in all departments. We have benefited from the extensive experience of our facilitator and fellow members. We had the opportunity to compare our operation to other automotive dealers and industry Benchmarks. We’re motivated, enthused and excited to get back to the store and start converting each and every one of those profit opportunity objectives into results. We know which goals and objectives we will focus on and we are ready to lay it all out for our managers to execute.

The question then becomes: How do we go about achieving those elusive results? This is a question I asked myself as a dealer many times.

Sometimes we set up one-on-ones with each manager; sometimes we address the objectives in a managers meeting with everyone; and sometimes we use a combination of both. Regardless of how we present the plan we are determined to achieve those objectives and results. So, department by department, manager by manager, we relate to them the opportunities that we identified during the workshop. Immediately, we run into the constraints of running a store; our 20 Group spanned two full days and we do not have that luxury with each manager. So we present a condensed version in a matter of hours of what we experienced and identified over two days. Our enthusiasm and excitement is overwhelming and even our managers get excited about the potential these opportunities offer. Everyone buys into the goals and objectives. “That’s great, boss, we’re going do it!”  they tell us.

We monitor progress and, as the weeks turn into months, we see varying degrees of success. We begin to get frustrated because we know the results can be achieved; others in our 20 Group have done it! Yet the energy and enthusiasm level seem to be fading in our store. What is the gap?  What dynamic is missing? Why is our team not converting those goals and objectives they enthusiastically supported into results we all seek?

When looking at how highly-effective organizations and teams convert goals and objectives into results, there is a common, overwhelming dynamic that drives the process. That dynamic is leadership. Unfortunately, leadership is a word often thrown around, yet seldom clearly defined and understood by team members. Even less often is leadership driven down to the job level and converted into actions by team members. Even more often, this is the result of a lack of definition and understanding of leadership. So how would we define leadership and convert leadership into actions?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Leadership as: 1. the office or position of a leader; 2. capacity to lead; 3. the act or an instance of leading. As we can see by the literal definition, there is a gap between the noun and the verb; the action!

Having faced this challenge in my own dealerships and when working with clients during my consulting career, I have developed a definition of leadership in the context of actions.

Leadership is:

Having a clearly defined shared vision that attracts, develops and retains top performing people who can flawlessly implement and execute initiatives in support of achieving goals and objectives for the team as a whole.” 

Based on my experience working with dealers and dealership management teams, this definition of leadership is easily understood and readily adopted by those with leadership responsibility. A contingent benefit is that this definition clarifies leaders’ responsibilities.

Now, how do we take it to the job level? What are the key dynamics that managers in leadership positions need to pay attention to on a daily basis to convert goals and objectives into results?

  • Dynamic number one is that every team member intimately understands and believes in our team vision, values, goals and objectives
  •  Our second dynamic is measuring progress through an accountability structure
  •  Third, our “best people are in the right position”
  •  Fourth, there is a reward plan in place that has unquestionable credibility with the team
  •  Fifth, comes a timely and unencumbered decision-making process delegated to appropriate levels in the team

Number six, the key to connecting all of these dynamics together, is an open and transparent communications structure

With these six dynamics in place, those elusive 20 Group initiatives become solid results.  So start converting goals and objectives into results today through outstanding leadership at every level in your dealership!

Attend the NCM Institute’s Leading Your Dealership Team to Success in Miami (April 15-16) and learn to be the leader your team needs you to be! Call 866.756.2620 or click for details and to register!

Leadership training from the NCM Institute

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Robin Cunningham

Do your managers know how to maximize their ROI opportunities?

h--rek-pictures-blogs-frustrated business meeting-thumb_

For the last sixteen months I have had the incredible experience of being a lead instructor with the NCM Institute.  I have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of dealership managers in our multi-level classes for general managers, general sales managers, used vehicle managers, service managers, financial managers, and some private dealership training, as well.  One thing I know for sure is this level of classroom-based education has not been around that long at the departmental manager level; and in my opinion, a structured professional development discipline–including formal training–is the single biggest way to help facilitate the long-overdue transformation of the retail automobile industry.

Years ago when I was a young general manager and dealer beginning to learn all I could about operating a dealership at the highest level, I was afforded many educational opportunities available at that time. I got to join our NCM 20 Group, I attended the NADA Dealer Candidate Academy (similar to NCMi’s General Management Executive Program); I worked with many of the top consultants at the time (we were adding franchises and locations); I took advantage of a two-week immersion in the Leadership Project; I received business coaching training; and many others. That was great for me, but the educational opportunities for the rest of our associates were very limited.

Certainly there were training opportunities for many of our associates inside and outside the dealership, but they weren’t necessarily designed so each associate could clearly see how what they were focused on would fit into the needs of the entire organization.

Today there are more educational resources than ever before. Last summer, NCM was asked to do a presentation at the first-ever AutoCON conference in Las Vegas.  I was pleased to do the presentation, but before and after that I spent my time listening to the keynote addresses, lunch presentations and the presentations of literally the “who’s who” of our great industry. What a thrill to be in a place where so much wisdom about what’s working right now in dealerships was there for the listening, if one wanted to invest the time. I certainly did.

I found myself in the following weeks sharing in the classroom some of the great knowledge and inspiration I heard in those sessions. That is what’s so special about the in-class experience at our NCM Institute. I and the other NCMi instructors are all personally very experienced in this business and we share our knowledge and experience, as you would expect. But our instructors also come from our well-known 20 Groups division and our Retail Operations Consulting division.  That means the participants in our classrooms also get the benefit of learning how thousands of automotive dealerships today are becoming the most productive and profitable they can be, too.

So when I asked at the beginning of this blog if your managers really understand what it takes to maximize the ROI opportunities available to them at your dealership, the degree to which you may be able to answer “yes,” “no” or “not as much as they need to” is directly correlated to how you are helping them increase their knowledge through education.

I used to hear this rather crude cliché, ”If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” (Meaning lack of knowledge, of course.)  Here at NCM, we believe it is necessary for our clients to receive a substantial return on investment when doing business with us; otherwise, they shouldn’t do it.

I feel very blessed to be in a position where I see the lights come on in the eyes of dozens of dealership managers each week when we systematically show them what it takes to maximize the ROI in the departments they lead and manage. As an instructor, it’s rewarding for me personally.  As a dealer and manager, you’ll find it rewarding on a number of levels–not the least of which is your profitability!

Robin Cunningham is an instructor for the NCM Institute Center for Automotive Retail Excellence, as well as a former dealership owner-operator. Join Robin on Tuesday, March 26th for a live webcast, “Improving Your Used Vehicle Operations, Part III” at 1 p.m. Eastern time. Click the link below to register. 

Register for Improving Your Used Vehicle Operations webinar, Part 3!

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Alan Ram

Great Players Rarely Make Great Coaches

The best sales people are not always the best managers in your dealershipOne of the things that I think became readily apparent when the economy hit the skids in 2008 was the fact that a lot of the people that we call managers really aren’t. When the economy is humming along and customers are pouring into showrooms, a lot of our deficiencies as an industry are masked.As a manager, as long as we’ve got plenty of customers on the showroom floor, everyone’s happy. Unfortunately that’s not a reality in today’s environment. What sales managers are doing when they don’t have customers in the showroom is every bit as important to the success of the dealership as what they do when they have a showroom full of customers.If I walk into a dealership and I see four salespeople that have been standing around for two hours waiting for one customer, that showroom is not being effectively managed at that time. That didn’t make any sense when the economy was at its best and it certainly doesn’t make sense today. So why does this happen in showrooms across the nation?The problem is this. We tend to promote people to management that were our best salespeople not realizing that the skill set required to be a good manager is completely different from that required to be a good salesperson.

Look at the NFL. The best coaches in NFL history weren’t the best players, but the guys who knew what to do and when. But dealerships consistently take great players and make them coaches. They’re given very little, if any, real training. And then we’re disappointed when they fail.

Today’s manager must be able to manage activity to drive traffic, putting an emphasis on “how many appointments have we set up today” versus the old “how many appointments do we have coming in today?” Today is too late to focus on today. Today should’ve been taken care of yesterday and the day before. This person must also be able to really train. So much of what is done at dealerships in the name of training is educational at best. REAL training involves role-playing and simulation.

Managers today must be very process driven. So many “systems” that are implemented at dealerships tend to be short-lived because processes aren’t implemented to ensure long-term success. Without processes in place, it’s nothing but talk!

h--rek-pictures-blogs-alan ram-thumb_Alan Ram is president of Proactive Training Solutions and is an expert at increasing individual, as well as dealership productivity through effective utilization of the telephone, Internet and client base management. Alan teaches his “Management By Fire” workshops in cities around the country, with his next session coming up next month in Scottsdale, Arizona. For more information, visit  



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