CALL US AT 1.866.756.2620

Tag Archive: Auto Dealerships

Rick Wegley

Groundhog’s Day at the Dealership

ground hog marmot day portrait

Most of us wake up every day in the same place, listening to the same sounds. We follow unchanged routines as we prepare for the day ahead. If a friend were to ask you about your life, you’d probably shrug and say, “Eh, nothing much’s happening.”

But that rut takes a toll. I know that when my life starts to feel mundane, I can let the passion for what I do wane. You’ve felt it, too—that moment when your ability to think creatively and your normally supportive personality slips away.

Our frustration with everyday life can cause anger. We stop helping others to serve our own selfish needs, thinking that will solve the problem—and, yet, we’re still lost. Why? It’s because our passion and creativity were born from helping others. And, trust me, when you lose that passion, it profoundly affects your life on the job and those around you.

Groundhog’s Day at the Dealership

I remember when it happened to me. After several years of consulting, I was starting to feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog’s Day. Do you remember that movie?

The plot always resonated with me. Murray plays Phil Connors, the salty weatherman who finds himself stuck repeating February 2 over and over again. At first he’s pretty angry and self-destructive, but caught repeating the daily loop, he finally discovers fulfillment in helping others.

After several years of dealership consulting in the field, the repetition of my work was starting to get to me. Then, like Bill Murray’s Phil Connors, I realized the true value of service.  If I wanted to make significant change happen in a dealership, I had to commit to making a difference in someone else’s life. I had to actively decide to move beyond the day-to-day repetition I was experiencing and choose instead that I was going to adopt a meaningful and positive attitude that would encourage others.

Just like the movie, I only had a day at each dealership to make all of the pieces fit together and help the customer. In order to do my job well, I needed to use that limited time to inspire my clients and foster their passion for change.

When I redirected my focus on the assistance I was providing my clients, my attitude dramatically improved. I found my creativity had returned and the passion for my work not only alive and well, but deepened into a calling. It’s all about helping others.

Escape from self-serving patterns  

One day the repetition of your work is going to get to you. You’ll experience a personal Groundhog’s Day, and feel trapped in a world you created—and you’ll most likely feel like what you do makes no difference to anyone. It will be, in a word, horrible.

But when that happens, think about all of the things that you can do for others that will inspire them. Challenge yourself to work in service others, not just in service of your career goals. When we help others achieve their goals, or inspire them chase their dreams, there is a multiplying effect—one that fuels the fire and creativity in others—that in turn fulfills our own lives.

In any long-term career—whether in automotive or another field—you’re going face times of frustration in your work. How have you rediscovered your passion for work? Did you, like Rick, discover meaning from helping others? Tell us your story.

Permanent link to this article:

Steve Hall

Collision has Recovered: It’s Time to Get Serious

I’m not going to lie: Collision has a bad rep.

Collision Centers Infographic

Just look at the statistics. Collision centers have declined 57% since the Eighties, and a whopping 27% of that drop has happened since just 2007. Stricter environmental regulations have increased expenses, and direct repair programs have changed how clients are acquired. So, when business got tough during the 2009-2010 recession, many dealers saved costs by closing the doors on their collision center, and shifted focus to vehicles sales and the service department.

Collision centers are back, for some.

Happily, our industry has rebounded in recent years. So, I’m surprised that dealers are still unwilling to look at their collision center as a profit center. Meanwhile, our publicly-held competition is investing heavily in collision repair, and venture capitalists are actively involved with some of the largest multi-location collision companies, gobbling up locations and market share.

The surviving independents are making a killing. I think the independents’ success is part necessity. After all, if an independent collision shop can’t evolve fast enough, it will go out of business.

Dealerships, though, seem much more reluctant. This is partly because ownership often views the collision center as a loss-leader – to them, it’s a customer retention tool rather than a true profit center. Plus, I’ve seen many dealership collision centers continue to operate even when they are unprofitable.  They just struggle along while ownership focuses on vehicle sales; owners just hope the collision center doesn’t lose too much money! That’s not a philosophy that evokes much confidence.

Preparing for Collision Competition

So how do you – the individual dealer or small dealer group – compete against the mega-groups and the well-established independents? Like so many other dealership issues, I think the solution lies in three things: training, knowledge and support.

Technical excellence ≠ management skill

A common theme I encounter while working with collision managers is that many were promoted with very little management experience. Most start in the industry as a helper, moving their way in the ranks to become a body tech or painter and then an estimator. Once the prior manager quits or is released, they find themselves the manager.

Now that they’re expected to “make the department perform,” they have no clue how make that happen. Most are remarkable technicians or estimators – that’s why they were promoted – but few are prepared for their new responsibilities, such as managing a team, forecasting and expense control.  These great workers are left hanging: They don’t know how the numbers work, how to get people to produce or how to grow a business.

Sink or swim leads to drowning

All this adds up to a very frustrating experience. Lacking experience and knowledge, a motivated manager will work harder – very hard – but not necessarily smarter. They race faster and faster, trying to perform, and then – the next thing you know – that star employee is totally burned out.

And what does burn-out lead to? Quitting. I’m floored at the number of times dealers end up losing a quality long-term employee, often without gaining a thing along the way!

The craziest part is that much of this can be avoided! The sink or swim mentality accomplishes nothing. Stop putting people into positions with no training or support. Instead, equip your manager with the training and knowledge they need to lead a team and grow the business. Teach them how to obtain profitability and unlock the potential of their department.

Invest in people for a return on investment

With more vehicles on the road than ever before – and fewer shops to repair them – dealers’ now have an incredible opportunity.  It’s time to get serious about your collision center and make the collision department become what it should be … a profit center and valued part of your dealership.

Ready to take the next step for your collision center? Join NCM® Institute’s experts in learning the Principles of Collision Center Management. It’s the most effective way to turn your best tech or estimator into your best manager. Classes filling now. 

Permanent link to this article:

Richard Head

Is Story Time Causing Your Dealership Turnover? FIRO and MBWA Can Stop It

open boo

One of the biggest expenses dealerships face each year is turnover. Not only does finding a new employee take a lot of time and money, but you then have to reinvest in proper training to get that new person up to speed.

I’ve found that dealerships – like many other complex work environments – are negatively impacted by assumptions, something I like to call “story time.” Before I go into the details of how story time ruins your employer-employee relationships and leads to turnover, let’s take a second to review what motivates people in the first place.

Motivation in action: FIRO

Developed by observing well-oiled, capable teams working in high-stress situations, the Fundamental Interpersonal Relationship Orientation (FIRO) approach boils people’s fundamental behavior down to three desires:

Inclusion.  Everyone expresses or wants contact with others—to be around others and work with others.

Control. Everyone expresses or wants influence over things and people.

Openness. Everyone expresses or wants to be known, seen, appreciated—a curiosity about others and a willingness to be seen ourselves.

This chart shows how each area relates to the others:

Blog graphic

For managers who typically can’t create a team from scratch based on compatibility, we have to focus on the thing we can change. Will Schutz – the psychologist who invented the FIRO method – says that creating an environment that encourages openness is the best method. And openness is what story time is all about.

It’s story time

First, let’s address openness. I’m not talking about some touchy-feely “new-age” thing. Instead, “openness” means a willingness to consider other interpretations of behavior.

Whenever something happens to us, we almost always make up a story about it. Unfortunately, most of the time we don’t make the effort to check out our made-up story. We simply create this fantasy world about what’s going on. As time goes on, those stories get hairier and stranger.

Just think about the last time you were baffled by something your boss said. You probably found yourself thinking, “I bet they’re irritated with me,” or “They probably think that ….” In reality, you just don’t know what’s happening with your boss. But your brain doesn’t like uncertainty, so it’s compelled to make up a story that gives you some understanding. And our people do the same about us!

Story time has a huge impact on businesses. Dealerships (and all businesses) are composed of multiple, competing stories about what’s going on and why—stories that are rarely discussed openly and almost never examined in a way that could prove or disprove the stories. Left to run unchecked, story time can give your best performers misinformation, and lead them to walk out the door.

Putting story time to bed.

In work relationships, we have two choices:

  • Let people make up stories about what is going on with us
  • Tell people what’s actually going on, so that they stop making up their own stories

As a leader, you set the tone.

When you stay holed up in your office, I can guarantee that your staff is making up stories trying to understand your decisions.

“Management By Wandering Around” (MBWA) is a great way to stop story time in its tracks. And, what better way to interact with the dealership?!

When I get out into the departments, I share with my staff what’s going on in the department, what’s keeping me up at night … and, critically important, what my hopes and dreams are for the dealership and the department. As an added bonus, the employees relax a bit and tell me things they might not in more formal situations. Everybody wins! And everyone stops inventing stories.

Give it a try in your dealerships. Manage by “wandering around” and find out what’s really going on. Stop the stories and deal with facts! What do you have to lose?

Permanent link to this article: