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Tag Archive: Steven Banks

Steven Banks

A Beginner’s Guide to Managing Data

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We all have our inadequacies, both as individuals and as businesses. And it’s no coincidence that a business’ shortcomings often parallel the shortcomings of the individuals behind it. For instance, a business atmosphere that is too fast paced and rushed is often the result of an impatient dealer or manager. (When my wife recently accused me of this unfortunate quality, I explained that I have more patience than anyone because I never use any. She didn’t buy it, in case you were wondering.)

On the flip-side, a carefree and lackadaisical business atmosphere could be the result of an unorganized and unenthused manager. To the same effect, strengths tend to overlap as well, and we often forget that our personal fortes can make a positive impact in the day-to-day operations of our dealership.

One strength that can always be improved upon in dealerships is Data Management. It is very easy to become intimidated by newer nomenclature, and in the automotive world, “data management” absolutely fits that description. It is new, it is intangible, and it is constantly changing. BUT, the dealerships that are embracing data management, and effectively using it, are reaping the benefits.

So what’s in it for you?

Here are three reasons you can benefit from improved data management.

1. Turning numbers into actionable intelligence:

Properly analyzing and managing relevant information can transition your CFO and team of controllers from the mindset of accountants to that of trusted business advisors.

According to a USA Today/Gallup poll, accountants are considered the most trusted business professionals over any other position. If one of your mechanics needs a wrench to perform a specific repair, a hammer in hand would be useless if not dangerous. Similarly, data is the tool that your accounting team needs to ensure they are performing at maximum efficiency, and without the right kind, things can become extremely difficult. When you combine the right data with a high level of trust, it enables them to move beyond traditional accountants and solidifies their role as trusted advisors.

2. Deepening the understanding of cause and effect:

How do you figure out the meaning behind poor performance or even revenue that seems to suddenly vanish? Knowing where to derive data and accurately dissecting it can literally make the difference between driving profit and losing revenue.

Example: Turn wholesales into a profit center by focusing on more than just the number of units sold and whether or not you made money from them. Instead, monitor how those deals impacted BOTH front and back end gross. If your actual comp percentage shows different from commission percentage, giving attention to this could explain why. If you pay 25% commission on front end gross but lose money on the wholesale, you could potentially be paying commission on a deal that already is costing you. If you use the right data, you can properly analyze each wholesale deal and adjust commission accordingly, which guarantees you aren’t throwing away additional cash.I would recommend that your dealership invest in a data management platform, as I’m willing to bet that your DMS system doesn’t provide data reporting this granularly.

3. Knowing what to improve at all times:

The most powerful data available, arguably, is having up-to-date industry trends. You should be monitoring your dealership’s pulse and comparing that with the beat of the industry. Leveraging this method is a great way to provide fast and easy dealership comparisons so you know where you need to improve and where you are maintaining a competitive advantage.

Data management is extremely powerful, but knowing what to look for and when to look for it can be overwhelming, so remember to keep it simple! Look at the big picture before diving into the details. As you can see, the question isn’t whether or not data management can be beneficial, but rather how it can benefit you. And hopefully this lays a foundation on where to start.


Learn More:

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Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2015/07/a-beginners-guide-to-managing-data/

Steven Banks

Get Your Arms Around The Data In Your Dealership

Get Your Arms Around Your Data

Lately it seems I am unable to hide from the term, Big Data. I’m exposed to it in headlines, newspapers (a bit old school, but I still read them), magazines and yes, even blogs. But what does “big data” truly mean and why are we being doused with it? The term is so new I couldn’t locate it in the Merriam-Webster® dictionary, so I took the obvious next course of action and looked up the definition in the infamous Wikipedia. This is what I found:

“Big data is a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing applications.”

To dealerships, big data, or more importantly the management of big data, can mean the difference between increasing profitability and stagnation. Let’s take the aforementioned definition in a bit more industry-specific direction. To ensure we are maximizing day-to-day operations efficiently we use traditional DMS systems, inventory management systems, RO analysis software, manually-generated spreadsheets, etc. All of this is great and even necessary, but it seems as other technology is advancing and there is more information readily floating around in the cloud, our in-house systems should be able to progress at the same accelerated level.

So what does this mean for us?

In order for us to know what actions we should take, we first need to know what questions to ask ourselves.

What data should we pay attention to?

Any data that can impact our dealership should be monitored. Ignore the data that is fascinating but irrelevant. Perhaps instead of looking at the national averages, comparing our dealership numbers at a regional or state-specific level is the best course of action.

Who should we rely on to receive this information and is the source of this data really credible?

I often find myself five minutes into reading an article or looking at a visually stimulating pie chart that shares impressive data when I realize I’ve never heard of the company publishing it and don’t recognize the columnist.  Does that mean you need to recognize every author’s name?  Absolutely not (as you might not recognize mine), but take what you find with a bit of caution if the author or company is unfamiliar. These days, it’s pretty easy to find out if an “expert” is speaking with authority, so do some research to find out more before acting on the information.

There is so much noise out there; what should I be looking for to help me manage my data?

There are some amazing new solutions available to help dealerships with data management.  Some data management vendors will unleash a plethora of raw data to their customers, but it is hard to make sense of it.  Avoid any vendor that says they have it all, as they will tend to over-promise and under-deliver.  Look for a platform that works in conjunction with your DMS, fixed, variable and accounting systems.  After all, this is the approach that we took when developing NCM axcessa, our web-based software that aggregates your dealership’s big data in real-time and eliminates the need to manually generate reports.  Why?  Because our clients demanded it be that way; otherwise, it’s just another piece of software rather than the actionable intelligence tool they desired.

Big Data has arrived at the party and the reality is it’s here to stay.

So let’s not only get used to it, let’s embrace its power to help us accelerate our dealerships in an economy and marketplace where the complacent mindset is depleting and the progressive mindset is excelling.

 


Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2015/03/get-your-arms-around-the-data-in-your-dealership/

Steven Banks

What to (Not) Expect When You Are Expecting (Success)

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Have you ever prepared extensively for a certain event only to be caught off guard by an unanticipated circumstance? Maybe you prepared for a recital, fully expecting a Tchaikovsky piece to come out of your fingers but mid-recital a contact lens popped out and you could no longer read the music; or, you trained all off-season for a sport and then ripped your ACL in your first real game putting you on the bench for the rest of the season. Or perhaps you practiced for hours rehearsing your greeting line for when you pick up your date only to slam her fingers in the door a few minutes afterwards – ruining everything. (By the way, if this happens to you, later in the date don’t offer to put her fingers in your ice cream cone to make them feel better. That just makes things awkward – trust me).

Thinking you are prepared for something and then getting blindsided by the unexpected is never fun. These kinds of things can destroy your morale, leave you feeling lost, and asking yourself “what the heck just happened?” But it doesn’t just happen on stage, on the field, or in your ’91 Mazda 626. It can happen anywhere, especially in the dealership.

Two questions you are probably asking yourself right now:

  • What kind of things should I be expecting in my dealership that I am currently not?
  • How do I make sure I’m prepared for when the unexpected does happen? (And it will.)

The answer to number one is: I have no idea! If we knew the answer to that, they no longer would be “unexpected circumstances,” right? It’s one thing to be cautious, but it’s another thing to sit around all day and dream up worse case scenarios; we don’t have time for speculation. Our main focus should be on point number two — expect the unexpected and be prepared at all times. I suppose now is the appropriate time for me to expand on this with a few actionable bullet points. So here are three ways you can ensure you are prepared when the worse-case scenario comes up:

Manage Your Data

Let’s say an unexpected situation comes up where you suddenly need to access every single car deal for the year; you need know how many and what percentage were cash deals and the details for each deal, and what percentage and how many were financed and who they were financed with. You have five minutes to get this, GO! How did you do?

That was the easy one; let’s try another. Now you need to be able to determine how many retail units you’ve sold MTD, know which have been booked and which haven’t even gone through accounting yet, what the gross is for both booked and unbooked, what your pace is for month end (from the perspective of units, gross, PVR, front end, and back end), get an aged receivable count and balance, get an aged inventory count (both new and used) with the vehicle details, know which of your salespersons haven’t sold a vehicle in over three days, and compare MTD pace to your forecast (if you even have a forecast).  Five minutes, GO!

Impossible? Not really, I can get all of that in two minutes and am happy to prove it anyone. There might be a select few of you out there who also could get that information on demand; however, I’m willing to bet that many of you would either panic or throw in the towel if you needed that information and needed it now. The beauty is, all of that information is available, and it resides in your DMS. The real question is, can you easily and efficiently access it without it being time consuming? If not, find a way to get the data out of your DMS and into your hands in an uncomplicated fashion.

Keep Records

This is very different than the aforementioned point. Managing your data is one thing, but making sure you are keeping your data is a completely different thing. If don’t have data, you can’t manage it. Is your information protected in the instance of a system crash? Or what happens when you switch DMS systems, are you absolutely certain that 100% of your data and records will be transferred over?  Be on the safe side, make sure your information is warehoused. Many vendors can do this for a nominal fee.

Know the Right People

You are in a legal bind, you have unexpected personnel turnover, you are going through a buy/sell, you realize your service matrix is as outdated as The Matrix movie. If you run or manage a dealership, you’re pretty smart, but none of us knows everything. Make sure you have solid relationships with the right consultants. Getting unbiased input from knowledgeable and credible sources when you need them can work wonders.

It’s tough being prepared for the unknown. But by taking the appropriate precautions you can almost eliminate the worse-case scenario, which isn’t to stop the unexpected, but to be prepared for when the unexpected happens. By ensuring you have a checkmark beside these three items, you are ensuring you have a great foundation for unanticipated circumstances. Oh, and honey, we’re having triplets!

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Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2014/09/what-to-not-expect-when-you-are-expecting-success/

Steven Banks

What is the Answer to Work/Life Balance?

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I was at Barnes & Noble the other day to burn through a gift card that has been sitting in my wallet since Christmas, and on my way to the coffee nook located in the back corner I had to walk past three rows of “self-help” books. I mean literally, three full rows, from top to bottom and side to side. I couldn’t help but wonder if we really live in such a desperate time where we need 3,519 books that claim to hold the solution to life’s problems.

Most of us are guilty of reading at least one of these in our lifetime. I know I am. And while there is a plethora of good advice and friendly reminders found in the pages of these books, the truth of the matter is that there is no single perfect solution to life’s crises. And that includes the infamous work/life balance predicament.

I’m a firm believer in the quote by Lord Kelvin that states:

“If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it”

And time is a key ingredient to some of the most valuable measurement standards. Think about it, MPH is a measurement of speed but could not be done without “hours” being involved. RPM is a measurement of rotations that could not be done without “minutes” being involved. And light-year is a measurement of distance that could not be done without “year” being involved. While I do not hold the answer to the work/life challenge, I certainly feel those measurements are proof that one can at least improve upon how they manage their time.

What does this mean for dealerships?

I’m glad you asked.  Let me first throw a few stats at you.

Stat 1: The average dealership is manually generating, creating, or updating reports nearly 300 times per month.

Stat 2: The average time spent updating a single report is 15 minutes.

Stat 3: A manager in a dealership is averaging $50/hour.

What this means is that, on average, a typical dealership’s managing team is spending 900 hours per year manually generating reports. This is 900 production hours spent behind a computer screen and not on the floor. That is equivalent to $45,000. Here’s the catch: You NEED these reports because they contain information that is essential to operate the store.

So what are we supposed to do about it? Well, here’s a thought: With the ever-advancing technological world, there are invaluable resources and tools designed specifically for dealerships to automate these reports that are being generated manually. I believe these tools have now moved from the nice-to-have category into the essential category. Although people have access to an abundance of information, particularly inside the DMS, it is not always easy for them to find, compile, and make sense of.

Yes, there typically is an investment to obtain this kind of tool, but the return of the productive time that a dealership gets from leveraging it should outweigh the expense tenfold. By automating what many of us are doing manually, we can be more productive and save an abundance of time. Time which we can invest in areas of our lives that don’t consist of data mining or number crunching.


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Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2014/04/what-is-the-answer-to-worklife-balance/