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Never underestimate the power of fresh blood

Sam Dantzler, Columnist
August 21, 2013
Filed under Columns

Most of you are deep into your season. The staff you brought on this spring has had a full-dose of what motorcycle retailing is all about, and they either love it, or have departed. Unfortunately, the excitement and passion that culminated in anxious anticipation of the riding season has now taken a back seat to the exhaustion of 50- and 60-hour work weeks. The bike that was “new and hot” has now become “… just another piece of metal.” What you need is a new face on the floor (or several). Adding fresh faces to your team can rejuvenate the entire staff, as well as make stale product move with a new perspective.

It amazes me how many dealers go through a search looking for “experienced” salespeople, never considering what exactly they are experienced at. Often we end up having to un-train them so we can retrain them in how we want it done. That continually puts management in a position of fighting the way the employee “used to do it.” Add to that the notion the employee typically wants his paycheck to be commensurate with his “experience” and you often end up with a very expensive baby-sitting project. This old-school model of looking for an experienced candidate is one where we search, hire, then train.

Certainly this decade dictates a different strategy: train, search, then hire. The format here allows for an evening Open House, bringing in people who perhaps had not considered working in our industry for snacks and a “Day in the Life of a Powersports Employee” discussion. Anyone interested is then welcome to come back for a free training session over the next day or two. The format for that training session is relative to your store/location/style, but the idea is to put them into environments where they can role-play and express themselves, giving you a good look at who you’re going to hire prior to actually pulling the trigger.

Benefits of this model include:

• You instantly begin a sort of team camaraderie between new employees trained and hired together. They help each other and watch out for each other and that works in your favor.
• Use your current employees to help with the role plays and ask them what they think are the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses. That edifies and engages your existing employees as well as elevates them in the eyes of the potential new hires. Who is excited to participate? Who is complaining about more work? Maybe you should be replacing that slacker while you’re at it and no better venue than a Train-n-Hire event!
• You often find (through the role-plays) candidates better suited for other positions in the dealerships than the one you are hiring for. Maybe there is a role for that cute blonde girl that isn’t behind the MotorClothes counter because she knows how to ignite a relationship-building conversation, is awesomely competitive and used to work on commission sales at Nordstrom.
• The fact that you are openly recruiting and hiring for any position keeps all your current employees from becoming complacent and lazy.

What drives employee loyalty?

With so many OEMs pushing the notion of a “Premium Customer Experience,” I wonder why so few dealers focus on a “Premium Employment Experience?”

Turnover is a chronic problem in our industry, yet few choose to focus on what drives an employee’s loyalty. More often than not, an employee’s desire to leave stems from the following:

Poor management. People don’t leave their jobs as much as they leave their managers. Managers are there to manage and lead their people, not just their departments. Growing your employees is a trait rarely found in our retail space. Require managers to do daily huddles and weekly one-on-ones with the team. Coaching is imperative.
Ability to progress. Do you have a career path for your employee, or did you just hire him to sit behind the parts counter? Often employees leave to better their careers if they see a dead-end in front of them. Give them a 5-10 year plan with your company.
No positive feedback. Managers are quick to let employees know what they didn’t do, which comes across as constant criticism. At some point, the employee simply tunes out. Good employees are worth their weight in gold. Appreciate them and recognize them. Atta boys should flow like wine … show a little love.
Lack of connection. Find out what’s important to your employees. If your staff won a contest, how many would take $500 cash vs. $500 in lottery tickets vs. $500 worth of vacation time? Don’t know? Find out. What’s valuable to the individual and valuable to you may be very different.
Training, training, training. I’m constantly blown away at how few dealers train their people. Employees are set loose on the showroom floor with little more than an hour of “This is where you do this, and that is where you do that; any questions?” I know what you’re thinking, “What if I spend the time and money to train them, and they leave?” What if you don’t, and they stay? They will be better employees yielding better results for you if they are trained.

The first line of a manager’s job description is, “Recruit.” It’s necessary to keep the pipeline full, knowing that retail in general is an industry with high turnover. Never underestimate the benefits of what that new blood can do for the energy, competitiveness and morale of the store.

Sam Dantzler is the founder of Sam’s Powersports Garage, a membership website dedicated to best practices and all-staff training. He can be reached at sam@samspowersportsgarage.com.

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