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Feb. 14, 2005 – Building up your staff will improve your profitability

February 14, 2005
Filed under Features

Whether you’re the dealer principal of a major metropolitan multi-line dealership with 50 employees or a small single-line dealer out in the middle of nowhere with two employees, developing a healthy culture in your dealership is as scientific as predicting your company’s future growth.
Managers who guide their dealerships to long-term success understand that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between their dealership’s culture and the business results that they achieve.
During the current trend of headcount reductions coupled with the rising responsibilities, dealership management is under the microscope. “Doing more with less” is the battle cry in almost all powersports dealerships. Stress? Longer hours? That is a given for those who choose to lead their dealership in the old or more traditional way.
Welcome to the new way of running your dealership. Powersports dealerships of all sizes have found the amazing and profound effects on productivity, job satisfaction, and more importantly, bottom line results on the income statement by using the following basic management philosophies.
Building The Person; Not the Process
Your starting point to build your employees is always to tell them what a great job they are doing for you. Top managers, however, understand that just telling someone something is as rewarding as receiving tickets to a movie that you don’t want to see.
The most important component to making this all work is the way that you communicate this information to the employee. The employee must believe that what you are saying is sincere and meaningful. This is accomplished by acknowledging the employee for his efforts with specifics and compassion.
Asking questions of the employee can also inspire employee growth and send a clear and concise message that the employees’ ideas do count. By building up the individual employees, dealerships can tap into the most important part of the person: their internal motivation to perform. This affects the way employees respond to situations and events and increases their effectiveness when interacting with other dealership employees and, more importantly, your customers!
Concentrate on Solutions
In dealerships that experience long-term success, a greater focused is placed on what’s working versus what is not working, strengths versus weaknesses, and what can be learned versus who can be blamed.
This type of forward focus allows successful powersports teams to engage in an issue, fix the issue, learn from the issue, and use it as an example for the future growth in the dealership.
These dealerships know that advancing their company does not mean eliminating all issues or problems that can face a dealership; rather, their success is woven into how their business responds to the constant challenges of every day dealership life.
Build Full Information Flow
When we ask dealership principals and marriage counselors what’s the number one problem with ineffective relationships, the answer is unanimous: poor communication! Because good dealerships are built upon relationships, and relationships are established and maintained by communication, successful managers make communication a top priority.
We have all experienced attempting to do a job without full information. It’s a main reason for poorer quality, lower job satisfaction, and high employee turnover, and quite frankly horrible results.
Successful managers in dealerships know that communication between an employee and management is a two way highway, which means that there are many different personalities, ideas, and personal agendas.
You’ll never hear a successful manager complain, “How many times do I have to tell that employee something before it sinks in?”
Instead, that manager will take responsibility for making sure that the employee “gets it” long before the job is first undertaken. Those types of managers are aware that communication is never complete until the loop has been closed.
Build Achievable Objectives
Why do effective dealership managers ensure that objectives are clear, achievable, and stretch versus simply setting easy to reach objectives?
They know that the dealership is full of distractions and when objectives are clear employees can do their work according to an established plan of attack.
If the objective is not achievable, the employee’s motivation will decrease rapidly.
Finally, the objective must be a stretch in order to challenge and retain talent and stay ahead of your competition.
Building A Team Identity
What is one of the major non-financial motivators for getting up and going into the dealership each day? It’s the opportunity to work with others toward achieving a common goal.
What happens when a dealership is made up of strong, energetic employees who have the ability to work together with a solution-focused approach, are aware of the dealership’s objectives and have jointly worked out how to achieve these goals? You will have a dealership full of employees who are willing to go the extra step for one another; people who feel a sense of ownership and pride in their work, a sense of loyalty to one another, their managers, and the dealership overall.
It is a process, which if adopted, can only lead to success and a “win-win” for every one concerned.
Implementation Concerns
A key component of implementing these five steps is the development of a job description for each and every position within the dealership.
All objectives, as discussed previously, should be clear, achievable, and “stretched.”
You also have to make sure when you are developing these detailed job descriptions that they communicate and are compatible with the overall dealership business strategy. If you have individual performance objectives that are out of line with the overall business strategy you will have your people going in the opposite direction of the dealership’s goals.
The adoption of these philosophies can take some time getting off of the ground. The process starts with you! If you are a dealer principal reading this or you are a department manager, the process starts internally with identifying your management style.
One of the toughest things that you can do as a manager is look at yourself in the way that you operate and manage at the dealership, but it is a process worth doing.
Remember, you should adopt a style that is healthy for the dealership and the company’s bottom line. The adoption of these simple five steps is going to be hard work. But if you choose to do so, you will be well on your way to proactively managing your dealership and attracting and retaining the best talent in your market. psb

Forrest Flinn contributed to this story. An accountant and HR specialist, he was the training manager for Lightspeed before becoming the general manager at Alamo Cycle Plex in TX. He joined PowerHouse last June 04.

Bill Shenk of PowerHouse Dealer Services may be reached at 866.896.3759 or email Bill@phdservices.com.

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