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Nov. 14, 2005 – Dealership training goes online

November 14, 2005
Filed under Features

If you’re a dealer principal and are looking for an efficient and economical way to train those young people in your store, Rod Stuckey might have the answer for you.
Stuckey, 33, is president of an Atlanta-based company called dealershipuniversity.com that provides online training programs for powersports dealership employees.
DU offers nearly 40 courses on its Web site, ranging in price from $79 for an overview on how to handle walk-ins to $1,299 for an extensive parts and accessories training package. DU serves about 30 dealer clients in 22 states. In addition to its Web-based training program, DU offers workbooks, daily planners and audio CD programs. Each is designed to increase dealership productivity and reduce employee turnover.
A powersports dealer for the last 10 years, Stuckey knows the problems facing today’s dealers, especially the difficulties caused by employee departures. At Stuckey’s stores, annual employee turnover was more than 40%. “With that type of turnover,” he says, “it was crucial that we had a strong training program.” From that need and that training program, Stuckey eventually developed dealershipuniversity.com.
Stuckey is quick to point out that his training operation complements the 20 Group training programs offered by others in the industry. “We don’t compete with them,” says Stuckey, “and, in fact, we recommend that our dealers join one of them. We have no interest in getting in.”
Dealers Helping Dealers
Stuckey says his experience in developing systems to operate businesses based upon multiple locations is the basis for the courses used at dealershipuniversity.com He began operating his first dealership, a Honda only store startup outside of Atlanta, in 1995. He grew that small business to an operation selling 800 new units and a couple of hundred used units in three years. By June 2000, he was running four stores in the area, featuring Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Sea-Doo products, that moved about 2,500 new and used units each year and generated annual revenues of about $25 million.
He has since sold the two non-Honda stores and is negotiating with a buyer for the Honda operations; he expects to close that deal before the end of this year.
Stuckey learned the powersports business by traveling extensively with his uncle, who was a Kawasaki district sales rep for some 20 years.
Prior to moving into powersports, Stuckey owned and managed four coin-operated laundry and dry-cleaning stores in the Atlanta area. That experience forced him to develop systems to handle multi-facility operations.
“That was really the background of (my experience) in multiple locations,” he said during an interview with Powersports Business. “When you can’t be at every place open to close, you learn to build systems.”
Over his 10 years as a powersports dealer, Stuckey developed training manuals and systems so he could successfully run the four stores. “I’ve always had a passion for training,” says Stuckey. “I saw I couldn’t be at all the stores all the time, and I saw the need for training systems.”
So Stuckey began looking for models to incorporate into his operation. He looked at big box retailers and multiple-location operations in other industries. “I began to study everything I could get my hands on,” he says. “I had a passion for this (because) I felt a very powerful need for this (training).” Stuckey took all the information that he gathered from outside the industry, combined it with the manual and systems he developed for the laundry business and produced a training program for powersports.
But it didn’t provide the results he wanted. “You can’t give a 150-page manual to a 22-year-old man… It simply wasn’t effective. We felt we needed to have a better way to deliver this material.”
So, over the past 30 months or so Stuckey and his crew began taking the training materials and systems information and converting it to an electronic format. Each of the curriculums was developed in house.
Stuckey has a team of six working on the training project-three sales representatives and three production people. The production team includes a former teacher and a second person who has a strong editorial background.
The project was launched in February at the Dealer Expo at Indianapolis, but sales really didn’t begin until this summer. “Our rollout was pretty quiet without a lot of marketing,” says Stuckey, “but now we’ll step it up a bit. We wanted to make sure we had a strong product.”
Among his prospects are small OEMs who might offer the program to their dealers, says Stuckey. DU is attractive to some manufacturers, according to Stuckey, because the company has been careful not to promote or put down any OEM. “They’re looking for a way to integrate and promote their products into the training,” he says.
Taking A Test Drive
We tried some of the courses, and they seemed to work just fine. One course, Parts & Accessories Suggestive Selling, has a catchy title, but it contains some pretty basic stuff. But, maybe it’s not too basic for a 22-year-old working in his first sales position. The $199 course took about 30 minutes to complete, including the final test.
A second course was one of 10 offered as part of the Sales Department training program. This featured The Presentation, the third step in a 10-step selling program. It, too, worked well, and actually had more depth than did the Parts & Accessories class.
The classes typically run about 30 minutes, include a number of downloadable screens — the sales class had 38 screens — and are supplemented with audio. “We chose the 20-30 minute length,” says Stuckey, because we try to keep our target market — the younger Gen Y people — captive. At 45 minutes, they’re intimidated and we tend to lose them at about 20 minutes.”
When taking a class, it’s simple to go back and review previous lessons by clicking on the menu bar. The classes also include True/False and multiple-choice questions as you proceed through the class. At the end is a final exam.
Dealer principals can easily check on an employee’s track record, including learning which questions he missed. This helps focus future training, says Stuckey.
When a dealer signs up for the program, a member of Stuckey’s staff visits the dealership in person to get the program up and running. psb

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