By Charlie Polston,Automotive Customer Retention and Profitability Consultant,BG Products, Inc.
No matter how much you plan, how much you train, and how hard you try, sometimes the service drive, the shop, and the parts department can be a chaotic, jumbled mess.
If you are running your business, those days of chaos are the exception rather than the rule. If your business is running you, it is a daily, dreaded occurrence.
Before we look at solutions, let me raise some diagnostic questions for you to ponder in case you don't know if you're running it or if it's running you – but candidly, I suspect you already know.
Getting Personal: How's your home life? How are your personal relationships? Are you "present" at all of your family activities? (Not just physically in the room, but totally in the moment?) If you're working 60-65 hours a week, just worn out all the time, your business is running you! If you aren’t taking two to three weeks away from work a year or haven't had a vacation in four years, your business is running you!
Health: Are you skipping breakfast and sending one of your porters out at 3:30 pm to get your lunch - a double cheeseburger (which you scarf down fast while on the run), and then you have supper at 8:30 pm (which you had to eat alone because your family ate hours ago?)? If so, then your business is running you. (By the way, it's also killing you.)
I've been in the automotive business for over 40 years, and I see this all the time: managers who are overweight, over-stressed, overworked, and over-medicated—time out. Listen, my friends, if you lose your family and health, you’ve lost everything. It is too high a price to pay when you let your business run you!
Personnel Turnover: There is way too much employee turnover in fixed ops. Rarely do I see managers, advisors, BDC staffers, warranty clerks, porters, lube guys, parts personnel, and technicians who stay at the same dealership for over five years. There is constant movement. It's a symptom of upper management letting the business run them. (By the way, I think most employees leave for better pay or better treatment. If you pay them right and treat them right – in other words, if you run your business – they'll stay and be happy and loyal.)
The Fireman: Is your day dominated by crisis, heat cases, and putting out fires? Are you constantly soothing hurt feelings, wiping away tears, talking people off the ledge, and quieting water-cooler drama? If so, then your business is running you!
I think some managers actually like operating in crisis mode all the time. It's a great way to avoid responsibility. It's a great way to avoid planning. It's a great excuse for low productivity, low morale, and low profits.
With these managers always dealing with chaos (which they created by their failure to lead), they never have time to mentor, train, or coach their team – which is really convenient because they don't know how to do it anyway!
Technology: Are you always looking for the latest digital program, process, or gadget? Do you think technology is your savior? If so, your business is running you. I have seen so many weak managers that have abdicated their leadership role to technology with the false belief that technology will train their people, implement a process, and hold people accountable. It won't.
Temper: Do you have a short fuse? Are you always angry? Are your words laced with foul language? If so, then your business is running you. If you catch yourself cursing or bad-mouthing techs and advisors or saying stuff like, "They're all a bunch of lazy morons," – maybe you need to pause for a moment to realize you hired every one of them. It has been said, you don't hire who you want; you hire who you are! If this is you, could it explain why you are short-staffed?
Income: Almost every pay plan for almost every employee in fixed ops is performance-based. The more you produce, the more you make. If your income constantly fluctuates based on circumstances that appear out of your control, your business is running you. (For example, if you have a downturn in internal ROs and your paycheck drops, you were too heavily dependent on the low-hanging fruit of new and used car recon.)
If you are running your business, you are always on the hunt for "fresh meat" – such as customer pay maintenance, fuel and fluid services, fleets, and an improved sales-to-service handoff process.
The Solution: Let me leave you with the good news. If you see yourself in any of the diagnostic questions above, you can be transformed by renewing your mind. You are not stuck. You can rise above any management mistakes you've made in the past.
Go to DigitalDealer.com and view past issues of Dealer Magazine - I've written over 120 articles in the past decade to show you how to be a more effective manager.
Also, get your hands on anything written by Dave Anderson or Jeff Cowan. These two guys are personal friends of mine – they know their stuff. They have a plethora of material online, including articles, podcasts, and inspirational tidbits. They'll never steer you wrong.
In closing, life is better when you are running your business! It is possible! You can regain control of your business and live an abundant life in the process!
Charlie Polston is an automotive customer retention and profitability consultant with BG Products, Inc. Charlie has been with BG’s Fixed Operations Division for over 38 years. He has trained over 7,500 dealers, managers, and technicians – and has been a frequent workshop leader at NADA’s annual convention.