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  • Writer's pictureEd French

Determining Business Priorities: True Stories from the Blacktop

There is no one right way to run an automotive business. Each company has its own unique story, background, characters, and goals. While I’ve got a general formula I use during a dealership rescue, it’s better to think about rebuilding dealerships as a journey rather than checking items off a list. I knew that this was the approach I would have to take with my current store.

After my first day, I knew that the employees had free rein: they could do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. Although the dealership lacked structure, I knew that there had to be some founding business disciplines. I decided to go with my default approach to understanding the core of a company: MBWA. Or, Manage By Wandering Around.

First, I’m sure to get to the dealership early before anyone else is scheduled to arrive. I like to sit back and watch the store “wake up,” beginning with the arrival of the fixed operations employees. In the morning, I check for scheduled appointments, talk to the employees in fixed departments, and watch the service drive process, careful to pay close attention to recommended service upsells.

Getting an early start on the day also gives me the opportunity to connect with those early bird service customers. Speaking with them helps me to get a sense of the company’s commitment to customer satisfaction.

Next, before anyone from the sales department has arrived, I head to the showroom and lot. I ask myself a couple of important questions:

  • Are we ready to do business or do we need to clean up from yesterday?

  • Is our privacy commitment for customer data being adhered to?

And then, once the sales department has arrived, I ask myself a couple more questions:

  • What’s the vibe of the store once the sales team arrives? Are they excited? Passive?

  • What’s the first thing that they do upon arrival?

After spending some time with the sales department, I go check in on the office personnel. Next -- you guessed it -- I have even more questions:

  • How’s the paper flow?

  • Who has access to the checkbook?

Are the office personnel working with the other departments or against them?

I spend the rest of the day wandering, asking lots of questions about the employees’ work/life balances, and paying attention to the daily operations of the business. I also like to stay until the very end of the day to watch the store “shut down” for the night.

After a week of doing these five steps and making notes about certain employees’ behavior, I came to one valuable conclusion: Our success at turning this store around was not going to be about processes, it was going to be about the people. The people that we had needed better leadership and more motivation to achieve their goals, as well as ours!

I decided on my motto for this dealership rescue: People First. The Who, then the What!

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