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Chris Costner

Chris Costner Account Executive

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MENTORING: Our Missing Puzzle Piece

 

Mentoring is something that I haven’t thought to write about until recently and after a few discussions with others, have come to understand that this is something our industry needs more of.  Mentoring from either an organizational standpoint or individual standpoint can be very powerful for learning and growth for someone you take an interest in thus increasing the probability for positive outcomes in their career path.

Many of you reading can recall someone who, at some point in your career, has had a significant influence on you and may have shaped or determined your course bringing you to where you are today.  I certainly can say there have been a few individuals I have come to know over the past twelve years that have encouraged me to do well or help me overcome something I wasn’t totally grasping. 

Recently, however, I can certainly say I consider myself having a mentor that I can trust to give me honest responses and opinions on anything I care to discuss and encourages me to try something new or different that I may have trouble taking that first step in doing.  Do you have anyone like that in your life or are you that type of person to someone else? Do you know how powerful it can be on someone? I am here to say that these experiences, if you haven’t experienced it from either side, are very beneficial and rewarding to both individuals involved.

Now, I am here to ask, if mentoring has so many positive aspects to it, why do we not see it happen more in our industry? Is it because we are taught to be competitive from day one in the business? Yes, you may be the superstar your entire career, but at what point do we decide to “refill” the pipeline to continue the success of our dealership or industry? It needs to happen at some point. Anyone else agree?

Here are a few questions I would like to ask from both an individual and organizational standpoint and encourage your responses.  I understand and appreciate the benefit of having a mentor and look to get others thinking alike:

  • How can we help make mentoring an emphasis in our dealerships?
  • How can a successful mentoring program be facilitated by the dealership itself?
  • How do we select good mentors?
  • How can we better prepare mentors and protégés to be successful?

I believe mentoring serves the needs of both mentors and protégés in different ways and will thrive better when left to flexible terms rather than being process driven or mandated if such program exists within the dealership.  Let the relationship cultivate on its own, giving it the room to breath and allowing the time for the information transferred to process.  I certainly experience the benefit first hand and hope to see mentoring grow in our industry as it is in important in the development of our employees and can have a significant influence on the course of their careers.

Mentoring, when the right conditions are present, can be one of the most powerful mechanisms in propelling a career forward. 

Now I want to ask, is there someone you have thought about taking under your wing to help ensure their success? Did you act on it?

Lindsey Auguste
Chris, this is a fantastic post and I couldn't agree with you more. Mentoring can have a tremendous impact on a career path and can contribute immensely in the dealership operations as well. Imagine what a mentoring-type program can do to decrease turnover in the store when new employees feel valued, encouraged, and know they are getting the job direction they need. Additionally, mentoring might help the employee ladder. Oftentimes, the next GSM was your best salesperson, but not all salespeople make good managers. If someone has a vested interest in the other people they with work with or a person they see who has potential in that arena, they can help cultivate accordingly. Mentoring creates so many opportunities and I'm really grateful you brought it into the limelight for the auto industry.
Chris Costner
Great points Lindsey and thank you for the nice comments. I think if a mentor program within the dealership is too formal however, it may be rejected more than accepted. I believe there will be more success if there is some allowance for flexibility and autonomy but without losing the accountability aspect from both sides.
Ron Henson
This is a great topic Chris. I remember when I started in the business years ago. I really admired the accomplishments of a veteran salesperson that was there. On about my 4th day at the dealership I approached him to ask for advice on what had made him so successful. I'll never forget his response to me. He said, "I'm not even going to bother learning your name because you won't be here in 60 days." Mentoring is definitely needed in our industry. Thanks for the post.
Chris Costner
I have too been there in the beginning. Believe it or not Ron, I have heard the same type of comment in my organization just this month. How many others also have in the month of April I wonder? Certainly is unfortunate but we both know it will continue unless we all take it upon ourselves to reset the stage and work to change the dealership culture. I appreciate your feedback.
Shawn Clos
Chris, I am so happy that you wrote this post....I think that most dealerships have a philosophy that the front door is revolving and if we hire 5 and 1 works then that's ok. The whole problem is the a serious lack of training in our industry. I'm not talking about sitting a newbie in front of the computer working on product and sales training that just doesn't work!! We need Mentor Leaders!! I developed a book learning/mentor program based on the Mentor Leader by Tony Dungy. It was open to anyone who wanted to attend dealership wide. We meet on Friday mornings at 7:00 AM and the breakfast is bought for whoever attends afterward. We do a chapter per week and then do a round table discussion based upon what each person took away from the chapter. The Tony Dungy book is a great foundation to getting a program started. In closing before I got into the car business I was a GM for a very successful nationwide furniture wholesaler/retailer. In that business we never let a new consultant take an up until they aced our own training manual and completed an "UP" test with assigned mentor sales consultants. They were graded only by their assigned mentor. The mentor would share in the newbie's success for the first 120 days of being on the floor. This rewarded the mentor and assured proper training to the newbie. Overall we had less than 5% turnover over the course of the 5 years that I was with them.

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