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In the automotive industry, if there is one thing we know for certain it is that change is constant and necessary for survival.  Whether it’s changes in management, sales people, service writers and/or what incentives are in place at the dealership…change is bound to happen…and frequently.  Every dealer would love to put into action a permanent sales plan and deal flow but that won’t lend itself well to reality.  Car dealers better be good at change in order to survive.

How can you be good at change?  I know it’s easier said than done but the key is to have a process in place as to how you’ll deal with change and document the process!  In essence, plan for change as well as possible.  Unfortunately creating that process is the easiest part of “the process”.  I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that “the Devil is in the details” and that’s certainly true when you’re trying to create/change a process in your store.

Have you ever stopped, taken an outside the box view and asked yourself why changes are so hard to implement?  I’ve not only asked, I’ve studied it.  Here are some of the reasons or challenges to why change is so difficult to accomplish:

* You’re convinced the changes you’re going to implement will improve the situation.  But no one else is.  Since they are likely the ones that will actually do the day-to-day work, you NEVER see improvement.  Most people see new processes or change as “just one more thing I have to do today!”

* As a manager, you create a process and expect it to be followed.  However, you don’t micromanage it and ultimately you don’t inspect the process.

* A new process gets implemented in your store, but there are no tangible measuring tools.  You follow up by asking people, “How’s the new process going?”  We all know what’s going to happen next…they’re going to tell you it’s going great!

I’ve been there, I’ve heard your staff talk and trust me… what they’re saying is “Don’t worry about following this plan; he’ll change it or forget about it in a couple of weeks”.  And they think to themselves, “If I ignore it, “it” will go away.”  But as you and I both know, it won’t go away.  Something new will always change.

Here are 6 steps to successfully implementing new processes and ultimately change at your dealership:

1. Think your solution through first.  It’s okay to make minor changes, but don’t put yourself in a position to have to make major changes every couple of weeks in order to reach your “final destination”.

2. Share the problem with your staff members.  It’s imperative that your employees understand why the current change is needed (and perhaps even required).

3. Get employees’ commitment to implement the new process/change.  In other words, have them take some  “ownership” in the process.

4. Create obtainable/tangible landmarks within your process

5. Explain your measuring “tool” when and how you’ll evaluate improvement.

a. Define the rewards for the staff members involved who achieve success and define the negative consequences for those who don’t.

b. Give the staff members the appropriate level of authority to make the necessary decisions to achieve the goal.  Give them a sense of “empowerment”.

6. Micromanage the project for at least 21 days.

The worst thing you can do after you’ve got a good start to this process is to assume it’s going to continue to improve when you’re not micromanaging it.  Evaluate your staff’s performance.  Also identify a “leader”…You’re not looking for another manager; you’re looking for a project coordinator.  Explain to the staff that the coordinator is not their manager; he’s the one reporting the results to you on a weekly/semi weekly basis.

Communication is one of the most important aspects in the process.  As I’ve said throughout, change is constant and necessary…you must communicate this to your employees.  The majority of the time, change doesn’t come from within; rather, it comes from the manufacturer or from the consumers.  Don’t hesitate to explain this to your staff so they understand the reasons behind the need for change and the process you’re implementing. When your dealership comes up against change, put a plan together, work through it and encourage everyone in the dealership to get on board!

~ Steve Dozier, National Director of Training @ DMEautomotive
 
Bio:

Steve Dozier brings 15 years of experience in the automotive industry to DMEautomotive (DMEa). Before joining DMEa, he held upper level management positions in the retail industry. Steve also owned a consulting company that specialized in CRM and direct mail, which brought in $2 Million in Sales for approximately 5 years. While serving as a consultant Steve was consistently recruited by the top 3 CRM firms of that time. Steve started at DMEautomotive in a managerial position overseeing the Direct-to-Dealer team, and is now responsible for developing and growing DMEa University; DMEa’s in-house dealer training organization. Steve is married with two children and enjoys scuba diving and boating in his free time.

Bart Wilson
Great suggestions. I've worked in dealerships where change was always talked about but never implemented. I've also worked in dealerships where change was expected and the transition was simple. In my mind the main key is commitment by the decision makers. If the decision makers are going to make a change they need to be ready to see it through and implement your steps. If not I think you actually lose credibility.
Steve Dozier
I completely agree. Dealers too often put changes in place and don't inspect what they expect. Because of that the change is not effective, they give up and create a new process. Thinking it's the process that was "bad" when it was actually the implementation Thx Steve Dozier Steve@dmeautomotive.com www.dmeautomotive.com www.fullcirclesolutions.com
Jim Chamberlain
Change seems to be more difficult in this industry that any of the others I have been involved in. I think that is largely due to the fact that most managers put in place at dealerships don’t know how to manage. It seems that the predominant qualification to become a sales manager is that at some point in their career they sold more cars than someone else. I know this because it’s all they talk about between deals. But I digress. I agree with all your comments however I think that the main impediment in change taking place is middle managements (Sales Manager and General Sales Managers) lack of ability or willingness to embrace the changes. There is a predominant and persistent attitude of doing it the way I have always done it. Other industries hire managers based on a proven track record and ability to manage. Those industries then train their managers, something that is lacking in the automotive industry. A fundamental element of management is the management of change. Most managers will agree that enforcing organizational standards for business processes and instituting group change is not easy, even when those changes are for the overall good. Still, there are things that can be done to circumvent barriers to change management and overcome Habit, Apathy, and Rebellion. Sheep follow the Sheppard. Without an effective Sheppard they scatter. Even the best plan in the world won’t overcome ineffective or absent management.

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