Cultivating Success in Your Automotive Dealership

Before we can discuss success we have to define success.  Too often, I travel to businesses especially automotive dealerships and am disappointed that success eludes their dealership.  After spending a few hours talking with staff members from various departments the same element is usually missing from the formula of “success”.

These dealerships have poor employee retention.  The employees feel overworked, and underpaid.  Morale is at an all-time low, and loyalty to the company is non-existent.  Even worse, is that nobody seems to have the answer as to how to turn the organization around.

I also travel to great companies, and have been afforded the opportunity to learn from great business and political leaders.  A common trait that all great businesses and leaders have is that they are able to motivate teams to strive and accomplish goals which have been established.  For more information on Leaders and Leadership visit: Automotive Leadership at its Finest

Definition of Success

Success is reading a desired result or organizational desired end-point in some sort of assumed development.

Now that you have read the definition, why do we have successful dealerships, and failing dealerships?  Why do we have successful employees, and unsuccessful employees?  Utilizing the assumption that nobody wants to fail, I will discuss the missing ingredient failing dealerships all have in common.  In addition to providing the “secret sauce of success”, I will first dispel myths of achieving success in the dealership.  Once this is explained, we will then establish a plan to help you cultivate success in your automotive dealership.

Myths for Achieving Success

        I.            You must manage, develop, invent, or implement an entirely new concept to achieve success.  It is true that we read, hear, and use new concepts.  Yes, it is popular to sensationalize famous entrepreneurs because they were the first to practice their craft.  However, most successful organizations are successful because they utilize sound business practices and common sense.  Henry Ford did not invent the automobile.  He learned how to make it more affordable by using efficient production methods to create success for Ford Motor Company.

      II.            To achieve success, you must not deviate from your plan.  Challenges and obstacles are a fact of business, and ultimately organizational success.  Every great war the United States has participated in there were battles that were lost.  This adversity is great for success because without failure, mistakes, or checked egos learning would not be able to take place.  The proper statement would be to not to lose focus of your goal.

    III.            Success is the calculation of Risk/Reward.  Great leaders of successful organizations are very calculated.  They seem like they are the best or most lucky gamblers, but this is not entirely true.  A successful organization or successful leader stacks the deck in their favor.  They play with their own marked cards.  They identify the outcome before the action takes place.  That’s right, they have researched and methodically identified the desired result and understand how to overcome challenges before they happen.

    IV.            An organization is successful because of their leader.  A leader will receive many accolades when they have achieved the goals of the organization as well as criticism when results are missed.  Just pay attention to the CEO at the end of each quarter for publically traded companies.  Successful organizations require great leaders, but true successful organizations have countless number of supporters.  Have you ever heard that there is no “I” in “TEAM”?

      V.            Success is all work and no play.  Organizations that do not have team members who are having fun will fail.  Sure, there should be rules and procedures created to combat chaos.  However, an unmotivated employee will be a short sided employee.

    VI.            The definition of the organizations success is defined by leadership.  Unless you are not dependent on anyone’s responsibilities then you will be sadly mistaken to buy into this myth.  A successful organization depends on the weakest link in the company.

  VII.            If your organization looks successful then it will be successful.  We have all heard that if you “dress for success” you will achieve it.  However, there is another saying that “it is better to be considered a fool then to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”  Would anybody think the Big Mac was any good without the secret sauce?  KFC’s chicken would be like everyone else’s if Colonel Sanders didn’t mix the right ingredients.  The same is true for your organization.  You can have a beautiful state-of-the-art dealership, and not be able to sell a vehicle.

VIII.            Successful organizations make everyone happy.  Success can never be satisfied; it always craves more.  Successful organizations are always striving for more success, and once they stop their competition will pass them.

Cultivating success in the dealership

If you have spent any time in the automotive industry you have probably been part of several organizations.  Many sales, service, and finance personnel tend to change organizations more often than they visit the dentist and some change at the same frequency as they get their haircut. By reading this piece, you are either validating yourself because you are running a successful dealership or you are looking for ways to improve.

 The “secret sauce” to cultivating success in the dealership is to identify the desired end result and proper motivation helping others reach those goals.

Steps to Cultivating Success in the Dealership

1.       Identify, understand, respect, and explain the cross-functional dynamics of the dealership.  The reason this is the first step listed is because most individuals reading this are charged with changing the culture or outcome of the dealership.  The dealership is made up of Service, Sales, Finance, Operations, Marketing, Maintenance, Logistics, Advertising, Information Technology, Human Resource, Business Development, Vendor Relations, and Accounting.  Without the needs of each department being met the dealership will not maximize its fullest potential of success.  Most dealerships that perform poorly have management that fails to respect the functions of each of these departments.  This translates into poor management, and breeds a culture of distrust, apathy, and isolationist departmental attitudes.  For example, if a dealerships IT Department (In most cases the IT Guy) doesn’t understand the necessity of faster internet speed for the Finance Department then customer service can suffer ultimately hurting potential revenue for the dealership.  During any new hire, the goals of the organization and orientation of each department is essential for cultivating success in the dealership.  A sad fact is that most managers in the dealership completely understand the dynamics of each department, and why those departments are needed for the overall goal of the dealership.

2.       Establish, and communicate clear measurable goals, both short-term & long-term, for each department and the organization in its entirety.  A dealership that has established these goals early in its infancy is more likely to be successful than a dealership that has to change due to lack of results.  However, most dealerships have not realized their full potential and change management to move closer to the desired outcome.  Therefore this is the second step to cultivating success in the dealership.  If leadership accepts step number one then step number two is very easy to accomplish.  However, there are a few key points when trying to accomplish step number two.

First, establish a clear measurable short-term goal for each department.  A short-term goal can be managed and measured by a superior allowing the subordinate to plan accordingly to meeting these established goals.  Short-term for senior management (Owner/Operator, CEO, CFO, CMO, COO, GM, etc.) is quarterly and short-term for middle management (GSM, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, Service Director, Marketing Director, Business Development, HR Director, etc.) is monthly while frontline managers (Sales Manager, Service Manager, Advertising Director, etc.) have weekly short-term goals.  Frontline Employees (Sales, Service, Maintenance, etc.) should have daily short-term goals.

In addition to short-term goals for each department, establish the measureable result of a short-term goal for the entire organization and communicate the effectiveness of each department’s importance in reaching the goal.

Second, identify clear measurable long-term goals.  These are goals that have been extrapolated from a combination of meeting short-term goals.  For example, a short-term goal for the CFO may be to find $30,000 a quarter in savings for a dealership.  The long-term goal would extrapolate into $ 120,000 measured at the end of the fiscal year.

Using the example of a long-term goal for the CFO is sure to communicate the effects and importance of reaching this goal throughout all departments.  Identify why saving $120,000 a year in current expenses will help each department.  Establish a cross-talking culture with all departments.

3.       Establish complete “buy-in” and clear reasonable expectations.  Teamwork is not always about building a consensus.  The success of the company does depend on building a great team, but a leader sets the direction and the team needs to be able to effectively work together to accomplish the objective.  If you have strong communication explaining the importance of the goal, and how everyone is needed to reach these goals then managing these expectations will be easier.  It will also be easier to “coach-up” or “coach-out” an employee that will not “buy-in” to the organizational goals.  Be sure to establish clear reasonable expectations.  If expectations are set too low, the company will never have the opportunity to reach complete success, and if they are too high failure will become the norm.

4.       Motivate, celebrate, and communicate reaching the goals.  I could write an entire blog about motivation.  Proper motivation is key or the “secret sauce” for cultivating success.  Some are motivated financially and others are motivated by more responsibility.  Really, it comes down to how the employee feels their contribution is valued within the organization.  This step requires managers to manage.  They must always inspect what they expect.  However, good coaching is vital to success.  When celebrating the successes the cake should fit the goal.  You do not reward a salesman the top parking spot for being the top salesman of the week.  However, this might be a great reward for the month.

5.       Create vendor partners.  You rely on vendors to provide you with particular service or products.  Educate the vendors about the goals of your organization, and expect them to adhere to step number three.  A good vendor truly cares about the success of your organization because without your organization winning they should not win either.  Therefore, they are your employees and have a responsibility to help your dealership reach their goals.

6.       Empower and hold accountable a culture of success.  Foster great ideas with your employees and vendors.  However, expect a plan of action and provide the support for the great ideas.  In the end, measure these results and hold the champion accountable for the innovative idea.

7.       Set customers’ expectations from the start.  The customer is not always right.  If they were, then every company would be out of business.  Running a dealership at the whim of the customer will never lead to profits.  However, the customer is always the customer and the goal is to win those Customers for Life!  It is important to understand, listen, and empathize to see things from their point of view.  If the expectations are firmly set from the start they will be satisfied at the end.  Build a strong customer loyalty & retention program.

8.       Let the world know that you are a successful dealership.  Today, if you are not utilizing social media, you are missing over 75% of the market.  This is where all of the eyes are.  Online Reputation is important to your dealership because that is where everyone is talking about your industry.  Social Media Marketing is where you can reach your potential customers or employees.  If you are not established correctly on the internet through Search Engine Optimization then people will not be able to find you.

If cultivating success were easy, then all dealerships would be successful.  It is no different than raising a child or building a house.  You have to have a strong foundation, and continue to maintain it. 

DeliveryMaxx, the industry leader in Automotive Social Media Marketing (SMM) has perfected the science of maximizing the exposure for automotive dealers on the Internet. Utilizing our proprietary software and years of expertise, we can increase your market share and brand exposure through portals such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr and more. We have revolutionized Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Local Search Engine Optimization (LSEO) and Online Reputation Management (ORM).

 In today’s marketplace it is vital to have command over your public Brand Image while acquiring and retaining customers. DeliveryMaxx helps you dominate the World Wide Web utilizing your customers as Social Media Billboards which increases your brand share as well as turning a “one-time customer” into a “Customer For Life”.


DeliveryMaxx was founded on the principles of creating a more efficient method for successfully completing the sale at the point of delivery. We have developed a system that effectively increases the positive experience of buying a new car, accurately tracks the process, and generates increased customer retention. The net result to our dealer network is increased sales, residual profits and a follow-up database that assures “Keeping the Customer for Life”. Our founders have over 60 years of experience in Automotive Sales, Management, Marketing and Customer Support ensuring a complete understanding of the sales process and the knowledge to help you grow your customer base. Understanding how hard it is to win a customer, DeliveryMaxx arms you with the tools necessary to build continuous, strong relationships with your customers and retain them for generations to come. DeliveryMaxx is ready to work with you to enhance your customers overall experience when purchasing from your dealership. When some see the sale as complete DeliveryMaxx adds additional value to your sale! DeliveryMaxx has perfected the delivery system, so your customers will come back to you time after time, increasing your bottom line profits year after year.

Posted in Automotive Dealership, Customer Loyalty, Social Media Marketing

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