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David Spisak

Is Your Dealership Ready for an Automated Data Management Solution?


Dealership data management systems collect and maintain mountains of data about your operation, your customers and your market. There is no doubt about the value of the information contained in those systems in enabling you to make the best possible decisions for improving your sales, retaining your customers, and increasing your dealership’s profitability. But what confounds many dealers today isn’t an issue of having data… it’s how to ensure the data is accessible, accurate, and is presented in such a way that it allows you to focus on the areas of your operation that need your attention. No dealer would willingly give up the data his dealership holds, because he knows it is absolutely vital to knowing what’s going on in the dealership and how effectively that activity is driving the sales it needs to sustain the operation.

But if you can’t get to the information you need, when and how you need it, it’s not going to help you drive maximum sales, efficiencies and profitability in your dealership. When you consider the implications of this across multiple locations with multiple systems, the problem seems almost insurmountable without hours and days spent compiling all this data into useful reports.

So you’re hearing about automated dealership data management and think this may be the solution to a big chunk of your problems. And just so you know, I’m a huge proponent of using smart systems to get a handle on all this information, especially when it gives me an out-of-the-box reporting solution that will help me spend my time managing intelligently, rather than creating spreadsheets and seeking out and inserting the data I need to put into them. But how do you know if you’re ready to take that leap? Here are a few thought-starters to help you determine if you’re ready… and to consider the risks if you don’t.

Does your data give you complete transparency to your operation?

If you’re one of the few dealers who feels very confident that the information you are using to keep your finger on the pulse of your operation is as timely and accurate and gives you the information you need to make immediate adjustments in the daily operation, you’re one of the lucky ones. However, most dealers do not have the confidence that they are seeing everything that’s happening in the dealership. What’s more, many worry that the information they do use is not accurate, either because it’s been filtered or because the data in the DMS or other systems from which they are being pulled isn’t as “clean” as it should be. The risks? The worse scenario is that you’re dealing with manipulated data and the possibility that someone is intentionally trying to misdirect you. At best, you don’t have a complete picture because you or your managers haven’t thought to bring some of the most critical pieces of information into consideration.

How easy is it to access the information you rely on?

Even more troubling is that while dealers and general managers do not have formal training in information systems or database management, they take it upon themselves to acquire, maintain and utilize their systems resources to the best of their ability. In their defense, for many years, the basic functionality of most DMS platforms hasn’t changed that much. And thoughtful dealers will study reviews, talk with their peers, and sit through hours of features and benefits presentations where they are shown all the bells and whistles of this system or that, with the expectation that the vendor knows what they need and will deliver on its promises. What do dealers need from their systems? They want easy-to-use systems that will collect the data they need and present that data in useful reports that will help them make great decisions. It’s a simple, straightforward objective, but what we’ve found to be consistently problematic among all DMS platforms is the part about getting the data out of the systems in usable formats for making great decisions. It’s your data, but there is a risk that the vendor does not offer you complete access to the information you need. And decisions made on incomplete information can be worse than making decisions with no information at all.

How confident are you in the accuracy of your data?

“Garbage in, garbage out” is another common problem business owners and their managers deal with continuously…the information you get out of your systems is only as good as the data that’s going into them. I’m sure there have been many times when you found yourself questioning whether the information in your reports was correct. It’s frustrating, but essential that the information you’re using is “bullet proof,” so you find yourself going back and forth with a manager questioning, discussing, and reviewing the data until you’re eventually satisfied that the information is accurate enough that you can make a good decision. That could take several hours or several days for each report you question.It’s a real drain on your time and energy, and the kicker is that you probably still don’t have complete confidence in the information you’re using! In terms of your time and attention, your manual reporting processes could be costing you much more than you realize.

Can you get updated information quickly and as often as you need it?

Even if the data going into the dealership’s systems is as accurate as it can possibly be, there is yet another problem that some dealers may not admit they have: They simply don’t have an effective data analysis discipline. Relying on standard reports and what’s always been done, some don’t know that other information will give them better insights to make the critical adjustments that can result in the most net profit by month end. And they don’t know how often they should be watching that information. And even if they wanted to keep their finger on the pulse of the dealership’s daily operations, they quite likely wouldn’t (or couldn’t) be able to get to the most up-to-date, reliable information as quickly as they’d need it. In fact, our data suggests that the average dealership report usage is 800 report views a month. When you consider the average time managers spend preparing and updating a report is about 15 minutes, that’s a lot of manager productivity lost to manual reporting. A more efficient and effective discipline would be to have all the updated information you need in a matter of seconds…not hours or days. The risk associated with the reporting lag-time described here is that you aren’t effectively making the adjustments you need to be making to have the greatest impact on the month-end net profit of the dealership.

Does any of this resonate with you? Are you feeling called-out a bit?

You are not alone. In fact, you’re in the majority. As I said, most dealers we talk with about data management best practices are experiencing one or more of these problems, and most are feeling the pain of all of them. Want to do a quick gut-check on the wasted productivity your dealership may be experiencing for lack of an automated solution?  Check out the Productivity Calculator to see what manual reporting may be costing you. Then schedule some time for a demo with a data management solution provider like NCM axcessa today.

See David Spisak’s presentation on dealership data management at the Driving Sales Executive Summit on Monday, October 13th. Click here for details and to register. Watch the preview below: 

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Rebecca Chernek

The Great Debate – Gen Y and F&I


A little while ago I wrote a blog post for NCM entitled: F&I for Gen Y: Their Way or the Highway. This post set off a storm of controversy that continues to generate some spirited conversations between what some would call “old lions” and “young lions.” Or, if you prefer, “traditional” practitioners against those who embrace new methodologies and process when selling and financing vehicles.

The question at the epicenter of the argument is:

Should dealerships change the way they do business in order to accommodate the new generation of car buyers or is such an adjustment unnecessary?

Some say yes, some say hell no. There are some who insist that this generation is exactly the same as previous generations, with the same expectations and requirements. There is also a position that, even if today’s consumer has different expectations, they will eventually adjust to processes designed to “help us, help them.” But as with most subjects, everyone has an opinion.

At the heart of this debate is the resistance among many to the notion that any consumer – young or old, Gen Y or Baby Boomer – has the right to demand that a dealership speed up delivery time. Comments like “It takes as long as it takes” and “You can’t always get what you want” abound. Some have even gone so far as to declare, “These Gen Y customers have a majority of subprime credit over 50%. Who are they to tell us how quickly we respond to obtain bank approval, even if it takes all day?” In addition, the position that “customers have always wanted a dealership to speed up delivery time, so this is nothing new” is also common.

You will find many in our industry who share this viewpoint, from sales floor staff to F&I pros. The belief is that if someone wants to buy a car, they need to cool their jets and learn to wait, just like their parents or grandparents were conditioned to do in the past. Either the customer adapts, or they simply won’t be buying a car at their dealership. The challenge here is that it’s obvious when you read trade publications that the consumer of today is extremely sensitive to how long something takes and will reject a business far more often than before because said business made the process less convenient or a “waste of their time.”

The espousers of these opinions represent a small and vocal percentage of auto sales professionals that see the concept of change as a threat to the traditional way they’ve always done business. This group gives little consideration to adjusting outdated processes that would prevent the customer from enduring long hours at the dealership waiting for approval. Instead, it’s their way or the highway.

But it’s not all resistance and foot-dragging in the high stakes game of auto sales. Some, like Chris Spensley, an industry professional with nearly 30 years of experience, lay claim to what I see as a clear and vital understanding of how generations change. Whether that change can be considered evolution or devolution is another argument for another day. The fact remains, it’s happening – and dealers who opt to dig in their heels and hold fast to their rapidly aging traditions may suffer for their inflexibility in the long run. Things just aren’t the same way they have always been in the information age.

“Customers don’t have to do anything,” Spensley says; pointing to what he sees as “the most fundamental flaw” in the way far too many in the auto industry think. “Expecting them to adjust to us is a pretty silly notion. We have to adjust.”

Spensley goes on to shed light on the fact that Gen Y auto customers are now exceeding Gen X in vehicle purchases, making it all the more important to gain an understanding of their expectations when they walk onto a car lot. “That starts with coming to the realization that the way we have done things in the past simply does not work in a lot of cases,” he says.

To be clear, nobody is suggesting that dealerships undergo radical changes to their business models. For example, one of the core focuses of the coaching I offer, F&I Training – Nonprime & Subprime, revolves around the critical support for dealerships to understand the benefit of training their staff on the necessary steps to speed up loan prequalification. That’s not reinventing the wheel – that’s refining it. Taking the time to manage consumer expectations and making adjustments in consideration of time and convenience.

Ultimately, the bottom line is this:

If car buying customers are spending any longer than 30 minutes in the F&I office, you should be asking yourself why. More importantly, you should be asking yourself what you could do to change that.

In order to avoid landing a customer on a car they could never possibly qualify or budget for, sales teams must be tasked with establishing basic credit criteria to identify certain awareness-raising flags. It’s as simple as that. When numbers speak louder than words or wishes, it’s absolute folly to take any other approach.

Speeding up delivery time isn’t just about appeasing the customer’s desire to get in and out as quickly as possible. It’s also about future earnings potential. It’s about ensuring that they send referrals back your way, and ensuring that they come back again the next time they’re in the market for a new ride. To accomplish this, it’s crucial that dealerships get their act together. A big part of this involves taking a long hard look in the mirror (and into your existing processes) and asking some pointed questions:

  • What is the customer’s overall perception of your dealership?
  • Do they like you, or are they just suffering your ineptitude because you’re the only lot in town?
  • Are you credible? Will you do as you say you will?
  • Is it likely the customer will return to your dealership anytime in the near future?
  • Did the customer have to endure hours waiting on bank approval, or dreaded negotiation, or the embarrassment of being switched from one car to another – or, worse yet, finding themselves stuffed into a car payment outside of their budget only to experience a serious case of buyer’s remorse?
  • What will be the chance of them telling their friends and neighbors they had a positive buying experience at your dealership?
  • Finally, and most importantly: Do you even care? You should.

According to’s 2014 Automotive Buyer Influence Study, Millennials (the 74-million strong generation born after 1980, sometimes referred to as Gen Y) are changing the way cars are bought and sold. Today, young buyers represent about 12 percent of the overall auto buying public. But in the next six years, between now and 2020, that percentage is expected to rise sharply to 40 percent.

Adding to the urgent need to cater to this rapidly growing consumer base is the fact that Gen Y auto buyers today make up for 35 percent of all used car sales – exceeding the 26 percent represented by Gen X buyers and the 32 percent share Baby Boomers account for.

Along with that major shift will come significant changes spurred by the mobile revolution. Already, half of all Millennials say they’ve used their smartphones to shop for cars in the past. According to predictions, this percentage will jump to 80 percent by 2020. If stats like these aren’t enough to convince you that young buyers are going to have a transformative impact on the auto industry, you’re probably just not paying attention.

It’s clear I’m not alone in my belief that dealers who espouse an “our way or the highway” attitude will soon be left behind by competitors who see this opportunity for what it is. In many ways, what’s going on today reminds me a lot of the days when Saturn first opened their doors. Industry naysayers proclaimed loudly that: “customers want to negotiate” and predicted within a year, Saturn would fold. It didn’t. It also calls to mind those who claimed menu selling was nothing more than a fad that would never survive the times. They were also wrong.

With the ever-increasing numbers of consumers who are gravitating to transparent online car sales sites operated by corporate giants, it’s clear the industry is experiencing yet another massive shift. Like rock and roll, these new sales methodologies are here to stay. Will you survive the change?

Upcoming course from the NCM Institute: Principles of Express Service Management. Classes begin on September 30th at the NCM Headquarters in Kansas City. Full details here.


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Steve Hall

Three Chances to Sell in Service


Do you ever consider how many chances you get to sell to a service customer? What I’m talking about isn’t tactics, but rather the opportunities to gain a sale, or additional sale every time a customer reaches out to your service department. The way that I see it, you have three opportunities with each customer – and if you are effective in all three you are probably doing very well in your hours per repair order category. If you aren’t effectively using all three opportunities, that could be part of your struggles.

Here are the three opportunities that I am referring to:

The first one is the prime item sale.

This is why the customer contacted you and wants to come in for service. If we don’t mess this one up, meaning forget to ask for the appointment, let the phone go unanswered, or turn away a drop in, you should have a 100% close rate on this item. It seems as if most dealerships aren’t great at accomplishing even this most basic sale opportunity. The other two selling opportunities can only happen if we first succeed in this category. If you are lucky enough not to shoot yourself in the foot during this customer request, you get to move in to the second round of selling. Congratulations.

Next you need to decide if you are a selling organization or a “fix it and smile” organization. Let me explain: “Fix it and smile” organizations manage to get the customer in for their prime item (customer request) but that is all that they do. They never present any additional items to the customer, they just “fix it and smile.”

If you want to become a selling organization, you get to move into the second and third selling opportunities:

The second one is the service drive selling opportunity.

Once you have greeted the customer and reviewed the prime item, do you perform a walk around on the vehicle and present a maintenance menu to the customer using sound benefit selling techniques? Another question that you must answer is: do you even have current and relevant maintenance menus for your advisors to sell with? If you do, and they use them – congratulations, you now have two of the three selling opportunities in place.

The third and final selling opportunity is the additional service request.

These are the needed repair items that are found by the technician during the multi-point inspection process. The ASR can provide the most profitable selling to a service department, but you must have a great process in place that is able to track the sales effectiveness of this opportunity.

Think about this, the prime item has 100% closing rate – it just can’t get better than that. The additional service request has the most upside sales potential and parts and labor dollars to be gained. While the menu process is icing on the cake adding additional sales that are highly desired jobs by any technician.

If you perform all three of them effectively, your hours per repair order should be in good shape. If you are struggling, look into each category and find the hidden gold that you are missing.

If you would like to learn more about the three selling opportunities in service and how to capitalize on them, contact the NCM Institute and enroll in our Principles of Service Management classes and see how much profit you can unlock.

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Dave Anderson

Building a High Performance Culture (Part Ten)

This article is part of a multi-part series titled “Building a High Performance Culture” by Up To Speed Guest Expert, Dave Anderson, of LearnToLead®.

bored businessman

Words that Hurt: Sloth

In this tenth post on building a high performance culture, I want to discuss a word that devastates organizations and ensures a person, business, non-profit or nation will never reach its potential: sloth.

More about sloth in a moment, but to bring yourself up to date with this series, peruse the following words from past posts that work to build strength in a culture, and words that hurt a culture. This will help you grasp the concepts, values and mindsets necessary for great performance; and help you identify and weed out those that are harmful.

Words that work:

Earn: to acquire through merit.

Deserve: to be worthy of; to qualify for.

Consistent: constantly adhering to the same principles.

Hope: grounds for believing something in the future will happen.

Catalyst: a person or thing that makes something happen.

Responsible: to be the primary cause of something.

Tough-minded: strong willed, vigorous, not easily swayed.

Words that hurt:

Fault: responsibility for failure.

To use in a sentence: It’s not my fault I had a bad month. In other words, I’m a victim.

Blame: to assign responsibility for failure.

Excuse: a plea offered to explain away a fault or failure.

Mediocre: average, ordinary, not outstanding.

Wish: to want something that cannot, or probably will not happen.

Entitle: a claim to something you feel you are owed.

The word sloth is defined as, “reluctance to work or exert effort; laziness.” Sadly, sloth has become a cultural reality in our nation and has trickled down to infect every possible cultural aspect of industry.

Sloth shows itself in the following ways:

  • Employees are passive throughout the day, waiting for something to happen rather than initiating action that could change the course of their day, week, month or life.
  • Workers expect to be rewarded simply for showing up, rather than stepping up and standing out.
  • Associates want to be acclaimed, measured and rewarded more for the hours they put in than by the quality of work they put in the hours.
  • Teammates are selfish and won’t go out of their way to help another unless there’s something in it for them.
  • People easily give up on a day, week or month when things get tough. Their lack of drive and dreams enables sloth and permits it to dominate their lives.
  • Tenured employees expect their seniority, experience or yesterday’s credentials to substitute for results today.

As cultural diseases like entitlement and sloth pervade more and more cultures, it’s no wonder it has never been easier to stand out in your job. Doing slightly more than expected will get you noticed; going far above and beyond expectations, and doing so consistently, will nearly ensure you put yourself in a league of your own. Yes, thanks to the pervasive stench of cultural sloth in both society and business, there’s never been so much room at the top. Sadly, for business and society this means that it’s getting increasingly crowded at the bottom; the competition amongst the mediocre is becoming even more intense.


See more Dave Anderson at the Best Training Day EverRegister before the end of September and save $300 with code VIP299. Click here to sign up.

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Steven Banks

What to (Not) Expect When You Are Expecting (Success)

dealer laptop

Have you ever prepared extensively for a certain event only to be caught off guard by an unanticipated circumstance? Maybe you prepared for a recital, fully expecting a Tchaikovsky piece to come out of your fingers but mid-recital a contact lens popped out and you could no longer read the music; or, you trained all off-season for a sport and then ripped your ACL in your first real game putting you on the bench for the rest of the season. Or perhaps you practiced for hours rehearsing your greeting line for when you pick up your date only to slam her fingers in the door a few minutes afterwards – ruining everything. (By the way, if this happens to you, later in the date don’t offer to put her fingers in your ice cream cone to make them feel better. That just makes things awkward – trust me).

Thinking you are prepared for something and then getting blindsided by the unexpected is never fun. These kinds of things can destroy your morale, leave you feeling lost, and asking yourself “what the heck just happened?” But it doesn’t just happen on stage, on the field, or in your ’91 Mazda 626. It can happen anywhere, especially in the dealership.

Two questions you are probably asking yourself right now:

  • What kind of things should I be expecting in my dealership that I am currently not?
  • How do I make sure I’m prepared for when the unexpected does happen? (And it will.)

The answer to number one is: I have no idea! If we knew the answer to that, they no longer would be “unexpected circumstances,” right? It’s one thing to be cautious, but it’s another thing to sit around all day and dream up worse case scenarios; we don’t have time for speculation. Our main focus should be on point number two — expect the unexpected and be prepared at all times. I suppose now is the appropriate time for me to expand on this with a few actionable bullet points. So here are three ways you can ensure you are prepared when the worse-case scenario comes up:

Manage Your Data

Let’s say an unexpected situation comes up where you suddenly need to access every single car deal for the year; you need know how many and what percentage were cash deals and the details for each deal, and what percentage and how many were financed and who they were financed with. You have five minutes to get this, GO! How did you do?

That was the easy one; let’s try another. Now you need to be able to determine how many retail units you’ve sold MTD, know which have been booked and which haven’t even gone through accounting yet, what the gross is for both booked and unbooked, what your pace is for month end (from the perspective of units, gross, PVR, front end, and back end), get an aged receivable count and balance, get an aged inventory count (both new and used) with the vehicle details, know which of your salespersons haven’t sold a vehicle in over three days, and compare MTD pace to your forecast (if you even have a forecast).  Five minutes, GO!

Impossible? Not really, I can get all of that in two minutes and am happy to prove it anyone. There might be a select few of you out there who also could get that information on demand; however, I’m willing to bet that many of you would either panic or throw in the towel if you needed that information and needed it now. The beauty is, all of that information is available, and it resides in your DMS. The real question is, can you easily and efficiently access it without it being time consuming? If not, find a way to get the data out of your DMS and into your hands in an uncomplicated fashion.

Keep Records

This is very different than the aforementioned point. Managing your data is one thing, but making sure you are keeping your data is a completely different thing. If don’t have data, you can’t manage it. Is your information protected in the instance of a system crash? Or what happens when you switch DMS systems, are you absolutely certain that 100% of your data and records will be transferred over?  Be on the safe side, make sure your information is warehoused. Many vendors can do this for a nominal fee.

Know the Right People

You are in a legal bind, you have unexpected personnel turnover, you are going through a buy/sell, you realize your service matrix is as outdated as The Matrix movie. If you run or manage a dealership, you’re pretty smart, but none of us knows everything. Make sure you have solid relationships with the right consultants. Getting unbiased input from knowledgeable and credible sources when you need them can work wonders.

It’s tough being prepared for the unknown. But by taking the appropriate precautions you can almost eliminate the worse-case scenario, which isn’t to stop the unexpected, but to be prepared for when the unexpected happens. By ensuring you have a checkmark beside these three items, you are ensuring you have a great foundation for unanticipated circumstances. Oh, and honey, we’re having triplets!


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Larry Dorfman

CPO: What is Your Dealership Missing?

Larry Dorfman is the CEO of EasyCare and a new guest contributor to the Up to Speed blog. Since 1984, EasyCare has set the standard in automotive benefits created to enhance the vehicle buying and ownership experience. Read more about EasyCare here


As CPO sales continue to break records and consumers are consistently willing to pay more for them, making sure you are competitive AND able to hold profit on the “Other Makes and Models” (OMMs) in your auto dealership’s inventory becomes more and more important. How are you competing with the factory CPO vehicles in your market on an off-make vehicle in your inventory? Most dealers have one answer to that question: “Price.”

If that is your answer, why not certify your OMM vehicles to win online and in the showroom against your competitors’ factory CPO vehicles? Dealers who do are selling more cars, holding more profit and building more loyalty with the customers who are buying them. They are digitally advertising these vehicles as “Certified” or “CPO” and creating more conversion opportunities with consumers looking for certified vehicles. When the customer comes to the lot, they don’t have to compete on price alone. They have a much better “why buy here” story to tell/sell against their competitors’ CPO vehicles.

There are four keys to holding pre-owned margins in today’s digital marketplace.

I think we all agree that managing and pricing your inventory appropriately is the number one key to having a successful pre-owned process.  With that being said, implementing the following three items will put you head and shoulders above your peers:

Respond to the consumer’s search with a relevant ad. The more your ad and landing pages match the consumer’s search, the better chance you have of search engines displaying and consumers clicking your ad.

Provide as much information about the vehicle as possible on the landing page to build value up front and “win the click.” Research is clear; consumers shopping for “certified” are looking for certified, but many don’t actually understand what the specific CPO program covers. Educating them on the landing page will drive more conversions and more sales.

Certify as many of your pre-owned vehicles as possible. Consumers are paying more for the confidence they have in CPOs. Whether you are presenting a factory CPO, or an independent certified program on your other makes and models, certifying as many as you can creates more opportunities, more sales and more profit.

Adding certified value without process and training is just adding expense. The brilliant man who wrote Velocity and created V-Auto told me this years ago, and the statement is as true today as it was then.

The keys to certifying your other makes and models are:

  • Partner with a national brand consumers recognize and trust.
  • Keep the investment reasonable, and make sure you have a process that allows you to recover that investment in additional gross profit and in F&I.
  • Deliver a strong value proposition that makes your vehicles “different,” and most importantly…
  • Make sure your team is trained to deliver the experience you are promising online, in the showroom.

Other benefits you will enjoy from certifying your OMM vehicles are: offering more on trades for “hot” other make vehicles in your market, buying more vehicles out of your database and service department, and bringing more balance in your overall pre-owned operations.


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Steve Hall

Trying Something New?


Follow this Recipe for Better Results

Summer in Kansas City is the time to smoke, grill and barbecue. The other day I was putting together my special rib sauce and it occurred to me that cooking is a lot like managing. Cooking when you have a great recipe is a lot easier –­ and the results are consistently better ­if you’re following a plan and executing it flawlessly. My sauce recipe helps me stay focused and ensures a better outcome. Every time I think I can whip up my sauce without the recipe, I find myself leaving out an ingredient, not measuring properly or forgetting to watch it closely as it simmers.

Likewise, managing without a plan is hard. We operate in a people business and people can be messy. As a department Manager, you deal with varying personalities, mood swings and all of the other parts of a business that can be challenging, to say the least.

With this in mind, have you ever seen the manager that just seems to get results? No matter what they try, it just seems to work. Do they have a better plan or do they just do a better job with the plans they have? Granted, some plans or ideas are better than others, but even the best plans don’t stand a chance without proper communication and follow up. That’s the secret sauce – the key to their success.

At NCM Associates, we believe in Six Primary Elements of Effective Accountability Management. These elements are the foundation of solid business planning and will help you achieve any goal with greater ease. If you’re struggling to implement or execute your next plan, review these elements and become a better manager.

Plan your work and work your plan.

Do you have a plan for your department? Many managers come to work each day only to have the day rule them. I understand that circumstances come up and we must handle them, but do you take time to work “on” your business, not just “in” your business? A well-thought-out game plan is the first step. Decide what your goal is. Then you must plan the steps to get you there.

Is your plan written out? Well-written plans that are quantified will help keep you on track. This will serve as the roadmap towards your objectives. Quantification is used to put a dollar figure to your plan. This will justify why your efforts are worthwhile.

Clearly define and communicate your expectations.

Once you’ve thought through and written down your plan and are ready to take action to work the plan, the next step is to get everyone “on board” with the plan. We can’t be a one-person show. We must multiply our efforts through our staff. Oftentimes this is a point of failure. We think everyone understood what we said, but really, they didn’t. We may have spent a few days or even weeks thinking up and planning the new initiative and paying close attention to every detail. Then, when we go to launch it, we hold a “mandatory” meeting and in an hour expect everyone to be on board. Take time to do a better job getting their buy-in and then define their roles in very clear ways, with measureable expectations and deadlines.

Measure what you intend to manage.

What are the key components of the plan? How do you know if it’s working? The bottom line is that all plans must be measurable. Many times, good plans fade away, largely because people just can’t tell if they’re working. If you do a good job measuring results, now you will know if the plan is gaining traction and getting the results that you desire. As you see these results improving, it will help keep your attention and focus on the plan.

But how do you keep the team focused on the plan? Why not scoreboard it? In a common departmental area, away from customers, place a large whiteboard and start displaying the measureable results. Then every day, post the results. If the results aren’t what you desire, this will serve as a forum to bring the team into alignment with the needed actions to make the improvements. If the results are progressing as planned, use this as a celebration and encouragement tool. People love to see the score, to know if they are winning or not. Use their inner competitive desire to your advantage.

Inspect what you expect.

Now that you have a measurement tool in place, you need to inspect what you expect. Results will not just happen. If you’ve done a good job developing the plan, communicating the plan and deciding how you will measure the results, now you must inspect the activities that need to happen on a daily basis to end up with the desired results.

Do your associates know that you will be inspecting results and that you are committed to the plan? Or do they think it is just another whim that will quickly lose steam and fade away? For plans to work long-term, you must continually inspect what you expect.

Reward positive results and respond appropriately to negative results.

We believe that positive behavior that’s rewarded will be repeated and negative behavior that’s not effectively addressed will, likewise, be repeated.

Life is a balance; work should be a balance also. All too often we don’t hear anything about our performance or give feedback about our staff’s performance. Good or bad, it just seems to go unnoticed. That’s until someone does one too many bad things; then the hammer falls. We unload all of the built-up issues we haven’t addressed along the way. This outpouring of negative information hits them like a ton of bricks, whether it’s deserved or not.

Why do we do this? Doesn’t it make more sense to give consistent feedback for both positive and negative performance? If someone isn‘t following procedure, don’t we have the responsibility to let them know when it happens so that they can take corrective action? Just as important, when we find someone doing things right, isn’t that the best time to praise them? Employees feed off of this praise and usually try to do things right. Unfortunately, we all too often don’t communicate — and reinforce the behavior, whether right or wrong. Timely feedback will help keep your plan on track.

Develop and implement a systemic structure.

Dissimilar people operating within the same systemic structure will produce similar results. Are you process-oriented? Everyone has their own viewpoints and biases. A systemic structure will help keep everyone on the right track – your track. Set up processes to help you reach your goal. Once your processes are in place, you will need to consistently train, monitor and enhance these processes. You have to remember that processes will not survive on their own. They just seem to disappear over time.

This is commonly known as process evaporation. We hear explanations like, “We used to do it that way, but now we don’t. There was no real reason for the change — it just happened.” The only way to combat this is to continuously work on the processes. The processes must become part of your culture!

The next time you’re getting ready to launch that new initiative, take a few minutes to review these six elements. Taking these into account early in the process will help you achieve every goal quicker, with more ease and better results. That sounds like a recipe for success for any manager.

This article was originally published in Fixed Ops Magazine.

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Dave Anderson

Building a High Performance Culture (Part Nine)


This article is part of a multi-part series titled “Building a High Performance Culture” by Up To Speed Guest Expert, Dave Anderson, of LearnToLead®.

Words that Work: Tough-Minded

In this ninth post on building a high performance culture, I want to discuss a word that works: tough-minded. Consistently holding others accountable is impossible without tough-minded leaders, welcoming entitlement and mediocrity into your culture as a result.

For a quick review of this series, peruse the following words that work in a culture, and words that hurt a culture, from the past eight blog posts. This will help you grasp the concepts, values and mindsets necessary for great performance; and help you identify and weed out those that are harmful.

Words that work:

Earn: to acquire through merit.

Deserve: to be worthy of; to qualify for.

Consistent: constantly adhering to the same principles.

Hope: grounds for believing something in the future will happen.

Catalyst: a person or thing that makes something happen.

Responsible: to be the primary cause of something.

Words that hurt:

Fault: responsibility for failure.

To use in a sentence: It’s not my fault I had a bad month. In other words, I’m a victim.

Blame: to assign responsibility for failure.

Excuse: a plea offered to explain away a fault or failure.

Mediocre: average, ordinary, not outstanding.

Wish: to want something that cannot, or probably will not happen.

Entitle: a claim to something you feel you are owed.

The word tough-minded is defined as, “strong willed, vigorous, not easily swayed.” This definition embodies the makeup at the bedrock of high-accountability leaders. Notice that it doesn’t say anything about being rude, abusive, getting personal, being a bully, shouting or using profanity. No, you can be tough-minded in a calm, measured, respectful voice and get your point across far more effectively. In a sense, being tough-minded means you have decided to stand for something:

  • You hold everyone accountable for living the core values; even the high performer who is prone to be selfish or take shortcuts.
  • You apply consequences when necessary for missed performance objectives.
  • You hire slowly and strategically, even when you have pressing shortages. You don’t flinch, lower the bar, and bring someone on board that will inflict continual damage to the culture and team morale.
  • You terminate the non-performer, even when there’s no one readily available to replace him or her because you understand that it’s better to be strategically short-staffed than foolishly filled up.
  • You routinely make decisions that are right; not easy, cheap, popular or convenient.
  • You raise others to reach your expected performance bar; you don’t reduce the bar to accommodate someone else’s comfort zone.

Followers may not always like or appreciate a tough-minded leader, but they are certainly more apt to respect him or her. And in time, as the tough-minded leader positively impacts those on the team, like will evolve from respect.

Dave Anderson discusses leadership, training and NCM OnDemand:

To learn more about NCM OnDemand, click here or call 877.803.3627.

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Steve Hall

Becoming the Best You Can Be

Optimistic businessman contemplating in office.

Is it a Knowing Issue or a Doing Issue that is holding you back?

Have you ever thought about what keeps you from becoming the best you can be? Hopefully, not only have you thought about this in the past, but you think about it on a regular basis. Though this thought process can apply to any employee, manager or owner, today I will focus on managers in the fixed operations departments.

Let’s consider the following situation for our example: The general manger meets with you to review your department’s past performance. During the meeting, the general manager states that she wants to have a minimum of a 50% increase in net profit in your department this year. How do you react?

When faced with a challenge, most people have one of three natural reactions. The first one is the simplest and goes something like this: You agree and believe that the requested 50% increase in net profit is obtainable, and you already have ideas on how to make it happen. You develop your plan, communicate your plan, and actually perform your plan. At this point the stars are aligned, life is good and you are on your way towards achieving the set goal.

The second and third types of reactions aren’t as simple as that. Unfortunately, they are more common than the first reaction.

Let me explain the second type of reaction that we can have when a target, goal or objective is presented. Again we will use the above example, where the boss has mandated a 50% increase in profitability. You may not have a plan to obtain the needed profit. You know that you work hard every day and you just can’t see where the increase is going to come from. You’re not sure whether you need additional sales, additional margins, good old-fashioned expense reduction, or a combination of all three. You want to perform to the requested level, but you just don’t have the answer to how to perform to that level. We consider this a “knowing issue.”

The best part about knowing issues is they are fixable. Our industry has many ways to tap into the knowledge base of highly successful people. Here are just a few ways to gain knowledge that would help you overcome a knowing issue to obtain the objective.

Automotive Training Companies

These companies can provide a wide range of solutions to overcome most any obstacle. You can attend two-, three- or five-day courses that will cover a variety of topics to overcome challenges faced by today’s managers. A side benefit of this type of classroom training is that in addition to the course curriculum, you get to engage other students and learn from their experiences. It also gives you time to get away and work on your business, rather than just in your business.

In-Dealership Consultants or Retail Operations Coaches

Consultants or business coaches are another effective way to get very specialized knowledge. These people will work hand-in-hand with you, on your turf, to come up with solutions that will meet your needs.

Webinars, On-Demand Video Training, and e-Learning Seminars

These on-demand and scheduled training segments are becoming an efficient way to learn new ideas or to help you understand the solutions that are available on a wide variety of topics.

Print and/or Digital Magazines and Blogs

These are easy to access and search. They are full of timely and useful information. Whether you’re looking for information on products or time-proven tactics to help you achieve your objective, much can be learned using this format.

Lastly, don’t forget other resources for information. They include digital automotive groups, discussion forums, professional networks, personal acquaintances, and the list goes on and on. In today’s world, we are never short on being able to find information and ideas.

Knowledge issues all come down to this:

If you really want to know how to accomplish something, with a little research or investment, you can find suggestions and best practice methods. Since we can see that information for solutions is readily available, this brings us to the third possible reaction. It may be the hardest to address. I call this one a “doing issue.” Continuing with our example above, you may understand your boss’s request and even have the knowledge or solutions to obtain the target, but are you willing to do what it takes to achieve it?

This reaction can get tricky, partly because many times managers disguise it as a knowing issue, when really it is more of a doing issue. They know ways to impact the desired result, but for whatever reason they decide not to take action and do it.

They may justify their decision with thoughts like, “The solution sounds like too much work,” or “If I do that, it might upset (you fill in the blank),” or “I’m happy enough with the way things are, so I’ll just wait this out and hopefully it will go away.” These particular types of responses can be devastating to a business, a department and even a career. Unfortunately, they happen way too often.

So how can you overcome this negative reaction? I am going to give you two solutions. The first one is to personally take control, or ownership, of this reaction. If you know that you are the stumbling block, then you can change and become the solution.

Be introspective and figure out why you refuse to “do what it takes.” Is it because the solution is illegal, immoral or unjust? If it is, then find a solution that doesn’t cross these non-negotiable boundaries. If it is just because it sounds like more work than you want to do, then find a way to make it manageable and make it happen, or find a suitable solution that requires less energy, investment or time. You must realize there are many ways to overcome every obstacle.

As an example, if you are having production capacity issues, don’t just convince yourself that you are maxed out and can’t grow. Maybe you have looked at installing a four-day, 10-hour work schedule to increase capacity, but for some reason, decided that was not a good fit. Now you have convinced yourself that there are no other options. Since you don’t want to do a 4-10 schedule, you just muddle along, not growing month after month, and just making excuses.

If you truly decided that the 4-10 option wasn’t the solution for you, does it stop there, or do you go back to the drawing board looking for other ways to improve capacity?

Again, it comes back to a “knowing” or a “doing” issue.

Did you consider the possibility of using a second or even a third shift, or possibly increasing your hours of operation or days of operation? Maybe a team system would help to gain stall density, or a three-day 13-hour shift program is another option. You could look at reduction of bays-to-technician ratio, or utilizing “community” bay programs. These are just samples of a variety of methods to increase your stall utilization and production capacity. There are many more potential solutions for the example, but you must research solutions, find the one that fits your situation the best, and then actually do it!


To help with doing issues, I like to use the Thomas Edison philosophy. When Edison was asked how he felt about failing so many times when trying to develop the incandescent light bulb, he said that he didn’t look at it as failure, but rather he had found 10,000 ways not to make a light bulb. But he added that he only had to find one way that it would work.

If we kept that same attitude, how great could we become? If you start evaluating every challenge as a either a knowing or doing issue, you will be better equipped to know what path you need to take to find that “one way” to make it work for you. That is a key to ultimate success for your dealership, department and career.

This article was originally published in the July/August 2014 issue of Fixed Ops Magazine.


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Tom Hopkins

Questions Are The Answer


When you work with a new car prospect, don’t you agree that you should try for several minor yeses before you go for the “big yes” buying decision? It makes sense, doesn’t it? It would be helpful to learn a specific technique that would begin a string of “yes” answers, wouldn’t it? You’re probably getting tired of all these questions, aren’t you?

If you answered “yes” to these four questions, you’ve just proven the effectiveness of the “Tie-Down” questioning technique. Let me begin by defining the term “tie-down.” A tie-down is a question at the end of a sentence that calls for a positive response.

Here are some examples:

  • “A reputation for excellent service after the sale is important in making this decision, isn’t it?
  • “I can tell you are happy to hear that we have a wide range of financing options, aren’t you?
  • “You can see how our evening service hours would make your life easier, can’t you?

This technique works most effectively when you tie-down a positive statement about the benefits of your services that you know your prospect needs. The key is not to over-use them so your prospect won’t suspect you’re using a technique.

Here are 18 standard tie-downs that you’ll find useful.

Aren’t they? Don’t we? Isn’t it?
Aren’t you? Shouldn’t it? Isn’t that right?
Can’t you? Wouldn’t you? Didn’t it?
Couldn’t it? Haven’t they? Wasn’t it?
Doesn’t it? Hasn’t he? Won’t they?
Hasn’t she? Won’t you?? Don’t you agree?

You don’t want to use too many of them with any one client, just enough to get the yeses flowing. Experiment with your existing presentation until you find a comfortable number of tie-downs to use without sounding repetitive.

Another way to keep these tie-downs from sounding overused is to use them in other forms: “Inverted,” and “Internal.” I’ll use the same example as above to demonstrate them.


A reputation for excellent service after the sale is important in making this decision, isn’t it?


Isn’t a reputation for service after the sale important in making this decision?


A reputation for excellent service after the sale is important, isn’t it, in making this decision?

The inverted and internal tie-downs allow you to hide the fact that you’re using a technique while adding warmth to your statements. By utilizing all three types, you’ll have a good mixture of them to build into your presentation. Once you’ve learned them and worked with them, use of the tie-down will become a speech habit that will improve your business and your earnings.

Another form of the tie-down you might consider using is the “Tag-On Tie-Down.” It can be used in a variety of ways. The simplest is to tie-down a positive statement your prospect has just made. For example, if they say, “Having a good extended warranty is important.” You would say, “Isn’t it?” They make a positive statement and you agreed, but asked for another positive statement. The statement being the word, “yes.”

Another useful questioning technique is the “Alternate of Choice” technique.

An alternate of choice question is one that suggests two answers, either one will confirm that your prospect is going ahead. The easiest example of this is getting an appointment. The average salesperson will say to their prospect, “When can we get together?” This allows the prospect to say, “Never” or, “I’m too busy just now, I’ll call you later.” Now, that won’t get you an appointment today, will it?

In using the alternate of choice question you would say, “I have an appointment opening this afternoon at 3:00, or would 4:30 be more convenient for you?” You’ve given your prospect two choices, one of which they will most likely agree to. If they cannot make either appointment, they’ll tell you and you can counter with another alternate.

This is also a good technique to use when you try to get a delivery date from your prospect once they show signs of going ahead. “You mentioned needing to remove some things from your garage in order to park your new vehicle in there. How soon would you want to take delivery of your new truck? Now? Or, would later this afternoon be better?” Just remember to use it whenever you have two alternatives you can give to your prospect, and either one means the sale is proceeding forward.

These two simple questioning techniques are the first steps to turning your existing presentations into positive momentum builders. Please remember, a quick reading of these techniques will not do. You need to read them, study them, learn them, and practice them until they become a natural part of your speech. If you have to stop and think before using these techniques, your prospect will suspect you are using a sales technique and will try to fight you. Once they’ve become a natural part of your speech, they will flow smoothly and add warmth to your presentation. All it takes is one “yes” to turn a prospect into a satisfied client.


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