The Character Of A Dealership Is Defined By Its People, Not Its Walls
Mindless managerial duties and conformity are major traps for mediocre managers and the casualties are our sales personnel. The time has come to shed the old-school bureaucratic manager and move this business into the 21st century people development arena, to not only stay in business, but to grow the business. For way too long the automobile industry has accepted as a norm underestimating the outcome of tomorrow by the choices managers make today. I was just looking at a number of automobile job descriptions written by various dealers and organizations. Not one of these job descriptions for general manager, general sales manager and sales manager contained the single most critical element of any of these powerful jobs: growing people! Sure, they all contained numbers and job functions and the assorted requirements, but not one spoke about the number one task of a leader is to grow people. Maybe that is why they don’t call it general leader or general sales leader or sales leader. Because we have forgotten that this industry, in order to sustain itself, has to develop and grow talented and professional individuals in order to turn things around to being the professional occupation it once was.
There is a vast difference between knowledge and wisdom. You have heard me say this many times: the enemy of great is good. The primary reason so few managers or organizations for that matter ever become great is because they get good and they stop improving. They stop personally growing, learning, risking, changing and growing their people. They use their track record or prior successes as evidence that they are king. Believing their own headlines, the leaders in these dealerships are ready to write it down, build the manual and document the formula as to how they became successful without adjustments for varying economic climates. And, they are not shy about beating their chests in front of the employees and making them feel small. This mentality shifts their business from a growth to maintenance mindset.
Here is one simple formula: attrition equals managers not developing people! Now is the perfect time to focus on the new measures and performance indicators that reflect the importance of the new people rules of the game. What got you to this point will not keep you here. When your team is motivated because you encourage them, continually train them, support them, acknowledge their accomplishments, respect them, provide them with tools, assist them with their shortcomings, tell them they are important and then reward them, you will be presented with a galaxy of intriguing growth possibilities. Among these are fostering better customer relations, enhancement of your sales processes, morale of the store and a strongly woven team fabric that is unshakable in any climate. Then, guess what happens? Business as usual turns into unusual business gains.
Ask yourself this question: would I want to work for me? Ego may lie to you but others will not. This entire article was created because I witnessed the management (notice I did not say the leadership) of several stores and the way they treated their sales teams recently. In one instance, a manager was promoted and hired his replacement. Every day he told the newly placed manager that he was not as good a manager or salesman as he had been. In fact, he gloatsed by letting everyone know he was the best sales manager anywhere. Of course, he won’t add that the team was rocking when things were quite different economically and he had not had much to do but desk deals. He certainly did not develop his team. His team developed him. Yet he remains staunch on the fabricated notion that the success was totally attributed to him, leaving one with the notion that he was the only person showing up for work. Meanwhile, let the record reflect that under his most recent direction the dealership had massive attrition, units were down, gross was down and every day the employees walked in wondering if they were going to be fired or subjected to the continuous harassment and belittling by this idiot. He was living in the past and hanging his “past” success hat on his new position. Instead of recognizing that past successes are merely stepping stones for improvement, he was using them as his soap box for his “hey look at me” speeches. This guy’s ego was the size of Alaska and was proud of it. This style of management is dead!
Meanwhile the new manager is developing individuals and the team like never before. He has tripled unit sales and gross profits, the team’s morale is at an all time high and this store is getting recognized by the manufacturer as a dealership on the move. Yet, as well as this new manager is dramatically improving things, the newly promoted manager constantly cherishes finding fault with him in the most insignificant areas without any accolades or recognition of the all the good things he is doing for the store. Majoring in minors we like to say. Why would a guy do this when he could be growing and encouraging the new guy which in turn helps everyone including the promoted manager?
Psychologists would most likely describe him as insecure, with low self-esteem, fearful of exposing his real lack of skills, afraid of change and totally paranoid that there is actually someone in his store who is better than him. An egotist thinks too much of himself and too little of others. Real leaders recognize the importance in developing people to a level higher than themselves because they understand that by doing so raises the quality bar across the dealership. Others like the guy we are speaking about love keeping everyone down and manage with continuing belittlement. Sick. Here is a memo from a company president to a personnel manager: “Search the organization for an alert, aggressive young man who could step into my shoes – and when you find him, fire him.” Sound familiar? If anyone is insecure about somebody taking their job, to be honest with you, probably someone should take their job.
Speaking of ego, did you know that Adolf Hitler interviewed 30 candidates to be his personal chauffeur? His qualification for whoever that personal chauffeur would be was that his pick would be the shortest man, so that Hitler would always look tall when he was with him. In fact, the guy that he picked was so short they literally had to build a special seat for him and put blocks under it so he could see the road. But Adolf Hitler, because of his ego, always wanted to keep small people around him. Of course, this is in physical stature, but if you’ve got a manager with a big ego, the staff that he hires won’t be able to help you because he will only hire people that aren’t very capable (because he won’t want them to steal his limelight). They will most likely be average, which translates to your dealership being an average dealership. You can’t expand your market share when everyone else is doing well. But you’ve got a chance when everyone is struggling. It will require, though, solid leadership, CRM processes and the development of your people.
Charismatic people can draw people to them, but it gives people no reason to trust them. With character, you build trust with others each time you choose integrity over image, truth over convenience, or honor over personal gain. A quote from a CEO of a major corporation says, “You don’t build trust by talking about it. You build it by achieving results, always with integrity and in a manner that shows real personal regard for the people with whom you work.” Character makes trust possible. And trust is the foundation of leadership.
Here are a few simple yet profound quotes I particularly like relating to what this is all about:
“A great manager has the knack
for making ballplayers think they
are better than they think they are.
He forces you to have a good opinion of yourself.
He lets you know he believes in you.
He makes you get more out of yourself.
And once you learn how good you really are,
you never settle for playing anything less than your very best.”
- Reggie Jackson
“If you recruit good players and
they play well, you’re a genius.
So for a year or two you’ll be called a genius.
Sometimes a ‘genius manager’
will recruit bad players who play poorly,
which will make people wonder
how come a genius got so dumb so fast.”
- Whitey Herzog
“I have long been profoundly
convinced that in the very nature
of things, employers and employees
are partners, not enemies; that their
interests are common, not opposed;
that in the long run the success
of each is dependent upon
the success of the other.”
- John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
In order to possess a rock solid customer relationship management initiative, you must first have employee relationship management in place. If you are a manager you must do something daily to first grow yourself, encourage your team to do the same, then do something daily to grow your team members. Without this formula you will be constantly fighting an uphill battle and tomorrow will simply be today except one day later. Begin today to enrich and honor your people and they will go into battle with you willingly. If you don’t, you will one day look around and find no one standing along side of you and then it gets lonely and the job becomes very difficult. If you are interested in gathering some leadership enriching ideas, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will get them out to you. Also, if you have a similar story I would love to hear about it, confidentially of course. The time is so critically right to make the decision to implement these positive growth changes in your store and you will have a distinct advantage over your competitors because most of them just don’t get it and never will. You team and your customers will respond in very positive and surprising ways.
Chuck Barker is CEO of his two companies Impact Marketing & Consulting Group, LLC and Impact Summit, LLC both located in Virginia. His experience ranges from an executive with a Fortune 200 corporation, Harris Corp., to the automobile business where he has performed all management positions. His firms specialize in growing people and dealerships. He delivers Leading Edge Sales Training Programs, Customer Relationship Strategies, Management Leadership Workshop Programs and Dealer/Principal consulting assistance for the automobile industry. Chuck has recently published the first comprehensive ‘in-house’ sales training solution program for dealers entitled Dealership Success Guide.