By Kendall Rawls – The Rawls Group
Historically, the car business is one where legacies are built. When one generation tires of the daily grind, there has traditionally been family, in one way or another, ready to jump in and continue to drive the dealership forward. It is an industry where it is common to see privately-owned dealerships celebrate longevity of ownership. We have been fortunate to celebrate some of our clients’ 100-year anniversary.
Due to the “legacy” nature of the car business and years of developed “best practices”, as the business was passed on from one generation to the next, there tend to be protocols and approaches to sales and service — as well as learned behaviors, patterns and styles — that are passed down.
But the traditional way of doing business is changing. Industry disrupters and technological innovations are creating new paradigms, and leaving many of us wondering what the future will hold. In addition, generational blending, with some dealerships having up to three different generations working alongside each other, is altering the leadership and management role of the developing dealer. As such, current dealers must be cognizant of their part in properly developing their next generation of leaders in this changing landscape.
This past October at the Automotive News Retail Forum in Chicago, one of the industry’s most respected dealers talked about succession and the “speed of adaptability.” Don Flow, CEO of Flow Automotive Cos., gave his perspective on how the proven business model of owning and running a dealership is slipping away.
With more than forty years of experience in the industry, his understanding of where the industry is going shines a bright light on the fact that today’s dealers need to seize the opportunities the changes present.
Change spreads to many facets of the dealership, starting with the dealer’s leadership style, and strategy for developing future leaders. This change means investing time in the future of the organization’s potential successors by doing more than just transferring technical knowledge. Dealership leaders must create opportunities for potential successors to develop their own leadership style, think outside of the box, take initiative and hone the soft skills needed to motivate and inspire a diversity of people.
Just like many other industries, the dealership of the future will look drastically different than it does now. Technology is taking over many day-to-day manual tasks. Innovations in workspace are manipulating the roles and responsibilities of teams. Up-and-coming dealers are seeing and understanding those changes. Meanwhile, some current dealers are still having a hard time embracing it. Thus, the up-and-coming generation appears impatient and over-reactive, while the current generation of owners appears unwilling to do things differently.
To overcome the notion of “this is how it’s always been done” and move to “what needs to be done,” mentoring is a potential and viable solution. That means dealers must be intentional in their development plans, and be open to new, well-thought-out ideas and approaches that technology and innovation present.
These ideas may be encountered at conferences and training programs, or from outside business leaders. Additionally, participating with your people in some of the training and conferences they are attending allows you to “stay on the same page” as your people and stay connected to the opportunities available in this changing environment.
Moving the dealership to the next generation requires available, capable, competent and committed successors who will provide leadership through transition. Being intentional about development can start with a Success Development Curriculum.
This is a well-defined, multi-year training program specific to up-and-coming successors’ needs and goals. It is a tool used in ongoing performance reviews and can be refined as the successor and/or key leader(s) continue to grow. The curriculum facilitates, guides and acts as a roadmap to ensure proper growth for the next generation, while also keeping the current dealer on the right track. Steps to create an effective Successor Development Program are:
- Identify budding talent and evaluate their potential over 2 – 3 years.
- Identify appropriate management track
- Confirm candidate’s motivation and commitment to be a successor and/or key leader
- Confirm mentor
- Provide 360ᵒ reviews, accountability, feedback, coaching and training
- Evaluate improvements and continually refine development plan, performance expectations and target management role
- Confirm primary job description and secondary successor development expectation and pay plan
- Set goals for improvement
Mentoring should not be confused with managing. To be an effective and successful mentor, you have to be willing to follow a consistent pattern when approaching your up-and-coming dealer.
Developing dealers understand the industry is changing and there is no fear or complacency in embracing technology and driving for more innovation. They are a natural bridge to the future, while leveraging all the historical knowledge and experience of their one day to be predecessor. The impact on the bottom line and the dealership’s ability to recruit, retain and develop next generation leaders will be profound.
Kendall Rawls knows and understands the challenges that impact the success of an entrepreneurial owned business. Her unique perspective comes not only from her educational background; but, more importantly, from her experience as a second-generation family member employee of The Rawls Group – Business Succession Planners. For more information, visit www.rawlsgroup.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org