By Chris Saraceno
Before it’s time to put a dealership on the market, the habits of the company’s leadership will come to light — for either good or ill. If the dealers and leaders of the company have the right daily, weekly, monthly and yearly habits, this will be reflected in the health of the dealership and its valuation during negotiations. If they don’t have these habits? Well, that will also be reflected.
Here are some areas of focus that the best dealers have found most helpful when it comes to operating a successful, profitable dealership — and that will add value when it comes time to sell.
Be Relentless and Stay Hungry
When we know what we want for ourselves, our team and our dealership, we’ll be able to plot the path that will allow us to achieve our monthly and yearly forecasts. Once there is a clear vision, it’s the general manager and department leaders’ efforts that will make the difference. If each leader does not give it their all, they are not being true to the dealership’s financial commitments. The time we take to relax and rest on past accomplishments is the time our competitors will close the distance between us. Worse, it’s the time when our yearly forecast will become unreachable.
Part of maintaining the constant effort needed for success is the necessity to keep pushing to reach the agreed upon projection for unit sales, market share and profitability. That’s how we build our business and grow professionals. The moment our team becomes comfortable is when we lose the hunger to reach and exceed our forecast.
Make Continuous Improvements
It’s important to maintain a modern-looking facility. While you don’t have to do a major remodel every year, it’s important to stay up to date on maintenance, style, image and cleanliness. People have more choices than ever before and are looking for reasons to take dealerships off their “potential” list; a dealership that hasn’t been updated or maintained for 10 or 15 years gives them an excuse to remove us from their list.
Even more important than facilities, however, is to make sure you and your team are constantly updating. A dealership with a culture that values constant education, personal development and professional advancement will beat any competition that is “happy” with the way things are — or were. If we believe we’ve learned all there is about a subject, we’ve just planted the seeds of our own failure.
Leaders must create and sustain a culture focused on continuous improvement and keep their team focused on becoming the best they can be. An excellent way to do this is to continually provide them with educational resources and opportunities and to make sure they see us making a constant effort to excel. If they observe that their leadership is complacent about building skills, it will take away their passion. When they see their leadership focus on continuous improvement, however, it sets a powerful example.
Embrace the Rules of Change
There’s an old military saying: “No plan survives contact with the enemy,” meaning that, while it’s good to have initial plans, you must be ready to adapt to the reality of each situation. Economic conditions, new competitors, changing public tastes and other factors are all out of our control. What is within our control is how we react to the unexpected.
First, it’s crucial to be aware of the situations we face. We need factual information and data — not a fantasy — to determine what’s necessary. Next, our leaders and team need to accept that the situation is what it is, not what we wish it was. Trying to make reality conform to our illusion is a waste of time and energy. Finally, we must act. If we see that our previous plan isn’t going to accomplish what we set out to do, we can’t be afraid to alter it, or to change it completely. Almost nothing goes precisely as planned. The best businesses are ready to adapt quickly and take immediate action.
Don’t Fear Risk
There are times when not taking a risk is the riskiest thing a leader can do. If the dealerships around you are using new tools, embracing new ideas and hiring and training team members who bring fresh perspectives to the business, they are going to gain market share. If they are constantly reinvesting in their business, facility and team members, they are going to win. What are we doing during that time?
We should certainly educate ourselves before taking action that has an element of risk to it; otherwise, we’re going off the diving board and hoping there’s water in the pool. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be paralyzed, though, when presented with options for the future. One of the best ways to determine if a course of action is too risky is to ask or observe a dealership that has done it before and are successful. This might be a mentor, someone in our 20 Group or another person with experience in the field. Learning what worked and what didn’t for them will give us valuable insight into what we should do next. What we should not do, however, is to automatically reject or accept new ideas just to stay in our comfort zone. We can’t let our customers — and our competition — evolve past us.
Habits Create Results
Humans are creatures of habit — we will develop them. So, it’s in the best interests of ourselves, our team and our dealership to make sure those habits are best practices that create the skills, habits and attitudes needed to excel and continually improve. Not only will they allow our business to receive the best return on our investment when the time comes to sell, but they make our lives — and the lives of those around us — more rewarding on every step of our dealership journey.
Chris Saraceno, vice president and partner of the Kelly Automotive Group, is also a speaker, mentor and author of the book Theory of Five. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 1-321-960-6133.