By Samantha Jordan, Service Advisor
How do you protect your purchase when you go through a buy sell? The acquisition includes real estate, a built-in clientele, the rights to sell inventory for one or many manufacturers, but what really makes the money? The employees. They are the blood that keeps every limb of the body in motion, bringing in money from every department to keep the body healthy (profitable).
If you acquire a dealership that is profitable, how do you keep it that way? If you purchase a dealership that is failing, how do you turn it around? Every owner has their own “great idea,” their own recipe for success, their own master plan that is tried and true. These methods vary and can be as different as two people could possibly be. But are they effective?
I have been involved in multiple buy-sells. Sometimes I was part of the new regime, coming in to show the existing employees “how it’s done.” Sometimes I was part of the old regime, watching new hires come in and spin their wheels, trying to gain traction on existing processes. In both scenarios I have found the transitions lacking and culminating in the same result: the loss of good talent, decreased clientele, overall decrease in morale, and a barely-sufficient shell of a business instead of the thriving franchise that should have been.
So where does the breakdown occur? There are so many nuances, so many pivotal interactions to be dissected and examined that would take more time and space than this column allows, but one aspect remains constant: the need to keep employees informed and on-board.
Take that traditional and important part of a buy-sell: a grand re-opening or “under new management” event. What does that look like for your business? Is it a one day event, or an extended period of time running specials and sending out coupons designed to get fresh, warm bodies in the door? Whatever the goals, it is important to include two things. Whether the event or promotion applies to the sales department or fixed ops, all employees need to understand the rudimentary details and the expected results. And when you successfully create new customers as a result of this event, it is imperative to compensate the employees that your new customer will come back to do business with.
As an example of the importance of all employees knowing details of all promotions, let’s say you are running a free multi-point inspection coupon with a complimentary car wash. If a new guest walks into sales, they won’t see it as a different department; they drove to your address and as far as they’re concerned, every employee should understand their needs and be able to assist. So, the salespeople should be knowledgeable about the service special.
Other important considerations include ensuring that your dealership’s existing infrastructure can support the increased foot traffic, otherwise you will be reconfirming a customer’s decision to take their business elsewhere. As part of this promotion let’s say you double the number of vehicles coming into the service drive. Where is the additional parking for vehicles that have been checked in and are waiting for a technician to perform the inspection?
How are you going to maintain the turnaround time for existing service appointments and are you willing to pay for a master technician to perform a free MPI? After the inspection is done, do you have enough staff to perform the car wash at the same level of quality and without extending the wait time for pre-existing service guests?
In order to keep the service drive accessible and sales parking available, it may be worthwhile to have a valet or shuttle service. When a customer does business with you, they feel like they are rewarding you with their patronage. The last thing you want to do is cause a hardship on your pre-existing, loyal clientele.
And after all is said and done, if you’ve managed to avoid all the pitfalls I just mentioned, it is important that the employees are rewarded when business increases. Of course, they will see an increase in service visits in the future as your new customers return to do business, but sometimes they can’t see the potential for future income. All they care about is that the new owners are making them work for free right now. You cannot perpetuate the stereotype that when the company makes more money, they will make less. It continues a vicious cycle that is quite often accidental and can lead to failure instead of that thriving business we all want.
An effective approach may be “If an employee sells X amount of services or units and they will receive Y ,” whether it is a company BBQ, monetary bonus, an extra paid day off etc. Or, create a promotion that allows the customer to receive the service at a discounted rate and the commission employees to get paid as if it were retail.
Sometimes we forget that small details effect change on a grand scale but employees and their perception are so important to success. With attention to details like this, it should keep them around long enough to get through the growing pains, without a perceived decrease in pay. This will allow you to reap the benefits of all the assets you worked so hard to acquire .