By Dan Schneider, Rawls Group
Some things in life are actually fun to plan, such as weddings, vacations, and special celebratory events. The planning that goes into the event usually leads to a happy outcome, regardless of how long the planning takes and even if there are bumps along the way.
Business Planning, on the other hand, can get a bad rap. Even mentioning business planning to a fast-moving, high-energy dealer makes his or her eyes begin glaze over. So how do we make business planning fun, exciting, and worthwhile for dealers?
Step 1: Think Big
Envisioning what you want your dealership to be is one of the reasons you became a dealer. Allow yourself to think big in the areas of facility design, approaches to attracting and retaining talent, and developing unique customer acquisition/service initiatives. Think: What could I do today that would forever change the way I do business?
- What can you do to capitalize on in the dealership to drive performance (New/used Car Sales, Parts, Service, etc)?
- What can you do to build a rewarding culture for your people?
- What sort of actions are you taking to stay ahead of changes in the industry, including continued generational diversification and new technology in both operations and automobiles?
Uber and Lyft asked that question and changed how we use public transportation. Tesla asked that and changed how cars are manufactured. Think of some of the biggest innovations you have seen and have the benefit of experiencing every day.
Step 2: Recruit and Retain the Right People
Herb Brooks, the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team coach, told his assistant that he didn’t want the best players – he wanted the right players. People can argue all day long about the difference between the “best” and the “right.” Regardless of your position, remember that Herb and the “right” players brought home the gold.
Talent is essential to putting plans into action, so you’re going to want to develop a recruiting and retention strategy that helps make that happen. Part of that strategy includes describing and defining the characteristics of the key people you need for each key position:
- What is the impact of their behaviors?
- What are their attitudes?
- What skill sets do they need?
- How much industry knowledge is required for them to be effective?
- How much experience do they need?
- How fully do they use their talent?
The right players are the people who get inspired by your vision, add value to it, and see working with you as something greater than a way to make a living. They see what they’re involved in as more than an occupation – that’s an important distinction.
Step 3: Engage in Strategic Planning
For an article focused on business planning, you may think this should have been the first step. But without big dreams and good people to carry out the vision, a plan is just a piece of paper. Strategic planning isn’t rocket science, but developing a dynamic and effective plan does depend upon staying committed to doing the right things during the process.
- Identify and document your vision and mission. Communicate the mission/purpose and vision to your planning team, which is made up of key leaders in your organization. If they need to be reworked, then rework them. But if nothing significant is challenged or has changed since the last time you met as a team, then leave them alone.
- As a planning team, discuss and analyze your SWOT. Strengths and Weaknesses (these are internal conditions impacting the mission/purpose) as well as Opportunities and Threats (external conditions). During the discussion, forget about being politically correct and be practical and realistic. I can’t tell you how many times I hear organizations parrot as a strength, “we have great people,” and just minutes later talk about “we have no depth, no bench, and our organization is full of entitled misfits.”
- Devise and prioritize business strategies. Make sure that these are consistent with your business values so that your people don’t wind up with whiplash.
- Create strategic long-term goals. Break them down into a “one bite at a time” format that defines action steps, responsibilities, time lines, resources required, and feedback mechanisms for coaching.
- Update financial projections. These must show the impact of the strategic goals on operating and capital budgets.
- Create talking points. These can help each manager communicate in a way that lets people know what the plan looks like and what they’re supposed to be working on during the months ahead. Communicate early and often. People can get confused when communication is replaced by a cultural belief that everyone has ESP.
And in the End
Stay flexible. In a world where change is constant, the planning team is going to need to be nimble. There are still a few examples of something being “right” or “wrong.” For example, in the base 10 number system, 2 + 2 = 5 will always be wrong. In the business world, the research involved in setting out to build a dealership in Peoria may lead the team to conclude that the dealership should be in Des Moines instead. The original thought to open in Peoria wasn’t wrong; it just turned out that the market conditions worked better in Des Moines than in Peoria.
That’s flexibility. And the person or organization with the most flexibility controls the system and makes an exciting future more probable.
Dan Schneider is a Partner/Director of The Rawls Group, a business succession planning firm, and a Board member of the International Succession Planning AssociationTM (ISPA®.) Dan specializes in dealing with the issues that must be resolved by multi-unit franchisee owners to implement succession strategies geared towards building business value. For additional information, visit www.rawlsgroup.com or call 407-578-4455.