Running an auto dealership in today’s world is a complex proposition. There are many disparate departments. There is the DMS that was developed years ago and requires a great deal of babysitting, knowledge and care and as this is the age of Internet and fast communication there are many other software’s and complex tools that require attention and proper usage. OF course any business with large constituent customers and employees has to deal with a complex environment. This is the age of information and the user that can best manage to lasso this wild beast, tame it and use it is the winner. There are many parameters that come into play in such a complex business world but one of the most important one has to do with the ability of the leader to truly instill a process or decision made at his company. It is not necessarily the perfection of the tool, or the beauty of the process that matters, but the rigid requirement of adhering to those processes under all circumstances.
I have had the honor of running companies as well as being a mother. Yes at times a daunting task, but the motherhood side has taught me a very important lesson. That is your employees are not too different than your children. You as a leader tend to care for your employees as your relatives and learn to bond with them and care for them and become attached to them, may be not quite as fiercely as your immediate family but pretty similarly. I have caught myself becoming resentful of a client who directly attacked one of my employees even if possibly he was right. IT takes great self control to question someone we see and work with everyday. That is why some of the worst embezzlements and crimes are performed by those very close to the victim. We tend to bend the rules when it comes to someone we care for be it our kids or employees and if we are the president and CEO that “employee” might be someone of high level who could really damage our company knowing or unknowingly if he made a serious mistake.
As a mother, I learned that certain rules could not be broken. That means the rule cannot EVER be broken, not may be or sometime but EVER. This is to the benefit of the child and the whole family. And, if a child broke that rule, he or she has to realize the repercussions were serious. As an example when kids started to drive, they were told that drinking and driving don’t mix and if you do drink and drive and you are lucky to survive it without harm to you or another person your car will be parked. This rule was cast in stone and had no buts or ifs about it. Now, this is a serious rule but there are many processes in business that if not followed properly could have similar devastating effects.
As dealers, we buy solid good tools and products and of course mandate training for these tools but when it comes to attending the training and being held responsible we allow our mangers to do as they please. The “well we don’t do things like that here” is very often heard when training dealership personnel. The fact that may be their lack of success so far has had to do with the fact that “they did not do things” the right way does not occur to these employees and of course usually no one of higher management is there to assure adherence. And as I said above who do we listen to? Our darling employees who will bad mouth the product and the process until for the millionth time they have again gotten the dealer to cancel yet another tool as “being not worthy”, buggy or just not good enough for their esteemed business.
I had always believed that long contracts are a bad idea as they bind people to requirements that are not fair. But now, I believe that in today’s automotive world they might be the only way that a complex tool, training or process can get foothold before getting tossed because of the employees lack of desire to learn and the management’s lack of capability to hold them accountable to processes and training. Jim Zeigler, had written an article about this same issue in the Dealer Magazine, dated January 17, 2011. He indicates that he will not train at a dealership unless the dealer principal agrees to force the mangers to adhere to the training processes and take it seriously( http://www.fi-magazine.com/Blog/On-the-Point/Story/2012/01/Training-the-Manager.aspx ). I agree with him greatly in this mandate. Unfortunately in this business the employees are transient, but it seems that the management feels that solid processes and tools can be too. There is nothing more damaging to a business than this attitude. Think of a family’s chance of survival if every member followed the rules when they wished bad mouthed new plans and responsibilities and did as they liked. Can such a family survive and thrive? This is not too different than a businesses’ chance of survival with the same type of attitude.