I love Western movies.
Characters played by the likes of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Ben Johnson, James Garner and Clint Walker embodied the good-guy persona of law and order. Their cool heads under pressure exuded professionalism and leadership.
“Tombstone” was one of the last films that focused on the legendary Earp family and the events leading up to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
As history records, the Earps had a background in law enforcement but had come to town with intentions of leaving their past where it belonged – in the history books.
But fate has a strange way of finding us out at times, and the Earps were no different.
Tombstone was a city that was portrayed in the movie as corrupt and menaced by an outlaw gang. The local sheriff was weak and usually looked the other way when things got hairy. He was eventually slain by Curly Bill Brocius whilst trying to enforce gun control.
This revolted Wyatt Earp who sprang into action to control the melee calling upon his former years as a lawman by arresting Bill. Naturally, his confederates weren’t going to stand idly by and tried freeing their pal, but Earp was persuasive that many would be killed if they did. They backed down.
Next thing we see, the Earps are all wearing badges and enforcing the law, a life they had sworn to never live again.
Even though it seems part of our DNA as F&I managers to be effective lawmen, that’s a job for compliance officers and dealership legal counsel.
However, we should be versed in all things legally associated with the four walls of the F&I office and be ready to defend.
This is why the Assn. of Finance and Insurance Professionals, Mosaic Compliance’s Automotive Compliance Education and others have created compliance study courses at the dealership level.
We have a fiduciary responsibility to our dealers to ensure we’ve got their back. They’re counting on us to do the right thing, especially when no one’s watching.
But some managers pressure their people to throw caution to the wind and submit deals to banks with misrepresented facts.
Some of you probably have faced potentially compromising your ethics when feeling pressure from them at some point.
Doing your job ethically is a given in most places. Once proper training has been instilled in everyone, the more important reasons we come to work can then be tended to.
The Role of F&I
With front-end margins compressed to the breaking point, dealers have been leaning hard on F&I to bat in the clean-up spot to ensure maximum profit retention.
This creates pressure and is the reason such high demands have been placed on F&I’s shoulders.
Basically, there are three prime directives F&I managers should focus on and in this order:
1. Taking care of the customer.
2. Taking care of the dealer.
3. Taking care of your family by taking care of No.1 and 2.
As to the customer: When we adopt a customer-first mindset making sure they have enough information to make a qualified decision, we’ll see our numbers rise. This includes CSI, PVR, PPR and chargeback reduction.
Best tip: Stop selling them what you want and start letting them buy what they want.
As to the dealer: Tempting as it may be to put yourself first, the one person who ideally provides a comfortable place to work with everything you need is your dealer.
They have a lot invested, and their wishes with respect to products and processes should be honored. In addition to maintaining a strong ethical environment when dealing with a customer, remember who signs your check every month.
Best tip: Take care of the company and the company will take care of you.
As to your family: Conventional wisdom would have us putting our pay plans first. To a point, I agree but if you step back you’ll see that by prioritizing No.1 and 2, you’re effectively doing that.
Let me say, there is no magic bullet that will hit the mark every time. It takes practice, determination and a cool demeanor to make it in this business.
I’m not talking about surviving. I’m talking about thriving.
Wyatt Earp reportedly was never injured by gunfire and lived to the ripe old age of 80. His coolness under pressure allowed split-second judgment by keeping his eyes and attention focused on the right thing.
Striving to do things the right way with the right motives will make you a winner, and an unscathed one as well.
Good luck and keep closing.
Marv Eleazer, author of this “Real F&I" column, is the lead F&I Manager at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, GA. He has 30 years F&I experience. He is the founder of a Facebook group, Ethical F&I Managers™.