Make It Work for You

The World Wide Web is my virtual wizard. Everyday I connect to limitless data; never out of touch with everything from the weather in Baghdad to my bank balance. In fact, these days none of us are ever more than a few clicks from more information than any of us can fathom a use for. In spite of this connectivity, most dealerships have seen no change in their business other than a few Internet leads

The World Wide Web is my virtual wizard. Everyday I connect to limitless data; never out of touch with everything from the weather in Baghdad to my bank balance.

In fact, these days none of us are ever more than a few clicks from more information than any of us can fathom a use for.

In spite of this connectivity, most dealerships have seen no change in their business other than a few Internet leads and a huge increase in their data processing costs. This lack of benefit confounds us.

I grew up marveling at wiz kids whose total recall seemed the epitome of brilliance. It was probably this data lust that made me an easy target for way too much technology to handle the way too much information that I wanted to keep close.

As soon as my first computer arrived, I asked questions that caused hard drives to whir and printers to rattle; my printouts alone could have deforested a small country. Sadly, however, the most apparent change in my store was a full dumpster out back and a shredder at the side of my desk.

Ultimately I realized that I was behaving like a teenager with his first car, spending three times as much time getting from point A to point B, deeming driving as an activity rather than a solution.

Over time, I learned to harness browsers, search engines, databases and spreadsheets. I adapted my computers to my business, not vice versa. Power, I found, was in the questions posed. A smart guy told me the goal is having the right information just in time, not all the information all the time. The former empowers, the latter overwhelms.

Which brings us to this month's story.

Every year I spend the beginning of the year focusing my staff on changing opportunities. Those who think that a seasoned staff might not need this ‘fine tuning’ might consider the value of investment strategies left unattended vs. attended.

My success, such as it is, is owed to constant surveillance and periodic adjustment. Few successful dealers differ there.

I started this year's review by listing my general sales manager's responsibilities.

Sales:

Units and Gross
Advertising
Event Planning
Point of Sale Merchandising

Human Resources:

Auditing Personnel Cost & Productivity
Recruiting New Talent
Training

Customer Satisfaction:

The Index (CSI Score)
Factory Relations

Inventory:

Spotting Opportunity
Inventory Control
Buying the Right Vehicles
Liquidating the Wrong Vehicles

This is the short list! A good general sales manager handles dozens of other tasks (not least of which is closing the tough deals). Am I OK allowing him such awesome responsibility?

You betcha! My confidence comes from attacking his job as if it were mine (which could easily be the case were I to stack heavy tasks on his shoulders without adding muscle to lift them).

In this case, muscle comes in two varieties, information systems and the intellect to use them.

Fortunately, my hitter is equipped. In each of the four responsibilities (Sales, HR, CSI, and Inventory) my guy has the brains to ask the right questions and my store has the staff, data and technology to serve up the right answers.

How much is a particular car worth? Which bank has the lowest payment? How many green ones did we sell last month? Is Johnny making follow-up calls? Is Mr. Johnson a customer worth keeping? How many overage units make gross? Is this week's ad pulling? All of these issues are handled with a phone call and the push of a few buttons.

All the stats, historical and current, are waiting to be downloaded into a spreadsheet, then, sorted into a useable document. My sales manager is linked to our vast databases, as well as, those of our manufacturers, banks and the auction houses.

The right information is brought to hand at the right moment by simply asking “smart questions” which in today's world turns the information highway from a traffic jam into our road to success.

Peter Brandow is a 26-year veteran dealer with stores in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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