This year has been one of the best the retail automobile business has experienced. Factory rebate programs such as 0% financing plus a new attitude by manufacturers towards their dealers has made it possible for U.S. new-car dealers to enjoy great returns on their investments.
At the end of 2002 nears, it is important that dealers utilize their finest management skills to preserve as much of these cash profits in the business as is legitimately permitted by the IRS and their franchise agreements.
The threat of war with Iraq may become a real challenge in maintaining the working capital of the business. But what I'd like to see in the future is more dealers taking training more seriously. After a great '02, few dealers can say they can't afford to. They can't afford not to.
It's not only good for them. It's good for the image of the industry and a great way to attract the best employees.
During a conversation with an extremely profitable dealer, he spoke of the need to recruit quality employees, thereby enhancing the image of the retail automobile business as a long-term career. That, in turn, draws more qualified people to the industry.
The lack of training in most dealership departments ignores the needs of ambitious, quality, goal-oriented capable candidates. If you don't make it interesting, you're likely to get uninteresting people working for you.
I asked my dealer friend, “How much money are current dealers willing to spend for training new employees?”
The answer: “As little as possible.”
True, the industry has come a long way from the days (and nights) when a new sales person was handed a fistful of catalogues and sent on the sales floor to do battle with prospects who probably knew more about the product than the rookie salesperson.
The problem is that not enough dealers place a high enough priority on consistent training programs, especially for their sales staffers. In many dealerships training happens when business activity is slow and there is nothing else to do.
By then it could be too late. Waiting for business to slow down before you fix a problem is like creating a timetable for business to slow down. If you are doing that, it will.
Average dealers have been traditionally paranoid regarding competing dealers stealing valued employees, hence a reluctance to share training techniques. This fear rests mostly with substandard employers. Successful dealers will display confidence and expertise in training and then retaining top-notch employees.
Successful dealers also build compensation plans from which valued employees can feel appreciated and secure in their jobs.
I have known dealers who actually resented paying large commissions and bonuses even though those incentives translated into larger profits for the dealership. Some management consultants recommend compensation plans whereby a large portion of bonuses are deferred, thus providing an incentive for valuable employees to remain aboard the ship. But the risk is that the deferment may look like a holdout.
Financially successful organizations possess strong consumer service-oriented personnel who take pride in creating an environment of success and accomplishment in the workplace.
Because new vehicle dealers enjoyed such a major profit performance in 2002, they should focus on creating a quality environment in their dealerships which will attract quality employee candidates who are interested in long careers in the automotive retail sales and service industry. Training not only attracts such people, it enhances the workmanship of existing employees.