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Business Management

It’s Your Dime!

A dime at a time, Otis tells us how to make money

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So we’re off! Welcome to 2010. I hope you’re not surprised that you’re still standing. Here’s hoping you’re not just surviving, but flourishing a year from now.

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Last installment, I asked for input on which of the dealerships that we’re managing you wanted me to write about.

The choices included a dealership attempting to make the journey from being a good dealership to being a really, really good dealership. The other was a dealership that got its butt kicked last year and is in the process of totally reinventing itself into a leaner and more profitable business.

The votes were split pretty much right down the middle, so I have to cop out and write about both dealerships. I’ll try to cover things that don’t matter whether the dealership is in survival mode. The common ground for all of us is that we’re all just trying to get better.

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What follows is the new format for chronicling our management projects. I’ll be journaling some of the challenges, the wins and losses, and the methods we’re using to manage these businesses. Hopefully this new format will inspire and/or provide you with some road maps to implement some of your own solutions.

We created a process called the "Daily Dime" — as in "It’s your dime," to help department managers work in better coordination with the other department managers, and we placed manager duties on customized day planners. The Daily Dime system is designed to coordinate the duties of each key department manager pro-actively on a time-budgeted basis. Daily Dimes, which include a summary of the day’s activities, were distributed and collected during scheduled meetings throughout the morning.This helped ensure consistent interaction with the dealership’s key personnel. Next, we created detailed instructions on what processes each manager had to work through before each scheduled meeting.

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For example, one of the items on the sales manager’s Daily Dime was to meet with the general manager. They’re to analyze and discuss sales and F&I daily operational control, noting any issues. Other items on the list for discussion included month to date (MTD) sales — noting goals, actual numbers, the pace and trend — new OEM programs; and salesperson performance, noting coaching issues and progress. Also, the GM was given copies of sales and F&I daily operational control; a finance status log, noting pending deals; delivery schedule; a daily and MTD guest registry summary; a daily and MTD phone log summary; and the previous day’s Daily Dimes. This way, the sales manager and GM both had a way to prepare for their meeting and thereby hold that meeting far more efficiently.

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By following this procedure, all department managers have a communication protocol, which makes them more proactive; they are all beginning to work "on" their departments, opposed to working "in" them. Now, they have a functional understanding of what we call a "three dimensional job description," one where everyone on the team knows three things: What’s in their own job description, what’s not in their job description, and what’s in the job description(s) of the people they depend on and who depend on them.

Except for the sales manager, all managers now have their day arranged so they can work on the department, not in it. What’s more, managers learn to trust other managers because vital communication gets done at the day’s beginning — which makes emergencies easier to handle — and they’re aware of the expectations and pressure their colleagues have. Additionally, employees know their manager has time for them during schedule meetings; this is where coaching happens.

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On the front side of things, managers have more time for customer interraction since they’re not scurrying around putting out fires all day long. With the Daily Dime process, a dealership’s key personnel are allowed the time to become the face of the dealership, to become someone the customer knows will take care of them. In many dealerships, managers are so harried that the face of the dealership all too often becomes whoever the heck will listen.

What’s Ahead

After a few months working through the Daily Dime process using an actual printed sheet of paper that they handed to their supervisor during individual meetings, it began to get a little stale and memorized. So the team decided to turn it into a manager’s huddle every morning. Once they did that, they started thinking that the paper accountability part of it could probably be reduced to a weekly thing. That fell off a little bit as well, so as I left for home last week, they planned to put copies of all Daily Dimes on the wall of the GM’s office to serve as gentle reminders if they get off track or the meetings lost their effectiveness. We’ll know more how that goes as time passes, something I’ll be sure to update you all about.

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I asked the team if they thought they would have had the same results by starting the process with daily huddles instead of going through the printed page phase, and they all answered with a resounding "NO!" They all agreed that the exercise gave them a much better perspective along with improving their individual time management. Now they work with a shared vision.

We’re watching a few things going forward as well. As the management team better understands a manager’s job requirements, (or, more importantly, what they’re supposed to be), the dealership will be prepared should it need to assimilate a new manager if it ever loses one; we’re hoping our other managers will be better equipped to help train the next manager; nobody will have to guess about expectations, resulting in a solid learning environment for the newbie, too. Since the management team’s jobs are all interdependent, the whole system tends to fall apart when one slacks off. The Daily Dime and the new culture that it is creating within the management team makes the team responsible for bringing a "new guy" up to speed.

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Was it easy? No. It was one of the more difficult things to get off the ground, partly because there’s so much philosophy to hold in place as the thing gets traction.

Was it a perfectly smooth transition? No. It’s still evolving, but at least we’ve got a team of people with a common vision.

Was it worth it? I’ll let you know, but in the meantime answer me this: If it produces 90% of what it already has at this dealership, would it be worth trying at yours?

There’s an old proverb that says, "Without a vision, the people perish." This team, maybe for the first time, has a replicable way to share the corporate vision of how to go about day to day activities with new personnel as they join the team.

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If this sounds like something you’d like to see happen in your store, if it sounds like something you’ve tried to accomplish, failed to accomplish, knocked it out of the park, etc., please let me know, and if you’d like Daily Dime samples, just drop me a line. Although we’re getting plenty of feedback from the GM’s we have in the field, we need yours as well. Call me, e-mail me, throw a brick through my … never mind.

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