I love dogs. Until my kids were grown and gone, I’ve had at least one dog in my life. Now, because I travel several times a month, it’s the one thing I miss. I miss it all; the jumping like crazy when you get home — even if you’ve only been gone a few minutes, laying their head on your lap at the end of a long day; how it is hard to be angry while petting man’s best friend and the loyalty that is born into them.
But this is business, and all too often loyalty is another word for fear. It’s often used as an excuse to avoid change and it’s one sided in that the only one who suffers is the dealer. While I value loyalty in an employer, it’s hard to see loyalty come before a profitable business. I would never put money over loyalty, but I would ask, how loyal would your people be if you went out of business?
Let’s not be so extreme. For those of you around for the big dip that started in 2008, how many of your employees asked you to cut their pay so you could stay open? Did any of them send you a check when paying the business bills became a challenge? Here’s an easy question, how many quit to look for greener grass?
I mention this because even though business has been up for many dealers, we know that it’s only a matter of time before the economy shifts for the worse. I’m not an expert, so I can’t predict when, but it has always happened, and it always will. That’s capitalism. What do you do about it?
It’s no secret that I’m in the software business. While I don’t know the difference between HTML and hamburger, I can tell you that there is software on the market that is less expensive than what you’re using now. While everyone can’t choose the lower cost software because of special needs, there are many who can. Why don’t they? Puppies!
Too many dealers resist change for fear of upsetting their people. They are afraid that managers will complain and then quit. In some cases, they just don’t want to deal with the whining associated with change. Sound familiar?
I just watched a dealer sign a multiyear deal with a company that they hate. When asked why, they were honest enough to say that they didn’t want to deal with managers complaining or the pain of uploading a new system. While the newer system was more adaptable to their business, and thousands less, they signed.
Some of that I can understand. How long can you be without software during a change? If you’re that busy and the current provider is doing a great job, paying a bit more for that sense of security has a value. I would even say, it has a high value and deservedly so. But, if managers just don’t feel like learning, I have a real issue with that.
In dealerships, learning is all a part of growing. Whether it’s learning new selling skills or learning a software process, these skills improve one’s ability to get better. If I am staffed with managers who refuse or at least resist and change what doesn’t suit them, it’s a problem. It’s like laying paper down in the kitchen for a puppy that refuses to use it.
There are solutions. Some simple. Some drastic. But all are effective.
1. Get the managers involved from day one. Share why you’re considering the change. Explain that there would be a cost savings, or deals would go faster or whatever your reason is. Have the new company demo and explain what is in it for the managers; how much it is going to impact them or is going to improve their performance. Once they have all the facts, then let them judge.
2. If there is still resistance, but this cost-saving software is a significant part in reducing operating cost, give managers a choice. If you want to keep the current software, pay the difference or take a pay cut. Sounds drastic, but at least you’ll see how much they are really committed to what you currently have.
3. Think. Go back to the beginning of this article and ask yourself, when things get tough in the market, how have your managers sacrificed to keep your doors open? I will tell you that in 100% of the situations like this that I’ve been involved in, it took less than 24 hours to find new managers with talent and experience and most importantly, a willingness to learn new technology to improve the bottom line in dealerships.
As the person who has invested the most in your operation, which means you have the most at risk, it would seem to me that you should be able to do things that you believe will improve the operation. If you are someone who values loyalty, fantastic. Have your people involved in upcoming changes from the very beginning. But, not as an option. Tell them change is coming, here’s why and here’s what it is. What can we do together to make it a smooth transition?
John Fuhrman is director of training for OptionSoft Technologies and has trained over 15,000 sales, management and F&I professionals since 1996. He can be reached at [email protected] He has conducted webinars for MPN, which are listed on the MPN website.