When I originally considered opening a motorcycle dealership, I thought my knowledge of the products, enthusiasm for the sport and understanding of my target audience were all of the key ingredients I needed to be successful. However, I was wrong—way wrong. Never did I consider the avalanche of paperwork, employee challenges, cash flow struggles and monotonous day-to-day attention-to-detail required for success. I certainly never imagined the vast diversification of business skills required to be a successful retail business operator.
This was again brought to my attention at a 20-group meeting which included a plethora of pesky details. All these details, which are extremely important and relevant to a dealer’s success and profitability, reminded me how I heard that Donald Trump personally signs all of his company’s checks. He does this for self-imposed discipline and to force himself to focus on even the smallest of his corporation’s details. This task is certainly not as glamorous as flying in his personal jet or shooting a hit TV show, but it’s just as important to his success.
In a 20-group there were always strong dealers who stood out to me, and those dealers always commanded an attention-to-detail and self-imposed discipline. Too many dealers feel traveling out of town to a meeting with other likeminded dealers to review the details of their business is not worth the cost of travel and time out of the dealership. Many dealers opt to provide a signature stamp for their bookkeeper to sign checks because they prefer not to waste their time with trivial administrative work. Ironically, most dealers with these philosophies can be stumped with the simplest financial performance questions.
Dealer principals are entrepreneurs, many of whom are visionaries who live in the future and are bored to tears with the same ole, same ole drudgery of the day-to-day. I should know—I’ve been guilty as charged, and, as they say, the first step to rehabilitation is admitting you’ve got a problem.
This is why I’m such a huge believer in the power of association. Getting involved with a coaching group or 20-group is a systematic way to create accountability for yourself and to become part of a mastermind group committed to helping improve business and staying focused on those pesky details and routine, monotonous activities like reviewing your profit and loss!
In this particular meeting, Jose Juarez with Victory Solutions offered a compelling presentation on the importance of customer follow-up. He shared real-world examples of proper customer follow-up leading to additional sales. Without extreme attention-to-detail, he wouldn’t have had this information.
Another dealer reduced his floor plan expense by 80 percent compared to the same month in the previous year. This attention to his inventory control, which was an implementation commitment made to the entire group, had significantly reduced his expenses. He mixed his reduced expenses with some strong direct response database marketing campaigns which, combined, led to better performance than the previous year. Both of these tweaks to his financial performance were well-calculated and detail-related. This may not sound that impressive until you compare it to the MIC data reporting massive declines in unit sales throughout the first quarter.
I listened to a small change in F&I and priority maintenance processes implemented by another dealer that increased their penetration by nearly 25 percent. This one tweak will lead to tens of thousands of dollars of found income throughout the rest of the year. Once again, this change in process was a small detail.
Yet another dealer has really embraced search engine marketing. His Internet manager had nine appointments during one Saturday and is so busy with Internet leads he doesn’t even work the floor.
All of this attention-to-detail can be overwhelming, which is all the more reason to leverage the power of association. Peer pressure can be an amazing tool when used properly. In fact, to my knowledge there are few, if any, superstars in any profession who weren’t relentlessly molded by a coach, mentor or a mastermind group for the majority of their careers.
Benjamin Franklin understood the power of association. In 1727, Franklin created his own mastermind group called Junto. “I had formed most of my ingenious (clever) acquaintances into a club for mutual improvement,” Franklin said.
Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team before his coach stepped forward and personally mentored him to become the greatest basketball player of all time. Tiger Woods was the youngest golfer to ever win the Masters, and to this day still credits his success to his coach. No one ever won an Olympic Gold medal without a coach, without someone holding them accountable for their actions and ultimately their success. Heck, Arnold Palmer still had a coach at the age of 72.
I still distinctly remember my pre-dealership perceptions of what it would take to be successful. I pictured myself walking the showroom floor with a smile on my face, selling bikes, parts, and service, and making a lot of money doing what I loved. I also had visions of going to the races in my van and lettered-up enclosed trailer. I thought about what I would name the dealership and how cool the logo would look. I thought about how much better we would be than our competition. Looking back 15 years later, all I can do is grin at my own ignorance. However, I have no regrets, had I known that I would need to become a self-taught accountant, cash flow expert, motivating manager, sales superstar, master marketer, HR guru, product specialist, customer service professional and an attention-to-detail fanatic, I might have opted for another career. Sometimes ignorance is bliss! Damn I love this business.