Archive for May 2016

Uber or Yellow Cab?

If you have been reading my newsletters and emails then you know I totally believe we have to change the way we have always done this business.

I frequently rave about CarMax because more often than not they outsell everybody in whatever market they are located. And, they don’t do it the old fashioned way.

One of the things that sets them apart is they show reconditioning as a line item on the financial statement. For most of you that’s way over the top when it comes to making changes so I’m not even going to get into it. I know you don’t want to hear it.

It’s a safe bet that expenses are going up, gross is going down and the fastest way to generate a substantial bottom line is to do volume.

In order to do volume in used cars you need to have a “costing advantage.” By “costing advantage” I mean what’s added to the car once you own it, which includes packs and reconditioning.

To have a costing average you have to re-think your packs (which usually gets down to pay plans) and most important what you charge the used car department from your shop.

If you review history you know that the reason dealers added packs and charged full retail from the service department to the used car department was because sales managers worked from cost up.

In the good old days, sales managers had control over gross so you could nail them with high charges all you wanted. They still got the gross you needed and you could put the money from Parts, Service and Packs in your other pocket.

This is no longer true, as your sales managers no longer have control over gross as they once did. That’s why dealers are more and more becoming one-price dealers and saying “no” when the customer shows up and wants a discount.

If you’ve already dropped your pants on the Internet with a price designed to get them to show up then you have nowhere else to go. So, without saying they are a one-price dealer, many dealers are taking a tougher stand as well as changing sales people’s pay plans to match their newfound pricing and marketing.

The only way you will win is to increase your volume. The only way to increase your volume is to acquire more cars.

In order to acquire more cars you have to have a costing advantage when you go to the block or your front door. The dealers that can figure a way to reduce the cost to the cars once they acquire them will win.

They will win because they have more of the right cars to sell and because they will have a pricing advantage over the competition.

As a dealer’s used car volume goes up there will be more used cars going through the shop. As the shop profits go up they can sell their cars for even less gross due to the overall volume they are doing.

That last sentence isn’t a stretch at all. When you’re making money all over the place you can sell for less.

Somebody is going to figure out a better way. You can be Uber or you can be a yellow cab. You get to pick. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

What Are The 6 Stages Of Learning?

I’m going to be discussing and commenting on what’s commonly known as the “Four Stages Of Learning” plus two others that I know you have never heard of because I made them up. I don’t know where the first four originated, I just know I stole them.

All six stages of learning apply regardless of the application. They can be applied in sports, business, social activities, and life in general.

All 6 stages of learning apply regardless of the application. They can be applied in sports, business, social activities, and life in general.

1. Unconscious incompetence-The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit. The individual must recognize their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage.

The length of time an individual spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn. The more time they are willing to spend learning the skill or activity the faster they move to the next stage.Example: You decide to take up golf so you go out to the driving range, whack at a few balls. 1 out of 10 you make great contact, but you have no clue what you’re doing. You know you love the feeling and you know you want some more of it so you keep returning to the driving range and/or play a few rounds of awful golf.

2. Conscious incompetence-Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage. Example: After going to the driving range for a while and playing a few rounds you begin taking lessons with a golf pro and quickly realize how little you know. You observe others either at the golf course or on video, etc. and the realization of how much there is to this game starts to sink in.

3. Conscious competence-The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill. Example: More golf lessons, more golf rounds played and you are starting to understand the integral parts of the swing. You haven’t mastered the swing yet, but you are starting to strike the ball more consistently especially when you think it through. It’s not automatic, but your skills are improving as your knowledge starts to grow. This can be the most frustrating stage of the first four. You still have to think about it. When you do your results are much better and when you don’t you want to throw your clubs in the lake.

4. Unconscious competence-The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature.” and can be performed easily. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.Example: You’ve now repeated your golf swing enough times, played enough rounds, attempted enough different types of shots that you can break par or better and have reached a very competitive level. You no longer have to think about the elements of your swing, you just do it. The physical and mental muscle memory is locked in.

5. Competent Incompetence-is the most dangerous of the six. It’s when you have years of experience, know your stuff and have become convinced you have nothing else to learn. Your success has convinced you that you are “the man,” (or woman) and you are done learning. Seeking more knowledge is the last thing on your mind. What got you to where you are today is what you think is going to keep you where you are and beyond.

6. Learning to be competent-this stage never stops. It’s a life long journey that keeps life interesting and challenging. You know that learning is a journey, not a destination. (That would be you and I.)

The most successful people at any skill, business or activity are the ones who continue to do two things:

1. They keep going back to the basics
2. They continue searching for answers even when they think they already have many of them.

What stage are you in? I’m in the “Learning To Be Competent” stage and I hope it never ends. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

What Makes You Nervous?

When I was a kid growing up in Richmond VA my father had a “dirt lot” used car lot.

My father and some of his fellow used car dealer friends loved to gamble. Back in those days they would rent a hotel room in downtown Richmond and play cards all night long. Some nights he came home with money. Some nights he came home broke.

My father’s nickname with his peers was “Nervous.” Yep they called him nervous. He was always worried that the cops were going to raid the joint and take ’em all to jail.

We all inherit traits from our parents. I inherited the “nervous” trait from my father.

Used cars make me nervous. Some used cars make me more nervous than others.

I actually believe I have a special radar for some units that make me shake in my pants.

A few of the ones that make me the most nervous are:

1. High dollar
2. High miles
3. Bad colors
4. Bad equipment
5. Cars we have too much money in from jump street
6. Anything 45 days old and older

Yep, those are just a few of the ones that make me nervous.

Gambling made my dad nervous.
Used cars make me nervous.
Gambling on the wrong used cars makes me even more nervous.

What makes you nervous? That’s all I’m gonna ask, Tommy Gibbs

Push The Button

I have a Keurig coffee machine in my office. You know the ones that you put the single cup in the round little hole, poor water in the top, set your cup in the bottom, push a button and voila, in about minute you’re got a perfect cup of coffee.

The other day I went through this exercise, and sat down to my desk to answer a few emails while the coffee was brewing. About 10 minutes later I realized I didn’t have my coffee. Got up went over to the fancy dancy Keurig coffee maker and guess what? No coffee.

I hadn’t pushed the button.

Sometimes we as leaders fail to push the button. All these great ideas. All these things we need to do. All these things we want to do. All these things we should do. But, we never push the button.

We have millions of excuses for not pushing the button. Many times the underlying reason for not pushing the button is fear. Fear of what might happen both good and bad. Like if I do this and it works it might change my life. Like if I do this and it doesn’t work it might change my life.

Fear not. Just push the button. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

How Easy Is This?

Sometimes it’s simplest processes that are the most effective. Pressing your cost down may be the easiest and fastest way to improve your used car business.

Most new car dealers are not in the used car business. Most are in the NEWSCAR business.

That’s when the average cost per unit in your inventory keeps creeping up and up and before you know it you are too close in price points to your new car inventory. I have an easy experiment for you to do.

Take out your financial statement and go to the used car page. To do this correctly you will need to chart each month for the entire year. On that page you will see a column that has used car sales dollars in it. Simply put, that’s as if you sold one car for $10,000 and one for $20,000, thus you had $30,000 in Sales Dollars.

That in and of itself doesn’t mean much to you. Now, subtract your total gross profit from that sales dollar number for each month. That will give you your cost of sales.

Divide the cost of sales by the number of units sold each month. That will give you the average cost per unit sold for each of the twelve months. I know, I know, pretty simple stuff.

Hang on… When we do this little experiment here is what we generally find: the month in which you had your best retail sales is the month in which your average cost per unit sold was the lowest for the entire year. And, the month in which you had your worst retail sales, your cost per unit sold was the highest for the entire year.

The bottom line is that the more you press your average cost down, the more used you will sell and the better off you will be. You end up getting in the used car business and out of the NEWSCAR business.

You end up selling more units with fewer dollars tied up. Oddly enough, most of your problem cars go away. Your ability to get on a 45 to 60 day aged inventory goes way up.

So, what’s the magic number to get to? There is no magic number. Every dealer’s number will be different. If you are at $14,500 today, your mindset should be “How do I get to $14,000,” then $13,500, then $13,000 and so on.

The more you press your average cost down, the better off

you will be. I find it interesting that when I’m speaking to a group, they think they are hearing me say go out and buy cheaper cars.

No, that’s not what I’m saying. I fully realize how hard it is to buy cheap cars. What I am saying is that it’s not so much about what you buy, but what you don’t buy. If you are buying a high dollar car you have to buy it with great caution. You need to either have it sold, or have data to back up that it’s going to move fast.

I’m often asked two questions:

1. What should my target goal be? There is no target, just try to get it lower than the day before.

2. Can I press my average cost too low. The answer is no.
Pressing your average cost down is a no brainer. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

I’m Going To Let You Go

I’m going to let you go. Also known as you’re fired. Saying it or hearing it; either way it is not something most of us relish.

What’s amazing, even in this world of HR and years of seeking to improve our leadership skills, is how often the person being let go is surprised that they have been fired. They had no idea it was coming. They were blindsided. (I’m not talking about the person that gets fired for some heinous act.)

It’s either one of two things:

A. They weren’t paying attention.

B. Someone hadn’t explained in enough detail what the expectations were and what the deficiencies were in such a way that it makes sense to the recipient.

In both cases, if you’re “the boss,” it’s your fault. Not their fault. It’s your fault.

If they’ve not been paying attention then you must not have been paying attention to them not paying attention.

If you didn’t explain it to them in enough detail that they “get it,” then it’s your fault. Maybe you put too much sauce on it and didn’t nail it down.

Most of the time when someone is let go it’s the boss’s fault. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

What Size Are You?

I’m in multiple dealerships almost every week. I get to see it all. The big ones, the little ones and bunches of in-between. I’ve seen 15-car showrooms and I’ve seen some that have zero cars in their showrooms.

In the big picture I realize dealers have to build what the manufacturers require them to build in order to acquire, keep and maintain the franchise. But, do you really need the size facility that some require you to have? Expensive real estate and expensive buildings may one day be the kiss of death.

Take a look at the banking industry. They are stuck with some serious “legacy buildings” that at some point are going to come home to roost. ATMs have turned into online banking. Online banking could turn into a thumb-print and you’re done.

Who needs to take a check to the bank when you can make the deposit with a photo and a few clicks on your phone? Go into any bank today and you will see very few staff members. What the heck are they going to do with all those buildings as we move into the new era?

Every piece of research indicates the car buying consumer wants to handle more and more of the purchase online.

In a recent article in Automotive News, Tom Kinney, manager of the General Motors Pre-Owner Collection Division, while discussing the Collection strategy stated, “The way the dynamics are changing in the marketplace, consumers are clearly demanding this type of a process, on a large scale, all in one place and more of it online. We’ve built this to keep us and our dealers relevant so we can be ahead of that curve.”

Sounds like they know the curve is moving more to online yet they want you to build and maintain big facilities. You can replace the words GM with Toyota, Honda, or Mercedes. They are all the same when it comes to facilities requirements.

Think about what’s happening right now with Cadillac. In the not too distant future, some of the smaller Cadillac stores won’t have any inventory and will order cars online for their customers. Push a button and maybe the car will show up before they buy something else.

What size is your current store? What size does it need to be? Makes you wonder how much longer you’re gonna need that big expensive showroom, doesn’t it?

I think the factory is speaking out of both sides of its mouth. That’s all I’m gonna say. Tommy Gibbs

Do You Make A Difference?

I have almost 11,000 readers and of course they don’t all read every newsletter I send out. My readers are CEOs of larger dealer groups, dealer principals, sales managers, controllers, service directors, parts and service managers, sales people, and everything in-between. I have lots of readers who have nothing to do with the car business whatsoever.

Regardless of your position, your organization, or your occupation, you can make a difference.

There are people all around you waiting for you to lead them, hoping you will be the example they need to move their lives and careers forward.

If you don’t think of yourself as a shining example I’d like you to re-think that. You might feel at times you are insignificant and just trying to get through another day.

You should think of yourself as someone who’s going to make an amazing impact on someone else’s life today. You will not only be making an impact on their lives but yours as well.

That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

Might Work For You?

Memorial Day is just around the corner so here’s an idea for you.

Odds are you are saying you’ve been there and done that. Probably not the way I’m going to explain it. Depending on the state you’re in, most dealers have had some experience with off-site “tent sales.”

Going off-site creates lots of issues. Many of those issues can be eliminated by doing an on-site “tent sale.”

Try This:
Put the tent up as close to the road as possible. Pick the best strategic position on your lot.
Put tables and chairs in the tent.
Put ALL of your people in the tent.
Everybody goes in the TENT!
Work all deals in the TENT!
If at all possible move your computers into the tent and do F&I in the TENT.
Hang banners from the TENT saying “TENT SALE.”
Promote it with Direct mail and/or with a “private invitation” only deal for Thursday before you kick off your regular ads.
Do anything you can to make it look like a circus.
Rent those jumping air things for kids.
Get Port-a-Potties. (People think something special is going on when they see them. Make sure you put them close to the road.)
Balloons and more balloons.
Pop Corn, Sodas, Hot Dogs.
Lots and lots of spiffs for your sales people and managers.
Do a great kick off breakfast on Thursday for your staff. Don’t just do it for the sales staff; get as many of your employees involved as you can. (Feed everybody lunch every day of the event as well.)
Send out memos and emails to all employees explaining in detail what’s going to be happening.
Rope off special parking for customers. Hire an off duty police officer or security guard to direct them.
Answer the phone XYZ Dealership Tent Sale in Progress.
Use any ideas you can think of to create attention.
Do a fundraiser at the same time for the local little league or whatever.
Post the event on your website.
Do an email blast to all your customers advising them of the sale. If your CRM system is sophisticated enough, make sure you tell them you need their specific trade and will pay top dollar for it during the sale.
Giveaways generally don’t do much except cause people to show up to get their gift and leave, but having people register for a free car is a good way to get info on them when they show up. Pick out a $1000 or $2000 car and give it away.
Along that same line, give the salesman who registers the winning ticket some sort of prize. Gift card, $200, whatever floats your boat…
Make up a bunch of signs like real estate signs that say “Tent Sale in Progress” and put along the grass in front of the dealership.
If you’re close to the interstate do some signs with arrows and put up close to the ramp. (Oh come on, the worst that can happen is they make you take them down.)
Rent a chicken suit or some kind of character and have them walk up and down in front of the Dealership with a placard that says “Tent Sale in Progress.”

You just have to be creative. Get some of your key people together and throw around some ideas. Event advertising works. You won’t spend that much more money than you normally spend on a big weekend, but you will get better results.

Consider following up after your “Tent Sale” weekend with a Big Used Car sale the next weekend with a theme of “we have to move all these trades because of the big success of last weekend’s Tent Sale.”

This might not be a fit for everyone, but maybe it’s a fit for you. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs