It’s A Contact Sport

I’m often reminded that we should remember that business is about blocking and tackling.

It’s about doing all the little basics that we know we need to stay focused on. Even more important is to remember it’s a contact sport.

It’s how you contact with your team and your customers. A head football coach realizes he can’t be successful if they are only communicating/contacting with the offensive line personnel.

The most successful coaches connect with all the members of the team. They make it a point to have “touch conversations” as frequently as possible.

If you’re in the automobile business let me suggest that you start each day in the service department having a brief chat with every technician, porter, and recon person you can find.

From there work your way through to the service advisors, parts department, administration office and lastly the sales department.

If you want to improve your ability to win, just remember it’s a contact sport.

The more you contact with your team and your customers the more you get to run up the score. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

It’s a Trick, A Bad Trick With No Treat

If you read the likes of Automotive News or pay attention to media reports you may have heard there’s a glut of used inventory coming from off-lease vehicles and prices are going to start to drop.

Some of you have already experienced the so called “price drop.” If you’ve had conversations with Bubba or been to the auction of late you absolutely know about the “price drop.”

For whatever reason, you may have beefed up your inventory over the last 60 days or so and now you’re going, “Oh crap, I’ve got a serious problem.”

Let me ask you something. And before I do, please don’t get mad at me. I’m not trying to be a smart butt. But, what planet have you been living on? Don’t prices start to fade a bit this time of year? Would you call this the real “selling season?”

Doesn’t it make sense to tighten your inventory up just a tick as we move into the late fall/winter season? This media thing is a trick, a mean trick to make you think you don’t know what you’re doing.

Maybe you don’t or you had a slight memory loss when it comes to remembering how the market works. If you went out and purchased a bunch of inventory over the last 60 days, what were you thinking?

You need to stop thinking about what’s going on in the wholesale market. It’s not any different than it’s ever been.

What you need to be thinking about is how to retail your inventory, not wholesale it.

While I’m at it, I have another trick or treat for you.

If you have a vehicle and it’s priced number one in the market and it hasn’t sold, guess what? It’s not cheap enough. Trick or treat, that’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

Good Fortune?

Recently, actor Michael Keaton was featured on CBS Sunday Morning. At the end when discussing his success he said, “The key has been my good fortune.”

There’s something to be said for good fortune or good luck. There is little doubt that either can play a role in one’s journey toward success.

Good fortune is often the result of good decisions, one of which is surrounding yourself with good people.

When asked what’s been their key to their success, people in leadership positions will often say that the key has been their ability to hire good people.

Of course there’s some truth to that once you have “arrived,” but to “get there” you have to have the good fortune of deciding who you are going to associate with. Who will be in your circle of influence?

Sometimes it’s the good fortune of where you decide to go to work and who you decide to work for. Sometimes it’s the good fortune of leaving a group of people who aren’t smart enough to let you have a seat at the table and who aren’t feeding you the skills you need for success.

Your good fortune is really all about you. Who you choose to be around? Who you choose to influence you?

I’ve had great good fortune to be influenced by some really great people. It could have been just the opposite.

I could have created my own bad fortune by allowing myself to be around bad people. Good fortune starts with you. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

What Have You Gotten Used To?

I recently purchased an iPhone 6. Nice little gadget. I also tried the 6 plus. A bit too big for my style of running through airports.

At first even the 6 felt a bit too big. After a few days it felt pretty normal. About a week later I picked up an iPhone 4.

Geez, that thing feels so small. It didn’t feel small until I got used to the 6.

The question is what have you gotten used to?

1. Have you gotten used to low grosses?
2. Have you gotten used to low used car volume?
3. Have you gotten used to 60 day plus used cars in stock?
4. Have you gotten used to 7 to 10 days to get a car through service?
5. Have you gotten used to having lots of $25,000 used cars in stock?
6. Have you gotten used to buying cars from the rental car companies?
7. Have you gotten used to listening to “I can’t find used cars”?
8. Have you gotten used to crappy ROIs?
9. Have you gotten used to lousy used car photos on your website?
10. Have you gotten used to giving up discounts on used cars that you’ve priced “really, really right” on the Internet.

Yep, I’m just asking, what have you gotten used to? You’ve probably gotten used to a lot of things you shouldn’t. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs


In a given week I probably answer somewhere between 25 and 50 emails from readers asking questions, seeking advice and searching for solutions.

I’m always thrilled when I get a chance to help someone solve a problem. Unless I just plain miss an email, I’m relentless in responding to any and all requests.

My youngest sister, Melba Gibbs, exemplifies the word relentless. When we were growing up she would drive our parents nuts until she got what she wanted. If she wanted a puppy, she got a puppy.

It might take her a month, but she would stay after them until she “won.” She’s no different today as the Director of Fund Raising for Easter Seals in Richmond, VA. Her relentless style serves her well.

Often when dealers and managers write to me, I end my return email by saying the key to fixing this issue is your middle name has to become “Relentless.” A relentless leader is aware that there will be peaks and valleys.

They know it’s going to be tempting to give up, fall off the wagon or get distracted just enough that the evaporation factor will win out.

When you are relentless you will have moments when you are annoying to others. (Hello Melba)…but, when you are relentless, the good things you put on the wagon of success are less likely to fall off. Let the relentless continue.

That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy “Relentless” Gibbs

Does Simple Work?

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

Who Are The Three Most Important People?

Answer: The person answering the phone, the receptionist and your cashier. Yep, that’s who they are.

I realize phones are old fashioned, but believe it or not people still use them.

I know cashiers are going out of style, but most dealerships still have them.

And of course most dealerships have a receptionist.

Since the odds are pretty good that you have all three, you need to have the best people in those jobs that you can hire. You need to train them well and you need to pay them well.

They are the front line. They are the back line. They are key members of the team that smart leaders never overlook.

A. If you haven’t thanked them lately, then you should.
B. If you haven’t sent them to a seminar lately, then you should.
C. If you haven’t given them a raise lately, then you should.
D. If you haven’t let them know how important they are to your success, then you should.
E. If you haven’t bought them lunch lately, then you should.

If you aren’t acknowledging the three most important people in your organization, then who are you acknowledging? That’s all I’m gonna ask, Tommy Gibbs

Has Anything Changed?

Let me share with you some personal history. When I first started selling cars in the early ’70s, I worked 12 hour days, 6 days a week, as did many of my coworkers. We didn’t work Sundays because dealerships weren’t open on Sundays.

In 1980 I became a partner in my first dealership with my good friend, mentor and long time business partner Ashton Lewis from Chesapeake, VA. Even back in 1980 we were trying to solve the recruiting and hiring problem and to this day it’s not changed very much.

The dilemma has always been that if a new sales person is going to earn a decent living they need to work bell to bell.

But, if they do so they lose their family and social life because they don’t have the time and energy. If they work only their shift they eventually quit or lose their job because they aren’t earning any money.

From the 70s, 80s, 90s and up to today, it’s the same problem. Hours and money. With the Internet and the amount of online selling that continues to grow we have to think differently about the type of people we hire, the skill sets, the type of selling processes we utilize, the hours we require them to work and the way we compensate them.

Many dealers are still trying to hire people with skills that do not fit today’s buyer. Today’s buyer and today’s seller are the same people. Think on that one for a minute. Dealers are still having some success doing it the old fashioned way.

But you have to ask yourself, as fast as the world is changing how much longer can you keep doing it the same old way?

Ask yourself these simple questions:

1. Is it time we stopped paying on gross profit?
2. Is it time we structured the duties of the sale person differently?
3. Is it time we stopped or reduced the negotiating process?
4. Is it time we allowed managers to manage people and processes instead of “working deals?”
5. Is it time to consider hiring more part time sales people? Then couldn’t you reduce the hours of the full time sales people?
6. Is it time to reduce the amount of time it takes to sell a car? 7. Is it time to have the sales person handle the F&I part of the transaction?
8. Is it time to spend more time training and less time talking about it?
9. Is it time to stop trying to steal or hire people from other dealerships?
10. Is it time to take stock of what we do, how we do it and how can we do it better?

Change is coming. Would you rather be the force of change or be forced to change? That’s all I’m gonna ask, Tommy Gibbs

Who’s Coaching You?

The older I get, the more I see parallels between sports and business. Business, without a doubt, is the most competitive sport.

The most successful businesses and successful business people are always trying to score. There are some businesses and some individuals that have more money than they will ever spend, but they still try to score.

Be it good or bad, besides developing people, money is one of the main ways of keeping score. Why bother to play if you’re not trying to score?

And since you’re going to play the game, you may as well run up the score.

In all sports, you have coaches. You have a head coach, you have assistant coaches, you have position coaches, and specialty coaches.

Even Tiger Woods has a coach. The best of the best have coaches.

Here are some questions for you:

1. Who’s coaching your sales staff?
2. Who’s coaching your management staff?
3. Who’s coaching the general manager?
4. Who’s coaching the dealer/operator?
5. Who’s coaching the Owner/CEO/President?

Coaching for you and your team may come from a number of sources:

1. You go to 20 group meetings
2. You go the NADA Convention
3. You go to your State Convention
4. You go to seminars and workshops
5. You hire consultants

If you’re not doing any of these how will you ever run up the score? That’s all I’m gonna ask, Tommy Gibbs

Which Do You Choose?

Rory is a young dynamic speaker whose theme is “Take The Stairs.”

His concept simply means taking the harder way. Human nature is to go the easy route. Many people fall into the category of the route of least resistance.

It’s so much easier to stay with what they’ve got. So they “Don’t dare take the stairs.”

Here are five examples:

1. Can’t shake the addiction of packs and paying on gross profit? Ask yourself, how many times do you have customers who come to your dealership that have a legitmate quote from another dealer that’s at cost, below cost or into the holdback? So, tell me how the sales person or sales manager has much control over gross? It’s so much easier to stay the course and not change it isn’t it? “Don’t dare take the stairs.”

2. You’re reluctant to go to an “up system.” You know it’s the only way to go, but you won’t do it because of the “fear factor.” The fear that all your “Superstars” will quit. If you think through all the elements of an up system it makes total sense. “Don’t dare take the stairs.”

3. Keeping used cars in your inventory past your timeline, whatever that line might be. “Fear factor” bites you again. It’s the fear of upsetting your used car manager by holding him/her to a discipline that, again, you know makes total sense.

There are many elements to managing your used car inventory. It is not about losing a lot of money at the end of the timeline. It’s about daily disciplines and processes that you need to enforce. It’s easier to allow yourself to be sold on all those stupid reasons to keep those aged units in your inventory. “Don’t dare take the stairs.”

4. You swear you won’t go to a one price-selling concept. The reality is you know it’s coming. The fear of losing people keeps you on the path you’re on, which is old, tired and worn out.

The customers don’t like it and your forward thinking sales people don’t like it. You know there’s a better way, but it’s easier to stay where you are. “Don’t dare take the stairs.”

5. Bubba still works for you or you have “Bubba thinking.” Bubba did a great job 20, 15, 10 or even 5 years ago. But, Bubba just won’t accept the role of technology in our business.

Oh, Bubba says he’s on board, but you keep getting the same old stupid results and he keeps on selling you on the fact that he “gets it.” Bubba wants you to believe that using technology is a race to the bottom. Not true. Using technology is a tool to position you in the best place to maximize gross, turn and volume.

Being sold is far easier than using your own brain to think it through and to replace Bubba’s butt. “Don’t dare take the stairs.”

Taking the stairs requires pain and discipline. Change is never easy and you know you need to change. Maybe you should just run up the stairs and see what happens? If you fall down you can dust yourself off and ride the escalator…just like everyone else.

I hate being like everyone else. That’s all I’m gonna say. Tommy Gibbs