Two Things We Always Need

The two hot topics of conversation of late, actually all of the time, have been how to find more cars and how to hire more and better people.

That same conversation occurred 20 years ago and will occur 20 years from now. The reality is that there is no simple fix to either of these problems.

If you think hiring a rock star buyer will solve your inventory problems in the end you will probably make them worse. If you think hiring an outside company to recruit, hire and train a group of new salespeople is the answer, it’s probably not going to work out that well.

These are the two toughest problems facing all automobile dealers and there is no one fix and voila it’s done.

Finding great players is a full-time, never-ending job. It’s just like being in the coaching field. Great coaches are always scouting and recruiting. If you are looking for a magical ad to put in the paper that’s going to attract your next superstar you may be waiting quite a while.

If you are looking toward the next great job fair and think you’re going to find 10 college graduates for your sales team that will carry you to the Promised Land, you are in for a very long day. It doesn’t happen. It doesn’t work that way. If you wait to hire people when “you need” them you are never going to find the people you need.

You and your assistant coaches have to be recruiting every minute of every day. You should be recruiting your customers, the sales clerk at the shoe store, your next-door neighbor, the waiter or waitress you meet at lunch or the enthusiastic hostess you met at Applebee’s.

One of the most successful General Managers I know was working at Wendy’s when he started selling cars.

I love college graduates. It’s not so much what they actually learn, but it does show they can stick to something. However, the odds of them sticking with you are not very good. Most college graduates don’t see selling cars as a “step up” in their life.

What you should be looking for is someone who feels they missed the boat and this is their big chance. Someone with a year or two of college is a great selection. They think they screwed up by not finishing school and they see what you offer as a super opportunity. And of course it they have a sports background all the better. They are used to getting knocked down and getting up.

As for finding more inventory…Hey coach it’s the same thing. It’s a constant thing. There is no one answer. If you are going to succeed in finding used car inventory you cannot leave any stone unturned. Trades, mining your customer base, online auctions, auctions, for sale by owner and any other brilliant idea you can come up with. But, none of them in and of themselves will give you the inventory you need. If you are only looking for cars when you need them you are going to end up with a lot of cars you don’t need.

When it comes to finding people and finding inventory they both require an ongoing effort by the entire management team. When you dabble in finding people and cars when you most need them, it’s like plowing a field uphill with a mule.

When you can convince your management team that we all have to look for inventory and people in multiple ways then you will at least have some control over your destiny.

It still won’t be easy, but the alternative is far more frustrating and a lot less rewarding. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

You’re Not Running A Democracy

I’m a big fan of making the team inclusive of what’s going on.

I’m a big fan of educating the team.

I’m a big fan of getting insight from those who are in the trenches.

I’m a big fan of listening to the troops.

But, I’m not a big fan of rule by committee.

Ruling by committee is an easy way to avoid accountability.

Ruling by committee allows us to blame no one when it fails.

Ruling by committee is a sickness designed to allow those in charge to accept responsibility for nothing.

Ruling by committee is a way to hide in the back room. Ruling by committee is peeking through the closet door.

Step out of the closet, come into the room and be counted. If you’re ruling by committee, stop it! You’re not running a democracy, you’re running a business.

That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

Wasted Conversations

The conversations I hear today about the car business aren’t much different than the ones we had 20 years ago.

Back then, dealers were complaining about their new car inventory and the factory allocation system. They are still complaining about new car inventory and the factory allocation system.

Odd as it may seem, we often put a lot of energy and wasted effort into trying to control the things we don’t have control over and miss a real opportunity to control the things we can.

I like to compare the car business to the coaching field. Coaches never have total control over the game, but they do have control over the things they do to prepare for the game. You can take control by preparing the team.

Great coaches study the game 24/7/365. If you don’t live, eat and sleep the car business, then you will never be able to control what you can control.

Successful coaches understand that to control the game they have to teach the game. They make an investment in time and resources to ensure the team understands the plan and how best to execute it.

Your mission as a coach is to create an ongoing environment that demonstrates you are committed to training and developing your staff at all levels. “Controlling what you can control.”

Dealing with the factory can be a love/hate relationship. That’s never going to change. Mostly it’s wasted conversation.

There are so many things that you can do today to control and improve your business. Talking about your new car allocation issues isn’t one of them.

That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

When Leaders Care

If you ask anyone in a leadership position if they truly care, naturally they are going to say they do. They will say they care about the organization, the team members and of course their customers.

But do they really care? Do they do the right thing 99.9% of the time?

Caring means making sure you hire the right people for the right job.

Caring means working harder to find, screen and hire people that fit your team’s chemistry.

Caring means getting rid of the wrong people and replacing them with the right people.

Caring means hiring people smarter than you.

Caring means coaching people up.

Caring means never letting team members abuse each other.

Caring means never letting a team member abuse a customer.

If you care, you’ll take it personally when others don’t care as much as you do. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

Walking The Walk

We in the automobile business make a big deal out of processes. With very few exceptions most would agree the dealerships with the best processes make the most money.

What I find so interesting is that even though we know this to be true, our processes are often left to the interpretation of managers who may or may not even believe in the stated processes.

Frequently, the leader has the processes in his/her head and they may even be written down somewhere, but it’s not a point of focus on a daily basis. Without a doubt, processes need to be refined, coached, discussed and recommitted to each and every day.

When you apply and focus on your processes your organization becomes a powerful operating machine. When things are simple they become efficient and your profits go up.

Aside from having great people, can we agree that processes are the most powerful tool in your arsenal of improving your business? If that’s even close to being true why is there so little focus on spreading the process message?

Some questions to answer:

1. Do you have documented processes?
2. Do the members of your team know the processes as well as you do?
3. Do you sell the processes as part of daily coaching activity?
4. Do you know who the believers and non-believers are?
5. Is it time to revise your processes?
6. Is it time to have a “process revival?”
7. Is it time for you stop talking the talk and start walking the walk?

That’s all I’m going to ask, Tommy Gibbs


Not a day goes by that I don’t read something in sports about a team excelling and/or winning a championship because they have great chemistry. In order to have great chemistry you have to believe in each other.

Time and time again you will hear team members say the number one reason for their success is they trust their coach and they trust each other.

These stories come from all levels of the sports and great business organizations. It’s no fluke that such a big deal is made of the word trust when it’s connected to winning and success.

There’s no one thing that creates great chemistry, but trust is a key component. Trust doesn’t happen with one statement or one goodwill act. Trust is something that has to be built every day.

If you’re going to lead, and if your team is going to have great chemistry then you have to be trusted. Trust begins with always telling the truth, even when it hurts and even when it may cause a temporary setback.

Team chemistry will always out perform individual egos. It’s the leader’s responsibility to promote and guard team chemistry.

That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

Too Familiar?

Being an effective leader can be challenging if for no other reason than the workplace environment we often find ourselves in.

There is a well known saying “Familiarity Breeds Contempt.”

The more we get to know people, the more tolerant we become of their deficiencies. That applies to all aspects of life. If you are married or have ever been married you know that the longer you are with a person the more you tend to overlook those things that really bug you. (Or maybe not and you get a divorce) You just kind of go with the flow because it’s not worth the hassle.

Being in business and managing people is the same way. Most of my readers are in the automobile business and are around the same people for 12 plus hours a day. Talk about a familiarity breeds contempt problem!

The reality is that it’s much easier to run a large dealership than a small one. As a leader in a large dealership, you can delegate much more and separate yourself from some of the personalities that can cause the breakdown of discipline.

Do not take that to mean that you don’t need to be involved, friendly or whatever. It just means you have to separate yourself from the emotional side of the equation. If you are in a smaller dealership the task of separating yourself from the staff is even more daunting.

I’m often amazed that leaders feel that they can socialize with staff members and still be able to properly manage and lead them. How can you:

1. Have lunch with the same people all the time?
2. Have dinner with spouses and members of your team on a regular basis?
3. Have after work drinks with staff members?
4. Party with staff members?
5. Attend sporting events with staff members?
6. Play golf on weekends with staff members?

Any of these in and of themselves is not a bad thing. But, to do any of this with the same person on a consistent basis does nothing but create problems for you and them. Aside from the fact it makes it difficult for you to manage them (let alone fire them) it creates a perception of favoritism that will destroy morale and team spirit.

It’s undeniable that the more time you spend with staff members the more difficult it is to manage them in an unbiased manner. So, just how much in contempt are you? Only you know the answer to that.

Don’t be in contempt. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

Do Simple Better

Joe Maddon at one time managed the Tampa Bay Rays. He’s in his first year at the helm of the Chicago Cubs. If you follow baseball you know what a storied and losing history the Cubbies have. They are currently having one of their best years ever and stand a good chance of making the playoffs.

Maddon is a bit of a strange duck. Some would call him eccentric and for sure an out of the box thinker. He does a lot of weird and interesting things with the way he manages the team.

His theme this year is “Do Simple Better.” When you break our business down, more often than not what makes or breaks a dealership is the ability to “Do Simple Better.”

Here are 5 simple things that maybe you can do better.

1. Early Intervention-you can’t manage activity by staring at your computer screen. Get up move around. Look for trouble. Trouble meaning a deal is getting screwed up before it even has a chance.

2. Improve Your Selling Processes-odds are the evaporation factor is chasing you like a base runner caught in a rundown. Pay attention. Get on it. Stop the evaporation.

3. Don’t Short Cut Your Appraisals-Take your time. Look for a way to make it happen. Do it right. Get it right.

4. Speed It Up-It takes too much time to get your used vehicles through service. Find the bottleneck. Fix the bottleneck. You can do better.

5. Listen More-Take someone to lunch. Someone you would never take. Listen to them. Amazing the things you might learn.

Make your own list.

Do simple better. That’s all I’m gonna say. Tommy Gibbs