How Long Does It Take?

How long does it take to know if they can do it? Do what?

Do whatever it is you’ve hired someone to do.

Does it take a week?
Does it take a month?
Does it take 90 days?
Does it take 6 months?
Does it take 6 years?

How long does it take you to figure out if you’ve got the right person or the wrong person in the job?

Part of that decision making process might depend on:

1. How much have you invested in the selection process of putting the right person in the right job?

2. Did you put someone in the job because they were the “next up?”

3. How much have you invested in their training and development?

4. How much have you invested of your own time coaching and teaching the person?

5. Does your organization give people the tools they need in order to be successful?

6. Do you make the effort to get legitimate feedback from those around you that “know” about how this person is performing?

How long does it take for you to figure out if they can or they can’t? That’s all I’m gonna ask. Tommy Gibbs

How Many Should You Stock?

Like many things in life, either we over-think them or we don’t think about them at all.

I have a little drill for you. Take a look at your retail used cars sales over a 24-month period. Graph out the sales for each corresponding month.

You should be able to spot trends in your sales that are directly tied to each month of the calendar year.

Even though we want to be optimistic and are always thinking of increasing our sales, we also need to be realistic. Maybe realistic is a 10 to 20% increase for each month. I like the term “optimistic-realist.”

The problem I often see is that dealers’ inventory stocking levels are the same for the slow months as they are for the busiest months. If you know January is your slowest sales month, then why would you have the same stocking levels as you do in July?

I have a hard time buying into the concept that you are stocking up on inventory in January to sell in May. If you’re totally sold on that idea then do yourself a favor and run the ROI on those units when you finally sell them and let me know how it turns out for you.

It’s ok to be optimistic, but don’t be “stupidmistic” (yes, I make words up) when it comes to how many you’re going stock. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

Are You Dead or Alive?

Great leaders have their thumb on the pulse of the organization.

Without a pulse the organization dies. If you are to improve your leadership skills you must know the pulse of your organization.

You can only know the pulse of the organization by absorbing yourself within the daily activities and action of the business. To feel the pulse you must feel the passion.

If you’re not feeling the passion, then your pulse may very well be dead. Maybe your pulse is dead because you’re burned out.

How can you be burned out when you’ve never been on fire?

You are responsible for your own fire. I’m just trying to give you a match to get you going. Firing up your own passion will ignite your organization.

Real leaders have a pulse. Real leaders feel the pulse. Real leaders inspire a pulse.

Hope you’re on fire. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

I Know What You’re Looking For

You’re looking for more and better sales people. You’re looking for more and better used cars and trucks for your used car department.

The reality is that there is no simple fix for 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 a full time trainer/recruiter will be the fix-it for your need for sales people, then it’s probably not going to work out that well.

But of the two, hiring the recruiter/trainer will probably work out better than the buyer. 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. (Try Hireology)

If you are looking toward the next great job fair and think you’re going 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 if 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. (Try StockWave)

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 and your team accept the responsibility of looking for inventory and people as part of an every day discipline then you increase the odds of finding what you need.

It still won’t be easy.

Everybody wants easy.

It’s never been easy.

It will never be easy.

Stop looking for easy. Start looking for people and used cars and trucks.

That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

What’s The Problem With Family?

Often in business we think of those that we work with as family. Actually sometimes they are family, but even if they aren’t, we think of them that way. Thinking of our team members as family creates a great work environment and gives us a nice warm and fuzzy feeling.

If you interview any winning sports team they will talk about the amazing chemistry they have and how they think of their team members as family.

The difference in what great teams do and what we do in business is if their family/team members don’t perform to the highest standard they are kicked out of the family. They are hired and paid to achieve certain results.

We often keep people around even when they are not performing to the highest standards because they are “family.”

Good thing you aren’t running a sports franchise. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

What’s The Number One Complaint?

I realize human nature is that people like to complain and want to blame someone for their inefficiencies. What do you think the number one complaint is I hear from sales management when I’m in dealerships?

Yep, you’re right, the service department. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s blunt, often tempered with an excuse or apology to dare complain about it.

Early in my career my attitude was, “Shut up, go to work and control the things you can control, because it’s not going to change.” Well, I’m here to tell you it does need to change and sooner rather than later.

If you review history, you know that the reason dealers charged full retail from the service department to the used car department is very much the same reason they implemented packs. Sales managers have historically worked from cost up and so charging full retail and having packs has worked very well over the years.

You can think what you want, but as time has progressed, the used car department has become an easy mark for the service department. Though there are other factors involved, never forget the fact that the hours per RO on a used car ticket vs. a customer pay ticket is more than double.

It’s not only the amount they are charged, but also the time it takes to get the car in and out of service. Almost everyone in the business today understands how crucial speed is to being successful. The lack of speed and efficiency in your service department is killing your ability to do volume and make the money you have the potential to make.

Creating speed and becoming more efficient should be your number one priority as you move into the selling season.

I like relating our business to sports. Name a sport, any sport and today’s athletes are bigger and faster than they have ever been. With profit margins decreasing, your business needs to emulate sports. You have to get bigger (sell more cars) and become faster and more efficient than ever before.

Today the big buzz is how can we make the customer experience easier, better and faster? Even if you can improve the selling process you will never maximize your potential until you tackle the amount of time and cost tied to getting the used car to market.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The greatest thing about being the dealer/owner operator is you have the power. You have power to fix whatever it is you want to fix. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

Will You Make The Playoffs?

Baseball season is here. Without a doubt all the teams are excited, optimistic and hope to make the playoffs. Only the best of the best will do so.

I’m thinking you and your team would also like to make the playoffs. The playoffs for you would be to sell more units and have a record profit year.

Here are 6 fundamentals that you need to focus on if you want to make the playoffs:

1. Hustle, Hustle Hustle-When I think of baseball and hustle I can’t help but think of Pete Rose. His nickname was “Charlie Hustle.” As a player Pete was the epitome of the word hustle. That is the mindset you need to be successful and move your business to the next level.

You have to be determined to out-hustle the other guy, gal or business. The great thing about hustle is that it requires no God-given talent. It just requires that you want to do it. So maybe you’ve not been hustling as hard as you should. Let’s hustle a little harder. Let’s dive for some line drives. Get with it.

2. Have a Game Plan-Nothing happens without a strategic game plan. The plan has to be well thought out. A solid plan requires research, time and talking to others. Those around you see and know things you cannot possibly know. It will surprise you what you can learn from people you would normally discount as not being important or having much to offer.

Your plan should be constantly developing, growing, expanding. Adjustments are a part of the game. Those who can adjust to the changing conditions increase their chances of winning. Put the plan in place and be ready to make adjustments. Every one of those players in the All-Star Game took batting practice before the game. Part of your batting practice needs to be to look for ways to tweak your game plan.

3. Think Fast-Think fast and move fast should be your motto. Decisions and changes need to be well thought out. If you’re “up early and stay up late” you can make fast decisions that will bury your competition. In baseball, even if your team has weak areas, speed can overcome a lot. Think fast, be fast.

4. Increase Your Communication-Communication starts by listening and responding. It takes a combination of meetings, memos, emails, and phone calls to distribute information. The keys are updates and progress reports. The more information you share with your team the more progress you will see and the more your team will develop.

The more the team develops the more wins you get. There’s a lot of communication going on in a baseball game; signs, signals and meetings on the mound. You can never communicate the game plan too much or too often.

5. Get Back to Empowerment- Years ago, automobile dealers took a page out of the airline book of customer satisfaction by allowing staff members to make on the spot decisions to satisfy customers. Our policy for years was if the customer asks then the answer is “Yes.”

That’s not to say that you don’t need to have limits, but you must empower your people to “just handle it.” Nine times out of ten you’re going to do it anyway, so let them handle it in the trenches. If you have talented players sometimes you have to turn them loose.

Talented base runners are often allowed to steal on their own. The coach lets them use their God-given talent. Yes, they get thrown out once in a while, but people have to make some mistakes in order to learn and get better.

6. Pick Up The Intensity-When you combine Intensity with Hustle it’s almost impossible not to hit homeruns. There’s nothing magical here. Intensity separates the winners from the losers. It gets down to the teams who are moving ahead vs. the ones who are stagnant.

I’m pulling for you to make the playoffs . That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

What’s Holding You Back?

I’ve come to believe that most leaders know what’s holding the team back. Only the best of the best are willing to do what it takes to remove those pesky obstacles that get in the way of progress.

Most leaders want to fix the obstacles, but very few have the will to do so.

One of my favorite techniques over the years in dealing with obstacles or perceived obstacles is to ask a manager, “What’s holding you back? What’s keeping you and your team from getting the numbers we need?”

What I’m really doing is asking them for their excuses. I like excuses. I like eliminating their excuses.

Your job as a leader is to do whatever is within your power to eliminate the excuses and push the obstacles out of the way. When you remove the obstacles, you will find out who can and who can’t.

What’s holding you back? That’s all I’m gonna ask, Tommy Gibbs

Mental Muscle Memory

Most of us understand the concept of muscle memory. An example of muscle memory is when you throw a ball, you

don’t think about all the mechanics of doing so. Your body, mind and arm just make it happen.

“Mental muscle memory” works much the same way. Whenever we need to make any decision in our personal or business life, our brain will go into what we have stored in its “hard drive” to decide what to do. The brain is going to go where we have the most experience and where we are the most comfortable. This dated information becomes what we rely on because it’s what we know.

I like to refer to this as actually “Bad Mental Muscle Memory.” Relying on “Bad Mental Muscle Memory” is like a drug. The more you rely on it the more you want to do it.

Some of your mental muscle memory is probably very good because it did get you to where you are today. But, when you allow “Bad Mental Muscle Memory” to control your thinking it tends to shut down your ability to move forward and attack the future.

“Bad Mental Muscle Memory” is the future on hold. Opening up your thinking is the future on steroids. It grows and grows.

Invest more time, energy and resources in the training and development of you and your staff. The dividends are beyond huge. Quit being penny wise and pound foolish. Take some of that money you are spending in advertising and put it in training and education for you and your staff.

Look for greatness and ideas in others. Instead of showing up to let everyone know how great you are, show up to find out how great everyone else is. You don’t have all the answers and even if you’ve had some good ones in the past, maybe it’s time to let others help you tweak them up a notch or two.

Set up an Executive Committee. A few years ago a good friend of mine came back into the automobile business to do some re-organizing of his group of stores. The first thing he did was to set up an Executive Committee to help guide the team toward the future. He knew that the team knew that he had a lot to get his arms around. What a brilliant move to get the team involved in the decision making process.

Add some fear to your diet. Fear is a great motivator. You should be fearful of falling behind. You should be fearful of the competition getting ahead. You should be fearful of what’s around the corner. Fear will force you to get out of your box and get on with it.

Read and study about the best. Apple, Starbucks, CarMax. Do you understand what they do? Do you understand how they do it? Have you spent any time studying these top performers? Being a leader is like being a great football coach. To be a great football coach you have to have a great scouting report. If you’ve not studied these top players then you should.

Inspire those around you. You may think this is overplayed but it’s not. The more you inspire others the more it creates enthusiasm for change and growth.

Avoid the easy. Go after the impossible. My good friend, great author and speaker, Dave Anderson, often speaks of stretching yourself and stretching your organization. You can’t stretch if you don’t reach for the impossible. You will soon find out that what you thought was impossible is very doable. And then you will say “next.”

Eliminate what you think are obstacles. Sometimes it’s people, sometimes it’s stinky thinking. The only thing in life you have total control over is your thinking. If you think you can you are right. If you think you can’t you are right.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” I’m going to add to his quote. “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm for change”

That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs


You probably fit into one of two categories. Either you are not happy with your average gross per unit or you are not happy with the volume of your used car department. In either case you also may not be happy with the total gross being generated.

Let me remind you that the only thing that is really important is how much total gross you are generating. I always say, “You cannot spend average gross profit. You can only spend total gross profit.”

It’s a contradiction to say to your staff that you expect both high volume and high gross per unit. They stay confused and frustrated when you keep pounding them over the head with this misdirection and sleight of hand marching orders.

I’m sure somewhere out there someone is making it happen on both ends, but it is certainly the exception and not the rule. So, you need to get over it. That’s not to say that in your store that you can’t do better with both than you are currently doing.

It’s a given that more than 80% of the people shopping a used car shop the Internet. If you think you are going to post high prices or no prices out on the Internet and traffic is going to show up, you are dead wrong. The Internet is a “game changer” for all of you, regardless of your new car franchise or set of circumstances.

You have to decide if you want to play the game. More importantly you have to decide if you want to win the game. It’s a game. There are winners and losers.

As Dr. Seuss said, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.”

If you are going to improve volume, you absolutely must develop a sound acquisition strategy other than just going out and buying more cars. Without allocating the right resources and strategy then going out and buying more inventory is the kiss of death. All that’s going to happen is you’re going to have a lot of aged inventory a few months down the road.

Taking this leap into the volume world means rewriting your overall strategy from acquisition to staffing, pay plans, reconditioning, marketing, and pricing.

Failing to address any of these will result in frustration and poor production and you may find yourself worse off than you are right now.

The fastest way to happiness is an improved bottom line. The fastest way to improving your bottom line is to improve your volume. Improving your volume improves the business in all departments.

That’s all I’m gonna say. Tommy Gibbs