The Accountability Issue

Often in my training sessions I’ll ask the question, “How many of you agree that we do a lousy job of holding people accountable in the automobile business?” Without exception, they will all raise their hands.

Leaders that have figured out how to hold people accountable are the most successful when it comes to developing a culture of leaders and achieving high results.

Holding people accountable doesn’t have to be a negative experience. When people understand the expectations, they will seek to achieve those expectations, goals, objectives, culture or however you might want to frame it.

People tend to do the right thing when they know it’s in their best interest, not when you have to hit them over the head with a baseball bat.

Your job as a leader is to sell the team the idea that the things the organization deems to be in the best interest of the organization is actually in their best interest too. Achieving expectations means they win, we win and we all have more success.

Easy tips:

1. Make sure everyone is reminded of the expectations. Yes, that seems elementary, but the evaporation factor is always in play. Either as a direct message or subliminally, leaders must constantly remind the troops of what’s expected and what’s important.

2. Get on it right now. Far too often when there’s a lapse in achievement, leaders let things drag on and on. The more things are allowed to slip, the more those things become habit, and the more the expectations are lowered.

3. You don’t have to be mean to enforce expectations. People like to work in a well-run, well-disciplined organization. This isn’t about screaming and hollering at someone about their failures. It is about letting them know quickly we’re not on track; you and your team are not getting it done, whatever “getting it done” might mean to you.

At some point there must be consequences for those who cannot live up to reasonable expectations. The ultimate consequence is they get to go to work someplace else.

4. Be consistent in your actions and statements. The easiest way for expectations to fall apart is that you are all over the place. You let some things slide for some people and not for others. You cannot be Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Selective enforcement with just a few people will destroy the morale and productivity of the team.

5. There are times when you need to figure out the real root of why expectations aren’t being met. What’s the real problem? Leadership sometimes will set the wrong expectations. Setting the wrong expectations is just as bad as not having any.

6. In order to hold others accountable we too have to hold ourselves accountable. We should make it a daily practice of looking in the mirror and being honest with ourselves.

A part of holding yourself accountable is never to forget, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” The closer you become with people the more difficult you make your responsibility of holding them accountable.

I’m holding you accountable. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

Recruiting & Training issue

While I realize you don’t care all that much about my history, I want you to know I’ve tried it all when it comes to recruiting and training. In the early 80s we had an off-campus training facility with two full-time recruiters and trainers for our three-store group.

I wish I had a perfect fix for you. I can get you close but, in the end, you have to deal with the issues surrounding a major cultural shift.

That’s what it is, a major cultural shift when it comes to today’s recruiting and training of salespeople.

If you’re building a new store from the ground up, you have a much better chance of making it happen. You can write the new rules, hire the right people and change the game.

You can lay out an achievable game plan that will carry you through the next 20 years. I didn’t say it’s not going to change over the next 20 years, just that it will put you in a position to build on as you move forward.

Since you’re probably not building a new store it’s going to be a little more difficult, but if you have some discipline you can do it. It’s going to be expensive but if you think about what you might be investing in a new store given the chance, then it’s probably a bargain.

And, if you think about the cost of turnover, you’re going to win big time. Nothing you can do will eliminate turnover, but how you deal with it and how you restock your shelves can make a big difference.

The size of your store certainly can change the equation, but at some level all of this is doable.

When it comes to training, you have to get committed to something more than “Johnny the new car manager/GSM will handle it whenever we hire someone.” Johnny can close deals, but he ain’t no trainer.

As a matter of fact, it’s a burden and pain in Johnny’s butt to have to deal with it. His lesson plan consists of making sure they know the selling process.

Hiring outside companies to come in and do your recruiting and hiring is a short-term fix at best. It makes you feel warm and fuzzy, but the end result doesn’t change much of anything.

If you have 10 salespeople or more, you need to give serious consideration to having a full-time trainer and you need to invest in their teaching skills and not just base it on “they know what to do.” You have to continue to educate the trainer.

Here’s the secret sauce:

1. Hire a trainer. Give him/her the tools they need to be successful, as in equipment and training for them. (Why do this? Because the way you’ve been doing it isn’t working.)

2. Pick a specific week each month that you are committed to a new recruiting or training class. (Why do this? Because it shows you are committed to building a different and powerful organization. When you only recruit and hire when you need someone, you end up hiring people you shouldn’t. There’s always a need to upgrade and improve your sales team. Stop protecting non-producers and hang-ons.)

3. Require other managers to sit in on various phases of the training. Be flexible but do it. With the supervision of your trainer, you can assign them parts of the training to lead. (Why do this? Because they need to know what you are teaching and what to expect when the salespeople hit the floor. And, they might learn something.)

4. Every manager in the front part of the store will be required to personally recruit a person for class each month. They cannot run ads. They have to find them in the wild. If the person they recruit makes it 90 days, pay them a $500 bonus. If I was doing it, I’d fine them $500 if they didn’t have a butt in the class each month. (Why do this? Because when someone personally recruits someone else, they will take a personal interest in their success. You’ve seen it happen over the years where a sales manager takes a liking to a salesperson and helps them succeed. Same deal magnified a bunch.)

5. Change your pay plan to salary and volume based. Do not pay on gross. You can hire a lot of quality people who are happy making $50,000 to $70,000 a year. (Why do this? People today don’t want to be paid on gross. And, the sales people today have very little control over gross. The deal is already a mess because of the prices you’re putting on the Internet for both new and used.)

6. Don’t hire anyone that’s ever sold a car before. (Why do this? If I have to explain this, you’re in a lot more trouble than I can help you with.)

7. Hire some part-time salespeople to help out at peak times. (Why do this? To give you the coverage you need and so your full-time people don’t have to work 12 hour days.)

8. Commit to a 40-hour work-week. (Why do this? People think differently than we did in generations gone by. They don’t want to work 12 hours a day regardless of what the income potential might be. They are willing to earn less if they can have more time off. Their value system is far different than what we have seen in the past. Deal with it.)

9. Incorporate an up-system into your selling process. (Why do this? So, you don’t have the mob standing at the front door waiting on an expensive up. One of the reasons you lose quality people is they hate standing around doing nothing. Keeping them busy should be part of your daily mission. You need to lead the charge for them to be productive and generate their own customers.)

10. For at least 30 days all new salespeople’s deals will be desked by the trainer. (Why do this? Because they can’t say to the trainer “that wasn’t taught to me in class.” Your trainer and your salespeople will become better and better.)

Understand that people are going to come and go. It’s the nature of any sales business. One of your goals is to give them the tools to be successful with your organization or whatever they end up doing in life. When you help others to be better, you become better.

Be aware of your current staff saying they are all in on the outside and sabotaging your new direction on the inside.

There will be current salespeople and sales management that want to see your new direction fail. They will undermine you and point out all the reasons these are bad ideas. Some of them are simply protecting their own turf and will try to make you believe they are looking out for you.

They aren’t.

You have choices to make. Stick with what you’re doing or make major changes. The longer you wait, the more pain you will have and at some point, the pain will be so great that you have to change. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs


Suppose Every Day Was The Last Day?

In sports, you often hear about how powerful momentum and intensity can be. The last two minutes of a football game will frequently determine the outcome.

You will often see players and coach’s greatness shine through in the most helter-skelter moments. There’s a good chance the last two minutes of the Super Bowl upcoming Super Bowl will determine the outcome.

In the automobile business, the last day of the month is like the two-minute drill of a football game.

I have some what ifs for you:

What if you approached the 15th of the month as if it were the last day of the month?

What if you approached every Friday and Saturday as if they were the last two days of the month?

What if you approached every Wednesday and Thursday as if they were the last two days of the month?

What if you approached every Monday and Tuesday as if they were the last two days of the month?

What if you approached every day as if it were the last day of the month?

What day is it? It’s the last day of the month. It’s always the last day of the month.

The clock is aways ticking. You’re running out of time-outs. The end is near. You can do more. Let’s go. That’s all I’m gonna say. Tommy Gibbs

Are You Team Members Ignorant?

When staff members aren’t doing what you would like them to do it’s not due to ignorance. It’s due to the fact that they don’t care about what you care about.

Getting people to care about what you care about isn’t necessarily about having more meetings and training sessions. Of course that activity is a part of giving people what they need to know.

Knowing something and doing something is what separates the good companies from the great companies.

One of the best things a leader can give to his/her organization is to set the atmosphere for a defining culture.

Everybody has the same product.

Everybody has great prices.

Everybody has technology.

Everybody has trained technicians.

Everybody has good selling processes.

Culture is what will separate your organization from your competition.

Most of the time upper management “gets it.” The breakdown occurs at the next level. Far too often we don’t get enough influence from the core staff to make a real difference.

A few are talking the talk, but most aren’t walking the walk. People have to “see it” in order to start to “believe it.”

Your challenge is to get more of the “next level” involved, engaged, and believing they can make a difference.

Until you do so:

You’ll hold some nice meetings:

Do some nice talking.

Print some nice posters.

Create some nice name badges.

Feel good about yourself.

But, not much will change. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

Are You Dumb?

I have a saying and it goes like this, “You’re never as smart as you think you are and you are never as dumb as you appear.” Some of you are feeling pretty smart right now.

It could be that you are really smart, or it could be that you got lucky because of a once-in-a-lifetime market shift in your favor.

And of course, there are times when you feel pretty dumb. Even that may or may not be true. You might be a victim of a bad set of circumstances.

Some of you have had bad franchises in bad locations or it could be that you’re a newer used car manager that inherited a hot mess for a used car inventory.

Or it could be you’re just dumb.

In any given set of circumstances, it’s important to maximize whatever you have. During the last few years, you may have maximizing things in spite of yourself or maybe you were smart enough to make some good moves.

It could have been you didn’t know what to do and by doing nothing you got lucky.

The most important thing right now is recognizing where you are, how you got there, and how to stay on this magical course you’ve discovered.

This business continues to be:

All about the basics.
All about the fundamentals.
All about your disciplines.
All about the processes.
All about understanding the data.
All about common sense.
All about your focus.

Never forget that sometimes when you get to the fork in the road you need to take it. It might be time to make a turn. Or you can just be dumb.

That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

Why Do We Keep Changing Things Around Here?

Why can’t we get it right?

These are questions people often ask when change happens in your organization.

Those are legitimate questions when you’re having people changes.

Changing people once in a while is part of being in business. Too frequent people changes will keep you on a roller coaster to nowhere. If you’re the leader and you’re having too many people changes, the common denominator is looking at you in the mirror.

That said, there are times when if you can’t get people to change, then you do need to change the people.

If you’re struggling when changing processes, selling systems, pay plans, procedures, etc. then it’s likely the culture needed to move you to the next level hasn’t been properly developed.

Besides establishing the right culture, the clearer you can be about the specific change you’re hoping for the more likely it is you’ll actually achieve it.

Getting buy-in is critical to enacting successful changes.

Of course, you may have the power to change anything you want, but that doesn’t mean you should always use it.

You’re not running a democracy, you’re running a business. But…

Most changes should start with a “trial balloon.” Toss it in the air with those that are going to have the greatest influence on the implementation and those who will be impacted the most.

It doesn’t mean you go with the wind.

It doesn’t mean you’re wishy-washy.

It simply means you’re figuring out how hard and how much groundwork you will need to lay in order to have the best chance for a successful change.

The most successful changes you will ever implement are when people think it was their idea.

The least successful changes you will ever attempt to make are when people think it was your idea.

When you’re through changing, you’re through.

That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs