Maybe You Ain’t That Smart?

A number of years ago I came up with a saying, “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. Right now, you may be maximizing things in spite of yourself or maybe you’ve been 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.

Even with all that said, 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.

That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

What About Expectations?

Frequently 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 your 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 are 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 a 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 to 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.

Is There a Pulse?

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.

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

Have We Learned Anything Yet? (May 2021-2nd year of pandemic)

That’s a really good question, isn’t it?

The reality is all the stuff we’ve learned over the last year we’ve always known.

We have always known and understood the law of supply and demand. It’s simple. If you’ve got a bunch of stuff to sell it’s a lot harder to make a lot of profit on it than when you only have a few.

We’ve always known it’s important to sell the value of our product. Of course, the value seems to increase when we have fewer of them. But, we should never sell short the importance of selling the value of our product. We have gotten very good at saying to the customer, “Nope, we’ve got the price right, no need to even think about negotiating.”

We’ve always known it’s important to differentiate between our organization and our competitors. That means selling the value of our history and the value our company brings to the table.

We’ve always known the value of selling ourselves. There’s no denying that the better you are at creating a friendship with the customer the greater the odds of you selling your product or service.

So, there you have it. As we have maneuvered through these last 12 months or so, we’ve been forced to do the things we’ve always known we should be doing.

We’ve learned that all those things we knew that were right are right.

The real test will be moving forward. Have we learned anything yet? That’s all I’m gonna ask, Tommy Gibbs.

10 Tips-Others Want to See You Fail

1. EMBRACE ANXIETY– It’s motivation to take action.

2. GET AFTER IT-Focus your energy on making positive change. Crank up the intensity and aggravate the competition!

3. PUT FEAR IN PERSPECTIVE-What’s the worst that can happen?

4. BE READY-Preparation breeds Confidence.

5. DON’T DWELL-Forget minor setbacks; learn and move on. (Don’t let the setback become the standard!)

6. HEALTHY DISCONTENT-for people or things blocking your progress. (Continue to surround yourself with losers and you will continue to lose.)

7. INSPIRATIONALLY DISSATISFIED-with yourself…YOU have to step it up! (YOU must set the example!)

8. DAILY DOSE-of paranoia…fix yourself… (We’re back to you again. You must set the example!)

9. CONTINUE-to look for answers. (Continuous Improvement-You never get it right!)

10. NEVER– ever give up. Other people want to see you fail! Don’t let others control your thinking!

That’s all I’m gonna say. Tommy Gibbs

Do You Need a Used Car Manager?

Where can I find a good used car manager? I get 15 to 20 emails a month asking me that question.

Often, when speaking to a 20 group or at a convention, someone will approach me and ask me if I know anyone they can hire for the used car manager’s position.

Very seldom do I have a name. Think about it. For the most part, if someone’s really good at what they do, they are smart enough to stay put.

Whoever they are working for is smart enough to treat them well so they do stay put.
99.9% of the time when someone leaves an organization all the inventory problems come to the surface upon their exit.

My advice is always the same; you need to find someone within your organization, someone who knows your culture and who you can develop for an even greater position.

That’s what leaders do. They grow their team. They don’t run out and hire other people’s problems.

I often say if I were in your shoes, I’d find someone internally with a strong work ethic, who is open-minded, technologically savvy, has some common sense, and I’d coach them to greatness.

For at least 6 months I (meaning the dealer or GM) would hold their hand. They would be my assistant. We’d be like Siamese twins and we would do everything together. He/she would follow me around like a puppy dog.

Here’s how it would work:

I do it and they are with me. (The best part about this is you’re going to find out where all the obstacles and landmines are located.

Because you have the power, you will fix a lot of issues that have been holding your used car operation back.)

Eventually, I’d hand it off to them and they would do it and I’d be with them. I’d watch. I’d critique.

At some point, they would do it. They don’t need me except on issues outside of the scope of their authority.

And then, here’s the biggie, (this is how you grow) they do it, and someone is with them.

This is how you compound and grow your organization. Just like compounding interest.

Until you take this approach, your ability to grow will always be limited. To do anything else, you’re just plugging holes with a temporary worn out cork.

That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

Someone Needs To Hear From You

This business is never easy. One of the most interesting things about it is you don’t get to enjoy the wins for very long.

If you’re like me, you love the challenges it brings to the table each and every day. I always look forward to getting up in the morning and “getting after it.”

The number one thing I miss about being a car dealer is connecting with the team members and the energy I get from them each day. That’s really hard for many of you to do right now.

Since I’ve been in the speaking, training and coaching business I primarily work alone. It can be challenging at times since I only have myself to rely on.

Your situation right now is different, yet similar. I like the mindset of “staying after myself.”

You’re now being challenged to stay after yourself. It’s easy to feel despair and quit. I don’t mean that you’ve actually quit, except maybe inside your head.

Even under normal circumstances, it doesn’t matter if you
work alone or work with 500 people, you still have to “stay after yourself.” It’s something you can actually get better at.

“Staying after yourself” requires planning and discipline.

Some key elements to “staying after yourself” include reading, writing, listening, doing research and finding positive things on YouTube to view and share with your team.

Those things open your mind and help you see what the possibilities might be.

I’ve become a firm believer that writing is a bigger component to success than one might think.

I don’t mean that you have to be an award winning author; writing your thoughts down each day helps to open your brain up to where you’ve been and where you can go.

Writing helps you “stay after yourself.” It will help you self-evaluate your actions, your behavior and how well you are accomplishing those “continuous goals” you should be writing down. You have to constantly evaluate, tweak and adjust your goals so you are always moving forward.

A big part of staying after yourself is to “stay after others.”

The more you encourage others, the more you are encouraging yourself. There is nothing you can do that is more important than helping others along the way.

You text or private message others, but can you imagine the impact you can have right now with a simple phone call? You have a powerful voice. Now is the time to use it.

The person on the other end needs that call. You may need it even more.

Since you can make a difference, go make a difference.

That’s all I’m gonna say.Tommy Gibbs

Recon Mess

There’s a lot of discussions these days about the number of days it’s reasonable to hold a used unit before retailing it.

In the past, 60 days was the timeline most successful dealers worked with. Dale Pollak wrote recently about the new normal being 30 days.

Every piece of data I’ve looked at over the past 17 years validates that Dale is spot on.

If nothing else, dealers have come to understand the necessity of the Velocity concept and turning inventory. Of course, today dealers are working a tick harder to ensure they make the most money possible on units that they have a favorable cost to market and day’s supply in their favor.

That being said, any way you want to slice and dice it, speed to the front-line has never been more important than it is today.

If you’re not using a recon tool to track and zero in on where you’re not efficient and where you need to make some improvements, then it’s doubtful you will ever get close to the new normal of 30 days and gone. 30 days and gone doesn’t mean dumping units in the wholesale market. It means finding a retail buyer within that 30-day time frame.

There’s an underlying problem when it comes to 30, 60 or whatever. It’s the failure of upper management to communicate to service management the importance of the relationship and impact the entire recon operation has on the success of the used car department.

The reality is that lack of understanding also impacts the new car department. The used car department will miss trades and lose new car deals when they have a lack of confidence in the support of service management.

Issues will come and go in your recon operation. Lifts break down, technician shortages, a slug of used cars hit the ground, and an overload of retail customers are things that are going to occur.

The strategy of upper management should be to keep everyone informed and educated about what’s going on and what the expectations happen to be.

Everything that happens in your dealership, good and bad, is a result of great leadership.

Great leadership understands the need for speed, daily communication and keeping the team on the same page.

Great leadership doesn’t just talk the talk.

Great leadership walks the walk.

Be Great. Start walking or in the case of recon, you need to start running. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

What’s Next?

It’s Thanksgiving and time to give thanks. If you’re like me, for sure you have a lot to be thankful for. Among many things I’m thankful for are your friendship and support.

Thanksgiving also starts the closeout of the year. It centers around Black Friday and rolls through the last week of the year. Like it or not, 2020 is already here.

I’ve listed some very basic ideas you need to take into consideration that will help you finish strong and get ready for your best year ever.

A. Re-commit yourself- and your thinking towards being the very best you can be. Take stock of all those great ideas running around in your head. Write them down and make a commitment to get them done by certain dates. Post it on the wall in several places that you will see frequently. If you have a private restroom, put it on the mirror.

The dealers and GMs with the most successful used car operations are those who have taken ownership of the used car department. The more involved you get, the more success your dealership will have. If you’re not committed to the used car business, it’s a safe bet your team isn’t either.

B. Re-evaluate-the appearance of your inventory. Let’s do a little checklist:

1. Look at your inventory online. Are they all there? Actual photos & prices posted?
2. Take a lot walk. Are the vehicles in straight lines?
3. When was the last time the entire lot was rotated?
4. Are you using angles to display your inventory?
5. Do you have hang tags? If so, do they all have hang tags?
6. Are they nasty, dirty on the outside?

C. Refocus Your Disciplines-To be successful in the used car business you have to have daily/weekly/monthly disciplines that you live and breathe by.

One of those disciplines might be to do a weekly lot walk. Every car in your inventory must be touched. If it’s in service, touch it. If it’s in prep, touch it. If it’s in the budget center, touch it. Everybody touches it. Even if you think you have your disciplines well defined inside your head, you’d be well served to make a written list and check them off from time to time.

D. Re-Recon-Take every unit over 30 days old back
through a recon process. (You’ve already missed your best window of opportunity to make gross; that would be the first 20 days.)

E. Re-Invest-in yourself and your management team. Do something to gain some knowledge. Hire me, visit CarMax, or visit a dealer friend in another state that does a good job in used. Attend a workshop. Join a Twenty Group. Join a Used Car Twenty Group. Do something besides sitting there and waiting for something to happen.

F. Re-think- your management team. Do you have the right person running your used car operation? Yes, that person may have been with you for years. Loyalty sometimes equals mediocrity. Maybe they have some great skills, but the fact is that you may not be making the best use of their talents.

I’m thankful for lots of things this holiday season and I’m especially thankful that you’ve taken the time to read my little Zingers. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

What Does a Bear Do In The Woods?

Eats corn.

My business partner for most of my adult life has been Ashton Lewis, Sr. an amazing human and Automobile Dealer in the Hampton Roads area of VA.

Ashton grew up in both the automobile and farming business. One of Ashton’s farms was located adjacent to the Great Dismal Swamp in Chesapeake, VA where corn was a primary crop.

As Ashton tells the story, he would observe a bear come out of the woods, pick an armful of corn to take back into the woods to eat or share with his friends and family.

The bear would sometimes drop an ear of corn and rather than continue into the woods, the bear would put down the armful of corn and then re-gather them all up just to save one ear of corn.

That’s what it’s like when you keep hanging onto that aged unit that you’re never going to make any money on. You spend too much time trying to make money on an aged unit and not enough time figuring out how to make money on the fresher pieces.

Your window of opportunity to make money on a used car is about 40 days or less and that’s a stretch.

Had you been smart enough to identify units that have little or no profit potential on day 1 then you wouldn’t be looking at a stone-cold loser on day 61.

The Bear-Drops ear of corn. Throws down all the others. Wastes time and energy re-gathering the ears of corn.

You-Do not identify problematic units on day 1. You waste time and money struggling with aged units on day 61. Grosses go south because you’re selling too many units late in the life-cycle. You never reach your full potential because you’re thinking like a bear.

Had the bear paid closer attention to how many ears of corn he/she could actually carry then the bear would not have wasted time and energy dealing with one stupid ear of corn.

Had you paid closer attention to what you were dealing with on day 1 you wouldn’t be beating your head against the wall trying to figure out what to do with an aged unit on day 61.

My life-cycle management process makes you a much smarter bear. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs