The Japanese word “Kaizen,” means Continuous Improvement. Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy that focuses on continuous improvement throughout all aspects of life. When applied to the workplace, Kaizen activities continually improve all functions of a business, from manufacturing to management and from the CEO to the assembly line workers. By improving standardized activities and processes, Kaizen aims to eliminate waste. Kaizen was first implemented in several Japanese businesses during the country’s recovery after World War II, including Toyota, and has since spread to businesses throughout the world.
If you’re going to have Continuous Improvement you first have to get back to the basics. You can’t improve very much if your foundation is not solid. Most of you reading this are either in the automobile business or related to it. Thus, you have probably cut your expenses to the bone and it some cases you have cut too much and made your operation ineffective. There’s a saying that “You cannot expense your way to a profit.” Yes, you have to exercise prudent judgment, but you have to realize the fastest way to profitility is by selling your way there. To sell your way to a profit, you first need to examine your fundamentals.
As I travel the country, without exception, every dealer and manager tell me they are working a sales system/selling process. They lie! (They also tell me they have a 60 turn policy on used cars too.) At the very least they are lying to themselves. The selling processes they think they are working are not the ones they are working.
One of my favorite sayings is “You need to know what you don’t know.” Actually, I think I originated it. In this case, it’s probably more about facing some reality. The processes you started way back yonder have evaporated. If I gave a quiz to all your managers and sales people, and asked them to list the steps to their selling system I would get as many different answers as you have people. Furthermore, even if they listed them correctly, then my observation is they are not doing it…they talk the talk, but trust me, they ain’t walking the walk.
Historically, over time these processes have evaporated; then what happens is one day the dealer wakes up and hires another training company to come in and revamp the system. Then X number of years down the road the dealer does it all over again.
You’re sitting there once again thinking, “Ok big mouth Tommy, what’s the answer? First thing is you need to open your eyes, use your peripheral vision and see if what I just said is true. Once you come down off the ceiling from the shock you’re in, then meet with your key managers and determine just what system you are supposed to be using. Re-write the mess. Then go on a major retraining mission to get everyone back on track.
Will you please quit worry about some of your old goats quitting. They may not be necessarily old in age, but they have old stinky thinking. They actually do stink and they are smelling up your joint. The fact is they are running your dealership into the ground. A lot of them are selling 4 to 8 cars a month and you are worried if your superstar is going to quit if you put some disciplines in place. Rock on Insanity, rock on. If you can’t figure it out yourself hire someone like Jim Ziegler, David Martin or Richard Keeney of the Mar-Kee Group. Give yourself a shot in the arm by going to a Paul Cummings or a Dave Anderson workshop. Maybe what the store really needs is a fire lit under your butt. Some people think they are burnt out…how can you be burnt out if you’ve never been on fire? (That’s supposed to be funny, probably not.)
Now try this same evaluation process in the Service Department. Oh, yea, I bet all your ASMs/Service Writers are doing a complete walk-a-round with every customer. Come on Rock Star, you can’t even get them to collect email addresses, what makes you think they are doing a complete walk-a-round? You can bet the whole process needs to be revamped back there. For some of you, the real problem is that you don’t observe what’s going on in there ‘cause you’re scared of the evil empire in the Service Department. If you’re scared, say you’re scared.
Look, I’m trying to poke a little fun at you, but odds are you really need to take a hard look at your operation. Once that’s done you need to take some action and put a game plan in place. Then you need to put “Kaizen” thinking into place. Are you continuously improving? As Mr. W.O. Lewis used to say “When you’re done changing, you’re done.” That’s all I’m gonna say.