Who’s In Charge?

Have you ever noticed that with some businesses that it feels like nobody’s in charge? Sort of like the business has been turned over to the inmates to figure it out and do the best that they can? Sure, we’ve all had that experience.

Often, when I’m in a dealership I’m not sure who’s really in charge. In some cases it’s the blind leading the blind. Even more to the point I wonder if anyone is really “running the show.”

The sales department of the typical dealership needs to be set up in one of two ways:

1. General Sales Manager-this person runs the sales department. All the managers in the sales department answer directly to the GSM. The GSM needs to have great leadership skills and it’s always preferred that they have been an F&I and Used Car Manager. They must have the ability to communicate with the other department heads and understand their area of responsibilities. They should never let their egos get in the way of keeping the Dealer/GM informed as to what’s going on in the sales department. Their motto should be the Dealer/GM is never surprised. GSMs usually run into trouble when they start to think they are the dealer and begin making decisions on things that are above their pay grade.

2. General Manager/Dealer Operator-not only performs GM duties, but GSM duties as well. This situation is more prevalent in smaller stores or during those economic times when cutbacks are necessary and the GM takes on multiple responsibilities.

Notice the line that says “Needs to be set up in one of two ways.” My experience is that often it’s just not being done, or if it is it’s a halfhearted effort at best. You cannot put a group of managers together and hope they “get it” and work together as a team. You can’t “kind of sort of” say that so and so is in charge.

The best run businesses are those in which everyone clearly knows, understands and supports the chain of command.

People support the chain of command because they have respect for the person at the top not just based on their prior performance, but because of their daily actions. Respect has to be earned everyday and is not a result of “carry over” action from some previous accomplishments, such as he/she was a great salesman…now let’s anoint them with “Sales Manager in Charge” status.

Far too often the GSM or GM does not have the skills that are actually needed to run the sales department. Then there are times when they just don’t have the desire. It’s not their cup of tea. They may have other useful skills for the organization but managing a sales force just isn’t one of them.

It could be they don’t have the training and background or their personality just isn’t a sales personality. They may have been given the position because they were a great closer, or were the next person in line to be promoted.

It’s not all that unusual for a GM to be a former Parts and Service Director, Comptroller, or even a relative of the owner. They may or may not have the skills and/or training to do the job the way it needs to be done.

That doesn’t mean they are not a great GM by normal standards, but they may not be the type of GM who can also perform the duties of a GSM. Sometimes the person I’m talking about here is actually the owner who has taken on additional responsibilities for whatever reason. Just because someone is the owner doesn’t qualify them to run the sales operation, but they have to be smart enough to recognize the skills they have and don’t have.

So, here’s the deal. You have to put someone in charge who can do the job. I mean really do the job. It’s one of the most critical positions in the dealership.

If you have the wrong person or you are relying on the managers to work it out among themselves you will be led down a road of constant frustration, confusion, lack of direction and poor production. In the end everyone suffers, especially your bottom line.

That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs