Still Making a Plan?

Tip # 1-Dissect each department. Break them all down. Pretend you are starting from scratch. Don’t assume anything. Nothing is sacred. Be ready to change and perfect any and all processes.

Tip #2-Analyze, analyze, analyze. Make the numbers work.

Here’s a number you need to make work. 120%. Once you have figured out how many units you should be selling, think of how many salespeople you will need to get the job done. If you think your volume number is 100 and you think your team will average 10 units each then the number of sales people you need is 10. Right? Wrong!

What you really need to get the job done is another 2 salespeople. It takes 120% of what you think you might need. There are always a few sales people having a bad month. You fire some. Some quit. Someone is sick, broke a leg or whatever. You cannot hit your number doing straight up math. Think 120%. That’s how you will get your number. Don’t worry about overloading your sales force. You need to worry about overloading your bottom line.

Tip#3-Relocate; as in send some folks packing. Loyalty is a wonderful thing. Too wonderful. Yes, it’s a people business, but darn it, it’s a business. You’re not running a charity. There are some people that just need to go. If you love them so much you can’t part with them, then send them to the farm and mail them a check each month. Get someone on board who can get the job done.

Tip #4-Now that you’ve analyzed and figured out your team, lay out the new plan. Bring your key players into the new plan. Let them have some input. It’s ok to let them think it’s their idea. The more they think it’s their idea, the better.

Tip#5-Present it to the entire management team. Your key managers have to help sell the plan and create “buy-in.” Buy in is critical to the success of the organization.

Tip#6-Educate the team. It doesn’t matter how long you are in this business you need to continue to look for opportunities to ramp up your performance. Educating the team is never an expense. It’s an investment in them and your future.

Tip#7-Turn your used car department upside down. Look at it from every angle possible and start making changes.

Tip#8-Put the plan in play now. Not January 1. Now is the time to get the kinks out. It’s like spring training. You want to be able to rock and roll on January 1, not March 1.

2019 isn’t going to be easy. Now is the time to light the fire. You will win in 2019 by preparing to win right now. That’s all I’m gonna say. Tommy Gibbs

Need a Haircut?

When I’m in town I work out at a small 24-hour gym on Treasure Island in a little strip mall. Three doors down from the gym is a real barbershop. Looks and feels like one from yesteryear compete with the barber’s pole that can be traced back to the Middle Ages.

The other morning, I couldn’t help but notice the barber was sitting in his barber’s chair staring at the front door. Immediately it flashed through my mind that’s what I often see in dealerships today.
I see two types of people staring at the door.

1. Salespeople staring at the door waiting for that special up that the dealership has been so kind to advertise for. (Will we ever fix this?)

2. Management staring at two doors. The old school door and the you might fail door.

The might fail door can be pretty scary. Every once in a while, you walk over, crack the door, and take a peek. Your body starts shaking with fear because of what you’re seeing.

You’re seeing grosses and in some cases volume heading south. You’re seeing today’s pay plans not working, and you’re seeing today’s new hires leaving as fast as Superman and a speeding bullet.

They aren’t buying into your hours and your selling processes which aren’t much different than they were 25 years ago. And, they hate your pay plan.

Aside from being prettier, the physical work environment is about the same. You still have desks and you’ve fancied them up by putting computers on them. It’s sort of the lipstick on a pig theory. When the customer walks in, they still see a pig.

You’re also seeing the approach of some of the public
companies and bigger dealer groups by changing their hiring practices and hours, and adding iPads, sofas, and kiosks in the showroom.

You’re starting to wonder if you’ll still be around 10 years from now.

But you’re making a profit so why change? You need to change while you can afford to change.

You’re sort of like that barbershop. The only thing that’s changed for the owner is the chair is a little different and there’s no strap to sharpen the straight razor with.

That’s a really nice chair you’re sitting in. Enjoy your seat. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

Should You Take a Walk?

Most health magazines would tell you that walking 20 minutes a day has huge health benefits. There are also some huge business benefits if you would make yourself take a walk. Try these three walks and your health and business will improve:

1. The Meet Your Team Walk-The first walk occurs each day as soon as you arrive at the dealership. Generally speaking I’m directing most of my writings at the dealer and/or General Manager of the dealership, but in this specific case it can apply to anyone and will pay huge dividends regardless of your position.

Start at the back of the dealership and work your way toward the front. Your mission should be to speak to as many team members (call them what you want) as possible. Over time you should get to know them.

Make it a point to stop and talk to every technician, every porter, every service writer, etc.

Work your way into the body and parts departments and do the same. Then visit the office staff and sales department. Of course, the sequence may depend on your actual job and role in the operation, but you get the point. In time you need to at least learn the following:
Their name. (Duh!)
Where are they originally from?
How long have they worked there?
What drew them to the type of work they are doing and to the company?
Married/single?
Spouse’s name?
Children, ages/boy/girl?
Hobbies/what do they like to do in free time?
What are their long term goals in life?
Find out something from them that others would be surprised about.
As I was writing this I considered explaining the benefits of taking a “team walk” each day, but concluded that if you can’t figure it out yourself it’s hopeless and you might be in the wrong business.

2. The Trade Walk-there should be a staging area where all trades are parked. All members of management must go on the trade walk every day at a specific time, preferably after your “save-a-deal meeting.”

All managers means GM, GSM, Used Car Manager, F&I Manager, BDC Manager, Internet Manager, New Car Manager and most importantly the Service Manager. Stop at each car and talk about the car.

You will be amazed at how many more trades you will end up keeping and how many more deals you actually are able to put together by getting insight and suggestions from the various members of your management team. It is very foolish to allow one person to make decisions on which trades to keep and not keep.

The concessions and input you will get from your service manager will pay valuable dividends. It’s a total no-brainer. (My software mobile app will help you.)

3. The Lot Walk-The lot walk takes place once a week preferably after your weekend kick off sales meeting which should be on Friday. (I’ve never understood the concept of having a kick off sales meeting on a Saturday.) After the meeting, all sales people and all the members of the management team including the service manager will take a lot walk. Stop at each vehicle on the lot and talk about the unit.

This is how you get your entire sales team involved in selling more used cars. The more they know about your inventory the more they will sell. You have to force feed them. You will find out why certain cars have not sold because as you stop to talk about the specific cars the salespeople will tell you why that car is still sitting there getting stale.

Oftentimes there is an issue with a car as to why it has not sold. By having the service manager on the walk he/she will jump all over the issue and get it handled for you. It’s called the “embarrassment factor.”

So, here’s the bottom line. Start walking. Walking is good for your health. Walking is good for your business. 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, 2019 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 About October?

By now you’ve closed out October, twisted over the numbers and gone back to work.

Not so fast.

October is the perfect month. “Perfect for what?” you ask. Perfect for figuring out where you’ve been and where you want to go.

I can’t say that math was one of my best subjects, but I can divide by 10 real easy. At a glance, I know what the averages are for any line item expenses, sales volume, and gross profit.

What also makes October a perfect time is it sets the stage for the next year. Now is the time to start planning for 2019. Waiting until the last week in December to get your plan together is a really bad strategy.

This is the perfect time to dig in and firm up your fundamentals in all departments. This is the time to get back to basics. This is not the time to cut back on your training.

This is when you need to amp up your thinking, stretch your organization and stretch your imagination. If you don’t have a solid foundation of basic processes you will never maximize your success.

This is the time to take control of the evaporation factor that’s been occurring all year long. This is the time to stop the process bleeding.

Your long-term plan should include joining a Twenty Group and attending the NADA convention.

We all get lazy and get caught up in our daily routines. Attending these meetings gets you revitalized. It gets you outside of your daily box and opens your eyes up to what the possibilities might be. Seems like a no-brainer.

This is the time to make those plans. Teamwork is critical if you’re going to maximize your bottom line. To keep your team on the same page you have to constantly communicate to them what the expectations are and what processes they are expected to follow.

There is no shake ‘n bake solution. You don’t fix it and walk away. You fix it and re-fix it.

What to do?

1. Ask yourself if you can improve your processes? If you focus on revamping your processes, what effect do you think it will have on your business? It’s just a fact that regardless of how well disciplined you are, over time your processes are going to evaporate.

The best piece of advice I can give you is to lock yourself and your management team in a room and review every detail of your selling processes. Be brutally honest with yourself. Then take the necessary action to get yourself back on track.

2. Can you improve your team? Got the wrong players? Now is the time to make the changes. If you already have the right team in place then it’s time to let them know what your expectations are and show them the plan and the path to achieving those expectations.

3. Don’t think of your planning as you now having
a plan. Think of it as a “mission.” Plans can fall apart. When you’re on a mission you stay after it until you succeed and then you stay after it some more.

I’m on a mission to get you to re-think what you’re doing. I’m on a mission to get you ready. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

Making Mistakes?

A wise man was once said the key to his success was “I’ve made lots of mistakes.”

And therein lies one of the keys to you becoming an even better leader. Allow yourself, and especially those around you, the latitude to make some mistakes.

The key is to learn from the mistakes. As a dealer for over 20 years I know I made a lot of mistakes and I’m sure I made some of the same ones twice. But, I’d like to think I learned something from each mistake.

Far too often when dealing with team members, leaders don’t use mistakes as a teaching moment, but as a criticism moment. It’s absolutely imperative that we learn from our mistakes and that we don’t continue to make the same ones over and over again.

As it relates to used car management why would you allow the same buyer to continue to go to the same auction sites, buy cars and 60 days later you take them back and lose money on them?

To be real, it may or may not be 100% the buyer’s fault. It may be that there’s no strategy to deal with vehicles that have a high market day’s supply and a high cost to market. In either case, there’s a consistent mistake being made that you as a leader are allowing to happen. Shame on you.

The key is to give your team enough rope to make some mistakes, but not so much that they choke themselves and your business in the process.

When people are allowed to make some mistakes, your organization becomes more innovative. Without innovation, your organization becomes stymied. (Get innovated, join a 20 Group.)

It’s very difficult to be a great mentor when you micro-manage every decision that’s made.

When you micro-manage you end up with micro-growth. Team members like working in an environment where they feel like they are allowed to grow. When they grow, you grow.

You’re making a big mistake if you don’t manage your mistakes. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

Maybe You’re Thinking About It Wrong?

There are a number of factors that go into achieving a better gross profit than what your store is currently producing.

None are more important than how you price your units and how you pay your staff. We often price units that we have the greatest profit potential too low and price units with a lesser profit potential too high.

There’s no disagreement that pricing plays a role in the equation. There’s another hidden element that’s often ignored and it’s what kind of a deal that you’re willing to take.

And that’s where pay plans have the greatest influence.

I will give you a couple of examples:

You have a nice trade.
It has a wide cost to market in your favor.
It has a low market days’ supply.
It’s 12 days old.
You have it listed with a gross of $2700.
After some negotiating the salesman and you are staring at a $1500 deal.
You take the deal.

How can you not? You’re both being paid on gross. You just gave away $1200 that maybe you shouldn’t have.

Here’s the flip side:

You have an auction purchase unit.
You have a cost to market not in your favor.
High market days’ supply.
It’s 56 days old.
At 56 days of age you still have it listed with a $1500 gross profit.
After some negotiating the salesperson brings you a deal that’s a $500 loser.

You don’t want to take the deal because there’s nothing in it for you or the salesperson. (Actually, there may be for the salesperson because you have a $500 bonus on the unit to make it go away.)

You take the deal and moan all day about how Internet pricing is killing your grosses.

The reality is your pricing was off from jump street.

If you find yourself holding on to some of these low-profit potential cars longer than you’d like, you might find that you’re letting what you paid for vehicles influence what you are listing them for.

You priced it wrong because you wanted a certain margin going in. You may have priced the unit with the same margins as you would with a nice trade.

Both of these examples add to your gross profit woes.

If you want to improve your gross profit you need to change your thinking when it comes to pricing, paying on gross and the deals you’re willing to take. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

Why Am I Screaming?

I’m done playing nice. I’m done being soft spoken. I’m done not telling you like it is. I’m done with you telling me you drank the Kool-aid and all is good.

Unless you drank my super Kool-aid, it’s not all good. Some of you have. Some of you haven’t. If you haven’t, you should.

I’m screaming. Yes, screaming from the rooftop that you need to be using my life-cycle management process. The reason you need to be using it is that it makes good sense. You cannot deny that it makes good sense.

I guess you could, but you’d be wrong.

You could say, “My team and I don’t have the discipline to utilize it,” which would be a shame, but you can’t say, “It doesn’t make good sense.”

For your entire career, you’ve either stated or heard others state, “All units must stand on their own.” Yet, you treat them all the same. What are you thinking? How’s that working out for you?

Life-cycle management requires you to have a unique strategy for every unit on day one. If you have a unique strategy on every unit on day one, none will see day sixty-one.

My software helps you manage it, but I don’t care if you buy my software or not.

What I care about is that you acknowledge the fact that all units don’t deserve the same shelf life.

What I care about is that on day one that you be honest with yourself about what you’ve done to yourself.

What I care about is that you understand you cannot treat a purchase unit the same as you do a trade.

What I care about is your gross going up. Using life-cycle management makes your gross go up.

Maybe you should come up on the roof with me and look down and see the view I see. If you did, you’d be screaming too. You’d be screaming at the person in the mirror. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

The Same Mistakes Over & Over?

First I want to make it perfectly clear the amount of respect I have for those who have been in this business for many years. Those that have grinded it out, those that have street savvy, and those that at times made chicken salad out of chicken poop. There is no adjective to describe the admiration I have for you.

That being said I want to speak to those of you that are in charge of the hiring and struggle to find that superstar used car manager. The used car manager you need may very well be right under your own roof, and you’re walking right by him or her a dozen times a day.

For whatever misconceived reason, when you need a used car manager, the first thing you want to do is find a used car guru that works someplace else and lure them away.

I don’t have to tell you the challenges of hiring from the outside. I don’t have to, but I will.

1. The person you hire isn’t going to have the same culture that you’ve been working so hard to develop.

2. Their thinking about the used car business isn’t going to necessarily align with yours. That doesn’t mean either of you has it right or wrong. It just means it’s going to be frustrating and more than likely expensive.

3. If you’re running an ad in Automotive News, most of the respondents are going to be from outside your area. I’m not even going to attempt to list all the issues tied to bringing someone in from afar. If you don’t understand those issues then you’ve got a lot more problems than I can help you with.

4. When you hire from the outside you are looking for a miracle worker to fix the mess left from the last miracle worker. Most likely the mess will get bigger. All you’re doing is rinse and repeat.

5. You’re doing nothing to encourage people to want to grow and develop within your organization when you keep going to the outside. You need to promote from within.

The real answer is that you don’t need someone from the outside with a bunch of experience. What you need is to commit to giving someone from within a chance and a whole bunch of your personal time and energy.

What you need is:

1. Someone that’s a young “thinker.”
2. Someone that has high energy.
3. Someone that believes in your culture and store.
4. Someone that’s coachable.
5. Someone that has common sense.
6. Someone that understands technology.
7. Someone that has integrity.
8. Someone that has a strong work ethic.
9. Someone that has good communication skills.
10. Someone that’s hungry.

If you don’t have someone or multiple someones like this in your organization then you need to rethink your organization. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

Are You Winning?

If I learned anything from being an athlete, a coach, an NCAA college basketball referee, and my time in the United States Marine Corps, it is that you have to be a well-disciplined team to win.

I, like many of you, can look back and review my career and unequivocally conclude that the success I’ve had is directly tied to discipline.

The common denominator that I observe in my dealership travels for the most successful operations is discipline. It’s there. It’s visible. It’s consistent.

You can have:

A lot of great ideas.
A lot of great concepts.
A lot of great tools and training at your disposal.
A lot of talented people.
A lot of great software.

None of it is worth the ink to write it down if you don’t have discipline.

As many of you know my team and I have developed some amazing software rightly named UpYourGross. What’s obvious is that the dealers who have the discipline to allocate 10 minutes a day to the software are getting results that far exceed their expectations and their investments.

Those that don’t are wasting their money.

This isn’t about my software. It’s about the value of discipline.

Leadership must have a clear understanding of discipline and what it means to the success of the organization.

If you’re going to develop a winning team you must be committed to the now, not later. If you’re not a person of action, not much else will matter.

When a leader is consistent in everything he/she does, then others will follow. When others follow the lead of discipline, momentum and growth are inevitable.

Never forget the enemy of discipline is procrastinating. Be disciplined. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs