Challenging the Status Quo

During a recent interview for The Norm Jones Show, a talk radio show in Detroit, I was asked what I thought was the biggest challenge facing businesses. Without hesitation, I said the inability to acquire, properly develop and retain fresh talent would prove to be an epidemic for the businesses.

I have a dealer client whom I’ve worked with for six years, and I began to notice some blasts from the past during my last eight visits. There was the recycled sales manager, the twice-fired salespeople and a fresh-from-rehab finance manager on his third tour at the dealership. When I asked why this was happening, the client said, "It’s hard to find people."

That answer, along with "This is the car business," are two of the all-too-familiar responses I often hear. So many things go unexamined, unaddressed and not dealt with in the name of our industry’s culture. So, how do we change this? What’s needed to attract and retain talent in the car business? Well, let’s take a look at two possible solutions.

Problem 1: The Work Schedule

The typical dealership schedule has been enforced, accepted and treated as gospel for decades. The problem is that’s exactly what’s kept a lot of talented people with great potential from getting into the business. It also has contributed to years of missed soccer games, vacations, family outings and countless other pursuits.

Is the bell-to-bell lifestyle the only way to successfully run a car dealership? Is the end-of-the-month frenzy to roll more vehicles and get deals done the only option for maximizing sales?

One of the first stores I worked for when I started my career offered 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. schedules. The dealership also allowed employees to take two Saturdays off per month, something that is unheard of in the car business. But why is that? Why is taking a hard look at dealership hours and work schedules so "outside the box," especially since the people people making the schedule don’t actually work it?

Holiday store hours are always an interesting conversation as well. I mean, how many cars can a dealership really sell over a holiday? When I ask dealers that, which I often do, the answer is usually two or three. If that’s the case at your store, wouldn’t you foster more goodwill among your employees by giving them the day off instead? Hey, it’s just a thought.

Problem No. 2: Managers vs. Leaders

There are probably people out there more qualified than I to address leadership. However, my experience working for and with managers who never led and don’t know how to lead provides me with a nice perspective on what a leader should be.

I will save full commentary on this topic for a future article, but allow me to offer a few nuggets of advice: First, as leadership guru John Maxwell points out, good leaders are self-improving. They realize that their team must first improve themselves before improvement in performance can be realized. Yet, so many managers obtain their title and simply put the shifter into park. Leaders have subordinates by default, but what they really do is manifest followers. Managers simply have subordinates.

Let’s review a few typical character differences between leaders and managers:

  • An approach of calculated change vs. stability.
  • Vision vs. objectives.
  • Personal charisma vs. formal authority.
  • Energy of passion, rather than control.

So, which traits describe you? Want to take it a step further? Put those traits on a piece of paper and ask your staff to circle options that best match you and let them anonymously provide you the results.

See, leaders create a culture of achievement that shapes outcomes. They are not focused on being right and simply producing results.

Next month, I will use this space to explore the topics of training and development. I will also address the two biggest breakthrough topics most relevant to the future. So, stay tuned.