It’s football season again Down Under, and even if you don’t like football, you will learn a lot from the various codes that can make your dealership and departments work more efficiently and profitably. Here in the US, Tom Brady recently won his seventh Super Bowl, further cementing his status as one of the great leaders in sports.
Football teams have a cadre of leaders – coaches, managers, and captains – just like dealerships. The difference between a winning football team, and those who get the first few draft picks, is the quality of the leaders – not just the coach. To strengthen your leadership staff, read The Hidden Leader: Discover and Develop Greatness Within Your Company by Scott Edinger.
Without dedicated folks to protect him, even Brady by himself couldn’t win a Super Bowl – it takes teamwork. As soon as one player, or one department, fails to perform the designated role, all of the hard work and well-designed processes will be for naught. You could have an ideal sales department but if the service department fails to deliver an exceptional experience the customer may never by another vehicle from you or even recommend your dealership.
Good leaders attract good players and employees. A winning football team works to assemble the best talent by defining what it needs in the way of abilities. The leaders know what makes a great player and look for those skills in candidates and just like dealerships, they have to work within a budget. For your winning team, take the time to determine what you need, what skills are necessary, and always be on the lookout for new talent. Football teams replace under-performers, a practice that is beneficial for any business.
When you set goals for employees, it lets them know what you expect and they know when they are doing a poor job. If your department doesn’t have a clear discipline for culling non-performers, you could be wasting your advertising money, your training energy, your customer contacts, and bringing down the overall morale of your team by retaining team members who are well below the caliber of the rest of the team.
Next, no matter the quality of the players, the weather, or the opponents; the rules of football don’t allow anyone to move the goal post to get a touchdown, score a try, or kick a goal. The plan is to work continuously to adapt and improve the plays which will get you to the goal. This fact correlates to your monthly goals. If there is a snowstorm – or a flood! – you don’t change monthly goals, you put different plans in motion.
As each play changes the field position, the coach has contingency plans to build on the previous plays. His playbook provides options designed to move the ball in the right direction. Apply this to a service department that shows low appointments at the end of the week. The manager needs a list of go-to processes to fill the open time slots: contact special order parts customers, follow-up on unsold work from the previous month, see what work the sales department or body shop might need to have done, contact customers who haven’t been in for service in over six months, post a special on Facebook, and/or prepare an email blast ready to attract customers. These, plus many more ideas, need to be available to act upon before Friday when it is too late to change the week’s outcome.
One crucial component for success in American football is the huddle before each play. In the AFL, they do this at breaks in quarters, in the NRL at half-time. With a few exceptions, each team huddles to discuss the upcoming plays—offense and defense. They aren’t chatting about the latest show on Netflix; they are serious about what to do to make the next play a success.
While some departments might have a morning meeting, does the agenda help the employees plan for a successful day? Well-run body shops have morning production meetings to determine if there are any “roadblocks” and how the vehicles will move through the shop. The Sales and the Service departments get their teams together to keep employees updated on vehicle rebates or service specials, but can these meetings be even more useful? The Managers can prepare for each huddle with a focus on what to do to make today a great day based on what happened yesterday and today’s challenges.
It doesn’t have to be a full team huddle; it can be a “mini huddle” like when a Service Advisor has a large estimate to present to the customer, the Service Manager can discuss the best approach to get the job sold. The morning Sales Department huddle should make sure everyone has a plan to sell a car today! The Parts Department’s huddle can discuss outstanding special order parts, ways to better deliver parts, or review the results of the most recent perpetual inventory. The Accounting Department can examine pending deals, items to post, outstanding payoff titles, or past due accounts. With a daily or at the least a weekly huddle, all departments benefit when they know everything is going in the right direction.
One under-appreciated element – there is a lot of practice and training in football. The coaches don’t assume that the players will remember every play – they practice the plays. It’s been stated that amateurs practice till they get it right; professionals practice till they can’t get it wrong. The same concept applies to your department. Look at an Express Service Department, the training should go beyond so “the Techs don’t forget to tighten the lug nuts,” but also for the Advisors to consistently present the findings of the multi-point inspection and sell the recommended work.
To make better decisions for future games, coaches and team members review the previous game’s plays to determine how to prevent the missteps or duplicate the successful plays. This same practice works well for dealerships. For example, you look at your Profit Blueprints report, and there’s a red cell where an account was previously at target – dig into that account and see what happened. From there you put plans in place to prevent a duplicate occurrence. Look where you did well and build on your successes.
An involved coach or leader is crucial to keep everyone moving in the same direction. Whether you agree with the football analogy or not – be the active leader in your department – the one who plans to take his or her team to the Super Bowl.
This article is written by Lloyd Schiller, Fixed Operations Consultant, and Brook Samples, President Profit Blueprints LLC.