Best Practices

De-Stressing the Dealership Environment

Ice Cream at the Dealership

Having recently had the opportunity to spend some time outside of my Tier III home-away-from home, I and my group were dazzled by what we found actually living outside of Dealervania. Tennis Courts and ping-pong tables. Flat-screen TV’s everywhere, including the cafeteria (yes, a cafeteria). Flip- flops. Shorts. More facial hair than a lumberjack convention. All at “work.” All in one building. And I checked: no one had spiked my Bruce Lee (green cocktail) – this was real.

If I may be so bold to speak for my group, none of us could ever imagine anything remotely similar in a dealership. “Can you imagine…” was the familiar mantra. This company made and continues to make a SERIOUS investment in their people. And as much as I love my dealership and my group, come-on, you know, it’s, well…. a dealership. I’d wager ours is as good as any – better than most, but Holy Cow: bacon & cheese croissants on Thursday mornings??? Not here.

I was an altar boy. I got good grades, worked hard. Where did I go wrong?? That was my initial thought. But thinking it through the last few days, I’ve come to realize that it only makes sense. The above described entity is a technology company. A technology company can only be as good as the ideas it can generate. In this environment, you need to attract the best-of-the-best if you have any hope of being the best-of-the-best, and once you have them, you have to keep them. You need great ideas, and the ability to turn those ideas into something tangible. You need brains, period.

And those brains aren’t going to crank-out billion dollar ideas if they are always stressed-out. So makes perfect business sense to create as much of a relaxed, stress-free environment in which to generate, promote, and execute the next big thing. I get it. I’m OK with that.

Now I’m back. Back to the grind: ads have to be through compliance and to the paper this afternoon…what do you mean Chrysler changed their programs this morning???? Ugh… 6 working days left in the month… need 100 more units. Why haven’t you called these 32 prospects??? How many times can one OEM mystery shop us in one month?? Move it people, move it!!!

Ahhhh…. the grind! We love it. We live it. And then it’s the 1st of the month, and it starts all over. Anyone notice that 1 month in a dealership equals 1 week everywhere else? Check it out – Einstein proved it.

But still, this “relaxed” atmosphere so recently visited has me thinking. We probably could do with just a tad less stress. And while I in no way advocate for the complete cessation of the “thrill” and the challenge, there’s nothing wrong with being a little happier and maybe even a bit less tightly-wound. Agree?

So I thought of three things our employers could do, and I invite you to do the same.

The first is probably the hardest for owners to swallow, because it’s difficult to draw a direct line from dollars-spent to dollars-earned: please upgrade the technology infrastructure.

If for no other reason than to rid the world of billions upon billions of cuss-words and swears, Good God please opt for a few more megs of bandwidth, and maybe upgrade that e-machine. Seriously. Nothing is more frustrating than that hour-glass constantly popping-up. Especially after you just looked-up from your keyboard (yes, most of us type looking at our keyboard), and realize that the 30-character run-on paragraph you were pecking-out never even started. We must end, once and for all, CWS Syndrome (Click-Wait-Swear). How nice would it be to be able to work without pounding the desk and glaring at the screen?

Next – hire a greeter. We have a real problem. All this technology now gives us reports to tell us what we already know: most salespeople are lousy prospectors, and generally do a poor job on the phone. So we use these reports and monitoring systems and tell our people that we expect them to call all these people and mail all these letters and send all these emails. So they are at their desks. Then we yell at them because there’s an up on the lot for 45 seconds with no salesperson. Hard to win there. iPhones so the staff can do all their technology stuff on-the-go? Maybe. But I’d settle for those few more megs of bandwidth and a $10/hour greeter.

Now you’re gonna laugh, but I’m serious. Buy an ice-cream maker. I mean it! Who doesn’t like ice- cream? Maybe a smoothie machine. Who wouldn’t like to walk down the hall and grab an ice cream or a smoothie on a hot summer’s day? Hard to be stressed-out and pissed-off when you’re licking an ice cream cone, if you ask me.

I know most dealers have no problem with turn-over (ha!), and that we’re not exactly famous for being a “people” business. But I can’t help but think that some minor investments to de-stress the dealership might have some far-reaching results. Happy employees make happy customers, right?

Make mine a vanilla, with sprinkles, if you please.

15+ years front-line, battle-hardened automotive vet, foreshadowing 7 years in automotive software construction, production, training, sales, and supp...
Well said John! I would have kept laughing if not for the fact that sadly, much of what you share is true.  Outdated equipment, insufficient bandwith, all while dealing with a customer base that is using far more advanced ecommerce equipment than many dealerships use within their own businesses.  The good news is that modern equipment is cheaper than ever before.  Now perhaps, over a nice ice cream cone, we can convince our principals to invest in a few new computers rather than drop another ten grand into a direct mailer...
Great points John.  We definitely need to hit the RESET button every once in while....even that means just grabbing a soft serve in a waffle cone.
Very nice article John. I recently convinced our salespeople to have some fun with a video we shot in house. Turned out pretty good, got a lot of positive feedback from those involved (as well as those that stood on the sidelines and witnessed the shenannigans). Check it out and let me know what you think...
  • J
  • June 28, 2011
Great!  Important to have FUN!
wow John, this sounds like a place where I can wear my "Jhorts" and not get ridiculed!
  • J
  • June 29, 2011
Now Joe -- don't deny it -- you have a pair or two at home, and was just as surprised as me that this whipper-snapper generation had a "name" for them!
Uncle Joe loves the jorts!.....Facial hair, flip flops, ping pong and huge ideas?! sounds like you visited the DDC crew up in Burlington?
  • T
    Timm Cuzzo
  • July 1, 2011
John, Great Article.  I ask though why incur additional expense with a greeter, why not just close the floor and create a process of more efficiency?  I agree the open floor is soon becoming a thing of the past.  Knowing who should be where and allowing them time to use the technology is the key to success.   
  • J
  • July 1, 2011
Hi Timm -- getting away from the silly nature of the article, you've snagged the point: solving the dilemma.  Personnel issue?  Process issue?  Technology issue?  I guess we have to decide for ourselves.  But addressing the situation is the 1st step.  Thanks!
Process is the "Plan of Attack"
Personnel are the "Soldiers" to execute the "Plan"
Technology the weapon to arm the "Soldier" to execute the "Plan"

Then John is speaking to the "MWR" program (Morale, Welfare, Recreation program that is part of our Armed Forces)

Thank you John for bringing up this discussion it is LONG over due
  • R
  • July 8, 2011
So true.  I just went into a dealer I worked in and since the GM came in the vibe is so terrible.  There wasnt a person in sight including sales people.  I'm sorry but GM's are old school and dont get it.  Happy employees make for happy customers.  However, their mentality is more money for me makes me happy and f#&K the employees.  So sad when a great dealership crashes and burns.