Best PracticesDealership Operations & Processes

If It Does Not Fit, Don’t Wear It.

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” –Mark Twain

As you have already noticed, nearly everyone in the medical field has made the move to wearing scrubs, paper pushers and surgeons alike. My wife occasionally wears them for her profession and loves the pajama-like feel. The other day, I was struck by a young professional’s choice of medical attire. Their scrubs were so tight that you could accurately count their goosebumps. I thought to myself, why the hell didn’t you buy the size for your body?! 

Then it occurred to me. Some people are petrified to admit that things no longer fit. If car dealerships needed to shed their ill-fitting clothes, most would be forced to go naked…

Hoarder’s Closet

Some dealerships hold onto everything. A box full of VHS tapes? Check. A threadbare t-shirt bought during the Clinton administration? Check. Wood paneling in the service lounge? Check. 1986 Dodge Omni GLH? Check. These dealerships will not let go of anything because they might need it down the road. On the admirable side, they’re extremely loyal. On the pitiful side, they are extremely loyal. They won’t let go of ADP/CDK because, during the Blizzard of ’78, the sales rep (long since dead) stayed at the owner’s house. Bob, AKA “Creepy Bob,” is on his sixth lateral move in five years because he arrives early every day (presumably, to drink coffee and harass the female staff). Sure the Budget Lot has never turned a profit, but someday the fresh graffiti on the cars might attract more visitors. Luckily, that Omni GLH is buried in training binders. It’ll be perfectly preserved for when the lights go out.

Aspirational Size

Many dealerships have a self-determined ideal size. At one point, they found their peak and determined that they had the magical size for eternal success. All their friends complimented them on how good everything looked. But, as their business changed (as it inevitably does), they had to get bigger. They had to add staff, inventory, technology, and that new OEM mandated façade. But, packed deep in the staff and management’s psyche, there is an obsession to squeeze back down into that ideal size. Never mind that inventory gets more complex by the day, the way people shop keeps changing in unpredictable ways, and that smoking indoors is illegal throughout most of the US. Someday, that old stuff will fit again. Yes, those pants do make you look fat.

Emaciated Chic

While some dealerships remember what they feel is the right size, others make it a mission to keep things trim. Then trim down some more. These dealerships wonder why they can’t compete and why turnover is so high. Their accountant (who buys from the Audi dealership down the road) thinks they are doing great. They feel great, except none of their technology is compatible with modern devices, their websites make Craigslist look busy, and their business is solely predicated on walk-in traffic. They had their best year in 2001 (along with the rest of the industry), and have kept expenses super lean ever since. All their 20 Group friends ask why they look so sick. Their response is that they still need to lose a few pounds. RIP, Karen Carpenter.

Busting Seams

Another group of dealerships, simply cannot contain their girth. They read a few articles about the most successful dealerships, and wanted to match them dollar for dollar, pound for pound. They spend four times more than what they should (probably with 4X Digital) on advertising, making sure to use only the most expensive vendors. They never ask where their money is going. They redesign their websites every six months, while going through a new CRM every two years. The staff won’t be fired because everyone knows it. Anyone who cares about them tells them they need to trim back, but those people are just haters. If it works for an exclusive luxury group near Silicon Valley, then it must work for their rural Mitsubishi Kia dealership. RIP, Mama Cass.


We’ve all been told throughout our lives that we’re supposed to adapt. If that’s the case, then we are bound to outgrow things. Periodically, that means permanently retiring those skinny jeans. On other occasions, that means bidding adieu to team members. We expand to build our ranks and bulk up to get stronger. We shed weight to stay healthy while making changes to our habits to prevent us from sickness down the road. It is that adaptability that allows us to sustain.

Don’t let external labels hold you back from looking and being your best. One company’s XL is another company’s Euro medium. Just because everyone is choosing a particular vendor, doesn’t mean that it’s going to be right for you. Just because you’ve always had ten salespeople doesn’t mean that you don’t need more or less to support today’s business. Just because certain pieces of technology and processes were in fashion three years ago, doesn’t mean that they work well together today. Keep discovering what works well with your size and philosophy. If it no longer fits, stop wearing it.

Bill Playford is Vice President and Partner at DealerKnows Consulting. He brings a unique automotive perspective, with a background in training, consu...