Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Auto Dealership Management

The first time I came across the term  was in one of my college text books over 40 years ago. Admittedly, I felt the author was attempting humor to describe an unprofessional approach to managing a business and communicating with company associates. Little did I realize at the time, that this would be the most important management tool I would use in my career as a dealership manager and owner.

Employee turnover has plagued the automobile industry for decades. Many articles have been written relative to poor hiring practices in dealerships as the primary reason for high turnover rates. Although typically, dealership hiring managers have little or no formal training in interviewing and hiring techniques, I believe there are more underlying causes to turnover than simply bad hiring. First and foremost, initial and ongoing training are essential to every position in the dealership. Lack of training is certainly a major contributor to poor performance and turnover. However, usually, the number one reason given in exit interviews for an employee's departure is lack of care and concern by management. This could have taken form when managers consistently do not show recognition for a job well done, or are not cognizant of an employees significant problems outside the workplace, or do not lead by example or simply just have never taken the time to find out more about the employee.

Management by wandering around refers to the practice of managers walking through the dealership on a random basis interfacing with employees, observing the facility and equipment, speaking with customers, inspecting processes and overall assessing every aspect of business. The emphasis is on the word wandering as an impromptu rather than expected visit. Although somewhat casual in nature, it is important that it is accomplished with specific guidelines:

1) It should be done as often as possible.It sends a very positive message to employees that the manager is involved in his/her business and is truly interested in the employees work and well-being. Furthermore, it sends a signal that the manager is not "too good" to spend time with them.

2) Ask questions, the most important of which might be "how can I assist you or what else to you need to do your job efficiently?" You must make sure that you will get back to them in a timely fashion with a response, regardless of the outcome of their request. This is best within 48 hours. Find out about their families or special interests outside of work. Be sure to listen carefully, take notes if necessary and tune into the tone of their replies.

3) If at all possible, try out their work. It will give you a lot more insight into the skill level needed by the employee to accomplish their jobs. It will also continue to demonstrate that you are not beyond doing the same tasks and put you on their level.

4) Share good news with them about the company. What better form of company communication is there than personal contact, especially when there is good news to announce.

5) Catch them in the act of doing something good. Most employees will expect that you are there to be critical. Look for victories rather than failures. Congratulating them on a job well done will obviously be a welcome surprise.

6) Do not be critical.

7) Do your MBWA alone. It is more powerful when a manager does this by themselves. It encourages more honest dialogue and speaks directly about your personal commitment to the idea.

8) Have fun. This is also a chance to lighten it up a little. Yes, you are human and they should know it. this will give you a chance to show your softer side without being disrespectful. It also shows employees that work can be fun and that you enjoy what you do.

In summary, when you make MBWA an ongoing daily practice, you will gain additional respect from your employees and customers. You will begin to see your business from different eyes, those of your employees. It will give you much greater insight into your business well as potentially get answers from them to issues that may have eluded you.

The author has been in the retail automotive business in dealership management and ownership for over 41 years including being the operating partner of Lexus of Tampa Bay and Lexus of Clearwater. He has a B.A. from Michigan State University, is a graduate of General Motors Institute Dealer School, was president of The Toledo Auto Dealers Association, president of the Ohio Car and Truck Rental and Leasing Association and former member of the Lexus Dealer Council. He currently owns one of the only electric car & truck dealerships in the country, Suncoast Electric Vehicles and also provides consulting to dealerships.

No comments:

Post a Comment