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As Seen in Digital Dealer - Developing a Dealer-Minded Attitude

As Seen in Digital Dealer - Developing a Dealer-Minded Attitude

It is just too easy to not care. This was the keynote topic at a graduation a colleague of mine recently attended. In reflecting upon the focus on the commencement speech, and the audience – high school seniors, I realized that this is the same theme dealers are struggling with – how to get people to care.

More and more, what we hear from dealers is, “how do I get my people to care about the business as much I do?” Essentially, what they are referring to is, how do they foster a “Dealer/Owner-Minded Attitude” in their dealership.

The reality is it is very easy for today’s employees, and in even in some instances, our future leaders to show ambivalence regarding the impact they have on the organization or their own future. Often the root of ambivalence is fear – fear of failing, not being good enough, and/or not being chosen “seen” as a leader. And unfortunately, this is becoming common in the workplace, in part due to the generational diversity, but also in how culture has created a stigma of everyone gets a trophy. Therefore, this ambivalence, often comes across as a lack of caring – because without care, there is no failure or rejection.

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As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee Report - Building a Strong Foundation to Weather the Storm

As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee Report - Building a Strong Foundation to Weather the Storm

In the best of times, it's easy to look forward and have no fear as to what the future is going to bring. It's also easy to forget to take advantage of the good times to build a foundation that can withstand any potential future storm that might hit. In the worst of times, building this foundation can protect all that you have built, and hopefully help you weather the storm. A great example of this is taking a look back into history.

The economy tanked in 2008-2009. The markets affected most were those that not only relied on access to lending, but those that also relied on strong brands to pull them through. If you think back to the automotive manufacturing segment, Ford was the only manufacturer that weathered the storm, practically unscathed. The automotive retail industry, one of the hardest hit, had more than 1,200 dealerships collapse. Many of these were well recognized in their communities and top performers for the manufacturer. The dealerships that survived were able to, in part, thanks to the foundations that had been built long before the storm hit.

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As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee Report - Getting Help From Those Who Have Been There

As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee Report - Getting Help From Those Who Have Been There

My family and I recently took the plunge into the world of RV’ing. I enjoy operating all kinds of vehicles, so towing our new purchase round trip for the first time did not present too much concern, but I knew I’d have to be on my game. Anything new and different presents learning curves. One of the things I discovered soon, after plunging in, is the need for checklists. There are a variety of procedures and processes that must be in place and carried out for the RV to run properly, and to ensure that I do not kill someone on the roadway.

For instance, some of the procedures I had to learn included hooking up to the truck, unhooking and leveling the RV, putting out the slides and awnings, loading the motorcycles, dealing with the holding tanks and understanding black water, grey water, and fresh water. There is simply too much to do without a checklist, it would be very easy to make a misstep or forget something that could have a detrimental impact. In fact, if you think about it, there are a lot of instances in which checklists help ensure positive outcomes. Examples that come to mind are pilots and the checklists they use prior to flight, or captains of ships before they leave port. Surgeons have checklists to ensure they have all the proper supplies and staff before surgery, and each of your stores likely have opening and closing procedures organized in some sort of checklist. I’m sure you get the point.

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As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee Report - Using Covenants To Build Teamwork and Performance

As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee Report - Using Covenants To Build Teamwork and Performance

Contracts between parties have existed for centuries. Before contracts - there were agreements, or what we also call, covenants. Covenants go back to a time before our language was spoken or before words were printed. Old Testament biblical language showcases the first existence of a covenant between non-equal parties. I don't think anyone would make a case that Abraham and Yahweh were equals. Throughout history, we have seen how covenants have the power to transform. In business today, covenants play critical roles and they are especially powerful in privately owned businesses where relationships with outside influences, such as franchisors, have an impact on your success.

A covenant is an agreement between two parties wherein each agrees to what they are asking for, what they are offering, their commitment to live by their offer, and fulfill what is asked. The reason covenants add extreme value to the operation and growth of multi-unit franchisee businesses is sublimely simple: business leaders, managers, and employees need to make a plethora of decisions in the daily function. Covenants act as the foundation to which decisions are made, making the process simpler in the complex business environment of multi-unit/brand organizations.

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As Seen in NCM Institute - Think Like an Owner

As Seen in NCM Institute - Think Like an Owner

Ownership, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is the state, relation, or fact of being an owner. Often, those who feel ownership of something take special care and feel great responsibility for it. If we dissect the definition of ownership a little more, it does not necessarily mean that one must “own,” but rather, there is a mindset of being or acting like an owner.

This “ownership attitude,” or lack thereof, can be seen in many dealerships. Some leaders may not own stock in the dealership but have ownership in areas of strategic initiatives, team motivation and collaboration, and show emotional investment in the achievement of the dealership’s mission. On the other hand, some leaders show up, fulfill their responsibilities, and get the job done. However, if a better gig presents itself across the street, they don’t hesitate to take the opportunity.

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As Seen in Automotive Buy Sell Report - Fostering an ownership mentality – drinking the organizational Kool-Aide

As Seen in Automotive Buy Sell Report - Fostering an ownership mentality – drinking the organizational Kool-Aide

Owning a business is not a simple task. Financial risks, anxiety over success, ensuring employees are taken care of, and all the tasks that go into leading and running a business are a heavy load for business owners. Add to this the continued rapid pace of change in our political, economic and technological environments creating more challenges, as well as opportunities.

Many entrepreneurs gain energy by taking on risk – it is the challenge that keeps them going, and we see this often with dealer principals. With this comes a very strong entrepreneurial focus – finding ways to revolutionize process and procedures to create more out of less, and taking exceptional care to nurture the appearance and brand of the organization.

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As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee Report - Solving the "Rubik's Cube" of Business

As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee Report - Solving the "Rubik's Cube" of Business

Have you ever attempted to solve a Rubik’s Cube? The three-dimensional multi-colored toy invented by Erno Rubick was never intended to be a “toy.” In fact, he developed it for the purpose of teaching students how to solve the structural problem of moving independent parts, without the entire cube falling apart. But the teaching tool became a wildly popular toy.

If you are like me, you have tried it and know that once you get one side right and try to figure out another side, you then have to mess with what you first thought you’d solved. A few know the secret but most, like me, become frustrated. When I ask clients if they’re able to solve it, I get responses such as “Sure, just unpeel the color stickers!”

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As Seen in Digital Dealer - Successors: Getting out of the Middle

As Seen in Digital Dealer - Successors: Getting out of the Middle

With more family businesses then ever seeking succession through the next generation of family leadership, a change to a multigenerational management structure is occurring with regularity all over the country. Owners are counting on the seasoned professionals who have carried the day to day operations of dealership management for the past 20 plus years through a conservative approach. Their experience and reliability are depended on to continue selling cars, maximize margins, and maintain customer relationships. At the same time, many dealers understand the industry is changing and as they groom successors, are capitalizing and embracing a move to a modern approach to dealership management that focuses on innovative selling, advertising, managing and capitalizing on the customer experience.

As this generation of successor candidates emerge, they often find themselves caught in the middle of the “way it has been” and “where we want to go”. It becomes a true challenge of maintaining conservatism and innovation. Who are successors supposed to be as they work to gain respect, earn trust, perform at the top of their class while continuing to be humble. The goal is to be the best so there is no doubt he or she is the next leader of the organization, but the task at hand is to fly under the radar to not step on the toes of those currently in charge. It is a daunting, nearly impossible and often very frustrating task for all involved. Unreasonable expectations accompanied by a general lack of functional and productive communication between the two sides generally leads to extreme frustration.

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As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee Report - Soft Skills Win In Work And Life

As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee Report - Soft Skills Win In Work And Life

Have you ever wondered where the term "soft skills" came from? Personally, I often find myself curious of its origin because it seems like a contradiction at best, but worse, a poor use of phrasing. By referencing certain leadership/ownership skills as "soft," doesn't it seem we are devaluing them? Because in a complex business like multi-unit/brand franchising, things that are viewed as soft are often skills or attributes that cannot be measured. But soft skills impact the bottom line, growth, and people development - so there is nothing soft about them, right?

While the term's origin lies somewhere in the imprecise world of business tribal speak, its connotation has been around for quite some time. The Harvard Business Review listed concepts like goal-centric thinking, collaboration skills, communication skills, learning skills, troubleshooting, and playfulness as being vital for achieving success. The Cambridge University Press dictionary defines soft skills as, "people's abilities to communicate with each other and work well together." The unfortunate reality is that our team historically has run into multi-unit franchise owners who don't want to invest in something that sounds "soft."

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As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee Report - Creating a Culture of Accountability Without Emotional Backlash

As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee Report - Creating a Culture of Accountability Without Emotional Backlash

Power and position are two common traits leaders often lean upon to drive results. Somewhere in your past, you have likely experienced leaders who used some sort of power and position to motivate you. Depending on the situation, it may have helped you and those around you move the growth and performance needle. Today, you may also see how power and position motivates your employees and team to perform at a level that drives success throughout your organization. However, the use of power and position, if not managed properly, can create barriers to effective coaching and employee motivation to fulfill and exceed expectations. This has never been more critical than today, given the current generational shifts in the workplace.

Accountability is interaction designed to improve performance. Often, however, as owners or leaders, when we communicate with our team, we see a common communication style that comes across as critical. Perhaps we focus on and pick at weaknesses, areas of underperformance, and mistakes and bark out directives to get things done. After engaging in performance reviews, we see improvement in areas of underperformance - sometimes it sticks However, after a period of time, the mistakes or lack of attention begin to creep up again. Therefore, at the next review, we find ourselves talking about the same issues, and maybe even bringing the “hammer down” a bit harder. The reality of this tactic is that our employees check out and we foster a sense of insecurity. Our employees start to ask themselves if they can do anything right. They then start to operate out of malice compliance, which minimizes their motivation to go beyond the call of duty. We enforce a way of thinking that does the exact opposite of what we want. We therefore keep them from wanting to think outside of the box because they will likely be criticized versus rewarded for their efforts.

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As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee Report - Positional Versus Inspirational Leadership: Where Do You Fall?

As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee Report - Positional Versus Inspirational Leadership: Where Do You Fall?

Leadership influences others' choices, priorities, and behavior. Historically, the ability to leverage power and position has been the models of what some would consider great leaders. As our industry evolves due to technological advancements, changing consumer behavior, and demographic shifts, position and power fall short in inspiring good people. There are too many competitors recruiting for good talent, whether it be hourly or senior level leadership positions, which is making it harder for you to retain movers and shakers in your organization. As a result, it's imperative to foster an environment where your people are inspired, respected, and empowered, making them to want to stick around. Power and position may create compliance in your organization but it will also create challenges in nurturing a sense of buy-in amongst your people to your organization's mission and vision. This can demotivate employee loyalty and their drive to go above and beyond the call of duty.

If you asked your employees and those around you to identify your leadership style, how would they answer? Would you be defined as someone that is comfortable managing with authority? Perhaps you are viewed as using strong discipline to motivate performance, or adversely, would you be viewed as being informative, empowering, and passionate? And if you were being very honest with yourself, would you be surprised by your employees' perception of you?

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As Seen in Digital Dealer - Think Big

As Seen in Digital Dealer - Think Big

When starting out in business, most do not naturally look forward to the future and ask, “What do I want my legacy to be, and who will fill my shoes?” Rather, as entrepreneurs, we look at how we can get a business up and running, be profitable, and hopefully live a rewarding lifestyle. It is not until we are looking at what “next” looks like that we start to consider what we want to leave behind. And often, by the time we are looking at what’s “next,” we find ourselves a few steps behind the curve in planning for an effective leadership transition.

Even for those that are ahead of the curve in planning for “what’s next”, there is often a fear of failure. The fear that no one can run the business like you do causes many to get stuck in a rut, creating blinders to untapped resources and obstacles towards development of next generation leaders. Yet today, dealers have exponential opportunity to properly identify and develop their future leaders. To do this, however, you must embrace your vision, build out a leadership transition plan, and position the right leader for success to one-day fill your shoes.

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As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee Report - The Critical Difference Between Effective and Ineffective Leadership

As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee Report - The Critical Difference Between Effective and Ineffective Leadership

Whether you're running your first and only location or multiple locations, leadership is all about the use of power and influence to produce results. Power and influence are also the keys to effective leadership. Power comes from the organizational chart - can you make people comply with your directives? (sometimes called accountability); and influence comes from inside the person - do you have what it takes to get people to commit to your dreams? (sometimes called dependability). How well and how often you choose between those two styles usually determines your effectiveness as a leader.

Knowing how to balance and when to use these two keys is critical. If you've populated your employee base with people who currently lack the behavior, attitudes, skills, knowledge, experience, and talent to meet your expectations then you will more than likely find yourself believing that the local unemployment index is too low and that someone else must have all the good people who live and work in your business communities. As a result, you may find yourself relying almost exclusively on power and accountability as a way of forcing your staff to comply with your directives to get even a close approximation of the results you want in terms of productivity and profitability.

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As Seen in Automotive Buy Sell Report - How to meet the consolidators head-on in the dealership consolidation game

As Seen in Automotive Buy Sell Report - How to meet the consolidators head-on in the dealership consolidation game

Most owners and leaders of privately-held dealerships are wondering what’s going on with the publicly-held dealership groups as they engage in consolidation. These consolidators generally look down upon the privately-held dealerships as competitors because “I previously fired most of their employees”. Furthermore, there is general resentment that the local “dealer club” has been disrupted by “hired guns” working for a hieratical potentate, neither of whom have any idea of the sacrifices required to build a successful dealership.

However, before those of you who own between 1 to 30 roof-tops assume the consolidators are circling the drain, you should consider they have a plan. If you do not understand their “game”, one day you may discover the water is about to boil and your goose is cooked without ever understanding what happened.

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As Seen in NCM Institute - Generational Tensions: 4 Barriers to Automotive Leadership

As Seen in NCM Institute - Generational Tensions: 4 Barriers to Automotive Leadership

Ensuring the future success and sustainability of a dealership is not based solely on operational knowledge and efficiencies. In addition to creating robust processes, identifying and developing future leaders is critical to building sustainable dealership value. But first, you must overcome the leadership barriers that sabotage your goals..

In the past, when someone took on the position of “dealer,” it was assumed employees would fall in line and follow the owner’s lead. Today, with up to five generations working together at the same dealership, this expectation doesn’t hold true. Instead, good people check out or leave after a transition in leadership if they don’t feel respected for their contributions and see opportunities for growth.

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As Seen in Digital Dealer - A Sad or Celebratory Day?

As Seen in Digital Dealer - A Sad or Celebratory Day?

Some people may skip this article because they consider they take pride in not sweating the small stuff. After all, there are a great many consultants and gurus who consistently preach the message of “don’t sweat the small stuff…and, by the way, it’s all small stuff.” Good for them; they may have become successful by following that counsel. If you are one of those fortunate souls, congratulations.

If you are having trouble expanding your market, keeping people productive, growing your bottom line, and building lasting relationships with family members, clients, customers, vendors, and strategic partners, then you may want to consider sweating the small stuff. It’s the small stuff that makes the difference.

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As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee Report - Managing The Changes That Come With Multi-Unit Growth

As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee Report - Managing The Changes That Come With Multi-Unit Growth

Growth is not only about driving more profit, it's also about building a portfolio of locations, and to many, a diversity of brands. In the beginning, it is very easy to devote all your time to the first location. But before you know it you are on to your second. You find you are able to split your time between the two and still run the operations as you wish. It's when you move into the third, fourth, and so on that you start to notice a change. Multiple locations for franchisees offer extreme opportunity, but without a growth plan, multi-unit and multi-brand ownership creates challenges to performance.

One of the biggest challenges is analyzing how you sustain growth, while also looking for continued expansion without killing yourself trying to be everything to every location, brand, or business unit. Regardless of the size or diversity of your business, when you look at your strategic plan in terms of where you would like to be, there are key questions that need answering to ensure you can support, sustain, and continue to grow.

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As Seen in Automotive Buy Sell Report - Cultural due diligence an important step in a dealership buy sell

As Seen in Automotive Buy Sell Report - Cultural due diligence an important step in a dealership buy sell

If you are in a growth spurt fueled by mergers and acquisitions, here is a story that is worth your time. On a recent flight I sat next to someone who had just moved to a new position within a different auto dealer organization. As we talked about his decision, he made it clear that he left because his company had been acquired or merged with a former competitor. “It all seemed like a wonderful opportunity before the deal took effect. Then reality set in, and after about six weeks I put myself on the market. I could hardly stand what the new dealer company was doing with and to our customers, to those of us who had helped our former company grow, and to the culture we had and respected. We just weren’t us anymore!”

To some, that may sound like whining. Perhaps it was, but as I listened to this story it began sound more and more like a case of solid financial due diligence with little to no cultural due diligence. There is no way to predict how this will turn out in the long run; but if my flight companion’s company was purchased in hopes of also acquiring additional talent and other non-financial resources, someone is going to be disappointed. If your auto dealer group’s growth strategy relies mostly on acquisition, here are some Cultural Due Diligence considerations that bear your consideration.

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As Seen in Automotive Buy Sell Report - Cultural due diligence an important step in a dealership buy sell

As Seen in Automotive Buy Sell Report - Cultural due diligence an important step in a dealership buy sell

If you are in a growth spurt fueled by mergers and acquisitions, here is a story that is worth your time. On a recent flight I sat next to someone who had just moved to a new position within a different auto dealer organization. As we talked about his decision, he made it clear that he left because his company had been acquired or merged with a former competitor. “It all seemed like a wonderful opportunity before the deal took effect. Then reality set in, and after about six weeks I put myself on the market. I could hardly stand what the new dealer company was doing with and to our customers, to those of us who had helped our former company grow, and to the culture we had and respected. We just weren’t us anymore!”

To some, that may sound like whining. Perhaps it was, but as I listened to this story it began sound more and more like a case of solid financial due diligence with little to no cultural due diligence. There is no way to predict how this will turn out in the long run; but if my flight companion’s company was purchased in hopes of also acquiring additional talent and other non-financial resources, someone is going to be disappointed. If your auto dealer group’s growth strategy relies mostly on acquisition, here are some Cultural Due Diligence considerations that bear your consideration.

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As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee Report - Reputation Management On The Local Level

As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee Report - Reputation Management On The Local Level

Like all businesses, the franchise world is full of opportunities and potential land mines. If you entered the franchise world for the same reasons I did, you were probably looking for something in your area of interest that met several criteria: brand recognition; proven market; franchisee friendly policies; and processes, services, or products that could be easily replicated once you paid your fees and had access to the brand's secrets. After all, isn't replicating the proven easier than starting alone from scratch?

In some ways, a franchise is a sail that pulls us along until we really know what we are doing and where we are going. Certainly, there are some tradeoffs, like giving up some control that non-franchisees have over their businesses. And many times, the level of influence you'd like to have over the business is just not possible because you do not hold the authority that comes with a privately held business operation. As a result, logos, color schemes, promotional materials, and menus become someone else's sphere of influence.

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