So, What’s Next?

It is the start of a new year! While I know that means another year has ended; I get energized knowing that a new, fresh, untouched financial statement is around the corner to record new achievements, new records and improved results.

Yes, I admit I am a bit of an optimist. But I choose to believe that each year, January will be the best month of the year. This has only happened twice in 24 years of my dealership management. It is the setting of the new benchmark that challenges me.

And why not be optimistic? We are in a business with flaws. We have car deals that unwind, new factory inventory that arrives damaged, successful employees that become disenchanted, ever increasing customer expectations and ever changing rules and laws. Not to mention natural disasters, economic swings and other factors. You may ask, why do I bring this up?
Are the management teams you employ focused on the goals ahead, or are they just saying “yes” again? Have you planned to take it to the next level and thought through where the inventory or process improvements will strategically come from?

I have discussed some of these questions with auto groups that have a track record for consistent improvement. Three of these auto groups have surpassed their set goals for the year.

For them these aren’t goals, they are a mission. These same companies are finalizing where their next level of performance will be for 2012.What is the key to their success? The key, of course, is planning. And for them it is planning all the way to the micro level of their processes. Everything is monitored and measured daily. I am sure this may not be a revelation. However, their daily, weekly and monthly focus is where the continuous momentum is maintained.

For a lot of us, there are always things to be worked on or improved, including finding the right salespeople, aligning management teams, getting rid of aged or obsolete parts’ inventory, improving service absorption and achieving higher levels of technician training. Need I mention improving warranty claims retention, and so much more?

But it all comes down to processes. When I look back at any point in time when my operations ran at their best, it was because the processes were in place and well understood by the employees. And everything ran well — as long as we remained focused. These are the hardest parts of the equation for most of us.

The new year is upon us. Before we know it, the first financial statement will be printed and will set the pace for our year. If Clint Eastwood were in our position he might ask, "Do you really want to improve those sales numbers. Do you?"

Do you really want to get on top of that inventory situation that is always an issue? Do you really want those dealerships to run on all eight cylinders? The only successful way I've seen it done is to get the best strategies in place that will start the year off right and combine them with solid processes that can't be circumvented.

For those of you that have already thought through this and have your plans and processes in place, sincere congratulations! For the rest of us, we have work to do.

With January arriving, just how prepared will your management staff and employee teams be when that first customer drives on the lot or walks through that door? Are you really sure? In year-end tradition let me leave you with a thought, or should I say, a song …"Should Old Acquaintance be Forgot, and Never Brought to Mind?”

I'll see you in the lens of the lane!


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