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Steve Hall

Successful Failing: Why Embracing Failure Leads to Greater Achievement

failure and success

Our culture is built on success. Ironically, we can only achieve the highest levels of success by failing along the way.

Failure is the basis of knowledge.  Imagine you’re back in elementary school. Your teacher has just placed two apples on each end of her desk and asked, “If I added these two apples to the other two apples … ”—she physically moves them together— “… how many apples would you have?” She waits, then says, “Okay, class, now count them. One. Two. Three. Four.”

This is how most of us learned in school: repetition and visual learning. Kids will chant along, correcting their answer when they realize it’s wrong. Failure in these very early stages is important; it teaches persistence and focuses on the importance of learning over knowing. And, in time, we all eventually did learn that two plus two equals four!

The Success-Only Cycle vs. the Failure-Achievement Cycle

Sadly, over time, we abandon the elementary school approach and focus more on knowing than learning. Failure changes from a useful tool to punishment. By the time we enter the workplace, most of us have fully accepted that failure represents the result of an action, and we view it as nearly insurmountable.

Honestly, how useful is that philosophy? This Success-Only philosophy allows for only one option: You succeed, or you fail. This approach rewards knowing and only works if you already know how to do something. If you don’t know how to do the task already, well, you’re in trouble:

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The Failure-Achievement Cycle, however, focuses on failing fast—and then learning from your mistakes. No one is expected to perform flawlessly. Instead, failure is viewed as a feedback mechanism that allows you to improve your plan and try again to yield better results. Failure isn’t considered the opposite of success; instead, this approach views failure as a critical component of it:

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Successful Failing

Failing when trying something new or working towards solving a problem is admirable. This type of failure should be rewarded, provided that two key components were included in the effort:

  1. First, did you plan the activity, initiative or process to the best of your ability for the information that you had been provided at the time? Failure due to “just winging it” is not productive failure. Plan for success, work your plan and adjust as needed.
  2. Secondly, did you learn from your failure? Successful failure requires you to analyze what happened and to create a game plan for other possible solutions moving forward.

Failure can’t be a show stopper

Mistakes aren’t the end of the line. They merely delay achievement. When you fail successfully, you must make sure that the delay is as short as possible.

As a progressive manager, who is always trying to grow your department, you should actively demonstrate to your employees that failure is welcomed. Give this a try. Hold a “learning from our failures meeting.” During the session, share some of the errors you’ve made in your career and how it helped you solve a problem. Encourage your staff to do the same, requiring them to explain what they learned from the experience and how it helped them become better in their positions going forward.

Not only will your less experienced employees gain valuable knowledge from the more experienced ones, but it will reinforce to your staff that successful failure is an important part of your process.  Done in the right way, it creates a great learning experience. Keep everyone focused on how the person improved from the experience and how to avoid the same mistake themselves. (It can also be a fun team experience, especially when you discover how entertaining others’ past mistakes can be! Be sure to share some funny examples of your own!)

Failure is painful and, of course, we’d all rather avoid it. But when we apply successful failing, we learn how to bounce back quickly from failure and achieve even more in the long run.

What’s your failure philosophy? Do you embrace a Success-Only approach or have you already discovered the benefits of a Failure-Success cycle? Tell us below. 


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David Spisak

Less Gut, More Data: 4 Ways to Adopt Data-Driven Decision-Making

Market graphs

Trusting your intuition—aka, following your gut—is important, but the top-performing companies use hard data to give them a competitive advantage, maximize performance and minimize risk. It’s especially true in the automotive industry.

Consider this: Publicly traded auto dealers trade at 2x, 3x or even 4x the normal multiple for a privately held car dealership. What percentage of their decisions are made on gut instinct? Hardly any, because nothing is left to chance. Their bottom line depends on it.

Although you may have fewer stores than the big guys, there’s no reason why even the smallest dealership can’t adopt the data philosophy that makes them so successful. Here are the four key steps I recommend any dealership take to incorporate data-driven decision-making into their management practices.

Four Steps to Increase Performance through Data-Driven Decisions  

  1. Unify your reporting source. When managers bring in reports from different sources, you have no consistency of data. And, if they’re creating spreadsheets from those sources—using sometimes faulty assumptions and formulas—then you’ve got real problems. Disparate reporting sources are a sure-fire way to kill the effectiveness of your meetings, reduce accountability and help poor performers hide.
  2. Set iron-clad expectations in the form of metrics and process. When you have great processes and crystal clear expectations through metric benchmarks, your people will also have a crystal clear understanding of what you expect. Use your unified reporting platform. Whether public or privately owned—the best dealerships never leave things to chance with key metrics.
  3. Hold weekly manager meetings. Make them short—30 minutes should be enough—and just cover the high points. Find out where the managers are today versus benchmarks and forecasts, and, if they are short, determine how they will make up the difference. Accurate reports are critical to having productive meetings and driving accountability.
  4. Eliminate the “reasons.” I think getting rid of “reasons” is, perhaps, the most important key on this list. A wise man once said, “There are two things in life: reasons and results—and reasons don’t count.” Eliminate the reasons and you remove the excuses. Eliminate the excuses and you’ll see better performance. Facts leave no wiggle room—and that’s a good thing.

Are you a data-driven decision maker? Tell us below how you made the transition from trusting your gut to going with the numbers! Want more guidance on data, reporting and management? Join David Spisak for his class The Powers and Pitfalls of Big Data.


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NCM Associates

#AskNCM: Do I really need a full-time UV manager?

How should you structure your dealership management team if you want to get the most from your Used Vehicle sales? Do you need someone full time?

“Yes, it’s ideal,” says NCM expert, Robin Cunningham, but it’s more about full-time focus than a full-time job. Discover how size and spend influences your staffing needs and the signs that tell you when a full-time UV manager is required!

What’s your sales department structure? Are UV duties shared or located in one job? Have another question for #AskNCM – comment below! 

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NCM Associates

#AskNCM: What should I do with a difficult tech?

We’ve all had at least one—an employee who challenges your authority and makes unreasonable demands. How can you nip this bad behavior in the bud?

NCM expert, Rick Wegley, has experienced this firsthand. Discover his philosophy for dealing with the “tail wagging the dog” and find out if he’d let the problem employee go … or if he’d flip the script.

Have a challenging tech in your service department? How did you address the problem? Have another question for #AskNCM – comment below! 

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Chris Kahrs

Don’t Let a Volume-First Culture Distract from Maximizing Gross


With the rising pressure to hit volume objectives in the new vehicle operations, have you developed a volume-first culture? If so, it might be leading you astray.

Now, I’m not suggesting you abandon volume. That would be absurd. However, I am suggesting that you look at your processes to maximize every opportunity while simultaneously obtaining volume objectives and inventory turn.

A volume-first culture may cause inconsistency in your deals.

On the first of the month, you have established your new vehicle target number with your management team; yet, if you are like a lot of dealerships, you work the deals differently on Day 1 than on Day 30.

At the beginning of the month, we are more focused on the gross of the deal. We tend to work each deal to the end and try to maximize every dollar that we can and no matter what, make the deal.

As the month progresses, though, we lose that focus and begin to take each deal without maximizing the opportunity. By the time the last day of the month arrives, we have now become order takers rather than deal makers. If you closely watch your monthly trend report, you’ll see that the pacing of volume and gross becomes quite different by the last few days of the month. In most cases, the volume tracks upward while the gross trends downward.

It’s not just volume—gross matters, too!

What’s the difference between Day 1 of the month and Day 30 of the month? Your focus on the bigger picture. Yes, the team is meeting the volume goals set earlier in the month, but they’ve achieved volume at the cost of revenue.

The trick to reaching volume and maximizing income is to stay true to your processes. Here are my suggestions:

  • Recognize that you are going to take the deal.
    • If there is a way to make the deal, you are going to take it.
    • Negotiating the deal is not a bad thing: Remember, you are going to take it anyway!
  • Start each deal like you have already hit the month’s volume objective.
    • No matter what day of the month it is, adopt the mindset that you have hit the number and are going to maximize each opportunity. (Remember, you are going to take the deal. We both know it.)
  • Stabilize the desking process.
    • Your desking process is your process and shouldn’t change, regardless of the day of the month.
    • Make sure everyone that works a deal knows the process inside and out to maintain consistency
  • Don’t change your T.O. process.
    • Your manager intervention/T.O. process should remain the same no matter what.
    • Establish who is best for each situation.
  • Stick to your finance process.
    • You have your submission, introduction process and reset processes set. Use them 100% of the time.
    • Make sure your process is sustainable through slow and extremely busy times. There can’t be a weakness or shortcut to this process.

Volume and gross create strong margins

You already have the mindset to take every deal. And, you do that to meet volume objectives. That’s fine, but that volume-first approach doesn’t mean you have to lose the gross opportunity, too.

How much more money would you have made last month if you would have added $100, $200, $300 or more to each new vehicle you delivered? Now, look at the last ten days of the month and compare to the first ten: How do the grosses look? Are they similar or drastically different? You still took the deal on Day 1 as you did on the last day of the month. How did your processes change between the two? Most likely a lot.

You can’t afford to cultivate just a volume-first culture. Instead, adopt a philosophy that your dealership will maximize every opportunity and follow your processes to drop more money to the bottom line and still obtain your volume objective.

What have been the impacts of a volume-first approach at your dealership? How do you balance gross with volume? Tell us below.

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Rick Wegley

To BDC or not to BDC: Are Business Development Centers here to stay or just a fad?

Manager Instructing Customer Service Representatives In Office

Whether you have a small or a large store, you’ve heard of a BDC. The concept has exploded over the last decade, with many experts positioning the Business Development Center (BDC) as the end-all, be-all solution to our lack of accountability with our existing sales force.

I don’t doubt that that there benefits to having a BDC, but what are we genuinely trying to accomplish with additional personnel when we’ve already hired a sales team?

Where did automotive BDC’s come from?

The BDC was born out of the dramatic changes in customer-dealership communication witnessed over the last decade. The adoption of digital communication options such as email and social media, plus new expectations from customers that information be easily obtained online, has led to dramatic changes in how we train our people and how they interact with our clients.

The BDC provides a way for dealerships to manage the communication strategies of our first point of contact with both sales and service customers. In effect, the BDC regulates conversations and provides a consistent message to our clients that lead to a prospective sale.

Are BDC’s worth it?

But I have to ask: Is a BDC a crutch for our failures as managers, coaches and leaders to teach fundamental communication and sales training? Or are we creating a new opportunity designed to increase sales and improve closing ratios on our current leads?

Let’s be honest: Well-run BDC’s are expensive. I estimate that operating a truly functional and adequately staffed BDC will likely cost upwards of $150,000 per year in salaries and benefits. This cost is a conservative estimate and is limited to a single person on any given shift, covering only normal hours of operation. For dealerships that operate both a sales and service BDC, this cost would likely double.

I am not anti-BDC, but I would—again—ask you to consider the fundamental objectives and goals of your intended BDC operation. Does it generate new business? Or is the BDC just following up on the leads your dealership already has?

And, in both scenarios, does the BDC exist because you haven’t trained your current employees on the correct processes and communication strategies to handle inbound leads? Perhaps better accountability and tracking measures would ensure that sales staff is taking advantage of existing opportunities.

If you choose a BDC, create a successful one

If you want a high-performing BDC, you must clearly define and communicate your goals and objectives, not only to your BDC personnel but also to your salesforce. Best practice is to have your intended BDC staff spend some time on your sales floor or with your service department so that they have a full understanding of how your daily operations integrate.

Once that training is complete, make sure your sales and service forces spend time with the BDC on a weekly basis. You should also require your sales and service force spend time each week working with your BDC personnel so that each team member better understands the different roles each department plays in the sales process, the unique challenges each face and how their objectives and goals align. Communication between departments is a prerequisite for good performance, in my experience.

Bringing it all together: A successful sales team

The ultimate purpose of a BDC is a high-performing sales team that brings in—and closes—leads. With a well-defined strategy, aligned goals, cross training of key personnel and regular communication between sales, BDC and service, you can support a wildly successful BDC operation.

The key elements of success or failure of any BDC operation are fully dependent on their ability to generate new business or retain or improve closing ratios on existing business opportunities. Any other method or reason for implementing a BDC would be considered only to be a crutch—a very expensive and likely wasteful crutch—for your current operational practices.

What do you think: Is the BDC simply a sales crutch or a valuable and necessary component of the modern auto dealership? 

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NCM Associates

#AskNCM: What’s the best pay plan for today’s market?

By NCM Associates

Pay plans are always tricky. So, how should you best structure your compensation to recruit (and retain) the best sales staff?

NCM expert, Robin Cunningham, knows that the best automotive pay plan varies from dealership to dealership. But, he shares with us, there’s one key thing you should ALWAYS do for the first 60, 90 or even 180 days. Watch the video to get his recommendation.

Have your pay plans been causing you trouble? #AskNCM a question in the comments, and we’ll answer it!

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Steve Hall

Curing the Fixed Ops Hangover

Monday morning again

What a party it was! We showed up, had a great time, talked excessively, drank a bit too much, stayed out far too late and were glad that we did it.

Glad, that is, until the next morning when we woke up and had to face reality. Now, our head hurts, our body aches and we don’t want to go to work! The only reason that we actually get out of bed and go to the office is that we are afraid of the consequences if we don’t. We resign ourselves to the mantra, “Just make it through the day.”

Hangovers aren’t just post-party events—they happen in Fixed Ops, too.

The idea of “Just making it through the day,” can occur in any aspect of our lives. You’ll often see this attitude pop up in Fixed Ops departments after month end.

Just think about it. At the beginning of the month, does your service department get off to a sluggish start? I’ve typically found that work in process is low. The team is feeling the “hangover” effect of closing repair orders while looking for those last dollars to finish the month. Many dealerships have a light appointment schedule around this time, too, as they pushed customers into those final days.

Reacting to this environment, employees just want to take a day or two to catch their breath. As a manager, you can just feel the entire department is coasting. It’s as if they too, have also adopted the mantra, “Just make it through the day.”

What causes the Fixed Ops Hangover?

If you were to review the typical advisor’s monthly sales on a weekly basis, you would find that the sales aren’t spread out evenly. Rather, the advisor sales distribution curve usually looks like this in a four-week month: 15% the first week, 25% the second week, 25% the third week and 35% the last week of the month.

It’s a cycle that feeds on itself. And whether this uneven workload is caused by the month-end hangover effect or a combination of it along with the advisors not closing tickets until the end of the month, it is a major problem.

Stopping the Fixed Ops Hangover

So, how can a manager stop this monthly hangover? I recommend motivating your service advisors with a “fast start” spiff. This could be a monetary bonus or another reward to any advisor who hits a pre-set objective for the first seven calendar days of the month. The idea is to keep your department rocking from the very first day of the month, rather than losing the first couple of days while everyone relaxes after the close.

The spiff can be set at different levels for various types of advisors; you can set different goals for the main shop and express, rookies and veterans, as long as they must work to achieve it.

No matter what goals you set, make sure they are challenging enough that the “just make it through the day” attitude cannot pay off. This spiff can not only be used for advisors but can be incorporated with your technicians’ compensation, also. Be creative, and get out of the starting blocks strong—right from the very first day of the month!

Do your service advisors and staff suffer from the “Fixed Ops Hangover?” Tell us about it below. How did you solve the problem? 

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Kevin Baumgart

Tech Enabled Dealerships Need Tech-Savvy Employees

Young Woman on Phone

What do Millennials and technology mean for the future of your auto dealership? The truth of the matter is that you’re going to need both if you want to remain competitive in today’s industry.

The Impact of Technology on Auto Dealerships

One of the biggest changes that is forcing dealerships to shift the way they sell cars is customer behavior. According to an article from Fortune magazine, customers now make fewer than two visits (1.9 to be exact) to a dealership before making a purchase.

Online shopping is the main culprit. Because of the free flow of information on the Web, car buyers are more inclined to research their auto purchases at home or on the go using their computers and mobile devices. They’re no longer so dependent on salespeople for information about specific cars. As a result, some auto dealerships are equipping their sales team with greater technology, like tablets, to facilitate customer interactions and close deals in the showroom.

Unfortunately, you can’t just arm your sales team with tablets and expect them to be effective at selling in a new way. This is a significant shift, and your employee base has to be comfortable with approaching the customer and engaging them with a piece of technology. Most Dealers are targeting Millennials to work on the sales floor for this reason alone.

There are many benefits to having technology on the floor accompanied by tech-savvy employees:

  • It gives the sales team instant access to information when customers have questions to which they may not know the immediate answer
  • It initiates the sale on the floor instead of having to wait until customers are in the back office
  • It helps build early credibility and trust if your customer sees the employee as a reliable source
  • It will improve the level of professionalism and drive positive impressions of the store

Providing a mix of access to this type of technology and tech-savvy employees is one way that auto dealerships can remain competitive.

Millennials are a Perfect Fit for Technology Enabled Dealerships

While the common stereotype you see of Millennials is a group of people who constantly have their smartphones at the ready or are scrolling through their preferred social media feeds, this generation is exceptionally adept at technology. They were born into an era of innovation that made digital technology one of the primary ways people experience the world.

As a result, the generation has been groomed to reach for technology—mobile devices in particular—when searching for the answers to questions. According to the Society of Human Resource Management, Millennials are highly collaborative and make research-driven decisions.

What’s more, according to a recent study from PricewaterhouseCoopers, 78 percent of Millennials believe that access to technology makes them more effective in their roles at work (Link to the study; pdf warning.) Thus, the technology your auto dealership implements is a major contributing factor when Millennials are considering employers. In fact, 6 in 10 Millennials say the quality of technology a business has was important during recruitment.

However, it’s increasingly likely that Millennials will utilize their personal technology if the tools they have in the workplace limit them. Meanwhile, employers are also creating or updating their IT policies to adapt to Millennials’ technology needs—for instance, providing smartphones as an employee benefit.

Technology and Millennials go hand in hand, especially at your dealership. Whether it’s informed consumers arriving at your dealership with buying research saved on their smart devices or tech-savvy employees who understand your customers, technology surrounds this generation and is paramount to delivering a positive buying experience.

What steps have you taken to attract Millennials to your dealership? Have they worked?

Special thanks to our partners at Hireology for their insights on recruiting Millennials for the automotive workplace.

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NCM Associates

#AskNCM: How can I get the most from my CRM?

In most dealerships, the CRM tool is a mystery. In fact, most CRM tool vendors report that clients regularly use less than 20% of the available tools and reports!

NCM expert, Rick Wegley, tells you his tips for getting the most from your expensive CRM system. The first step is figuring out the questions to ask your vendor, so you get the training to access the functions you need.

Are you facing challenges with your CRM? Tell us below. Want to #AskNCM a question? Leave a comment, and we’ll answer it!

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