Dealer Takeaways

  1. Understanding the different personalities within a department helps understand why some people don’t work well together.
  2. Departmental issues come from dealership principles/culture which starts at the top and trickles down.
  3. Setting an agenda for meetings and tasks for between meetings provides structure throughout the dealership.
  4. Incentivizing the dealership helps in getting every department to work together.

Can’t we all just get along? People will spend thousands in consulting fees to try to answer this question and the simple answer is no, you can’t.

There’s a lot of reasons why the answer is no, but the biggest reason breaks down into two major parts: personalities and attitudes. You can have a personality and still have an attitude. Within each department, the attitudes are different. You’ve got your needy shop technicians, whiny salespeople and complacent parts guys. This leads us to personalities.

Breaking down the different personalities was the moment where we broke through the ice in our company and everything started coming together. To determine personalities, we brought our managers in and gave them personality tests. When the tests came back, we put them up on a board. We had worked with each other for years and not understood why certain people had conflicts with others. All of a sudden these personalities were up there, and they started to explain things.

Personalities & Departments

The personalities are broken down into four sections: analytical, driver, amiable and expressive. Analytical personalities are people who are logical and focus on gathering information. These are the people who are very likely running your accounting office. Driver personalities are results oriented and efficient. They want all the facts/data when you approach them and, when in the right part of the business, they can make loads of money for you.

The people with expressive personalities are the ones everybody likes. These people are outgoing and enthusiastic; they’re the people that should be on your sales team. The last of the personalities, amiable, are people who are careful and avoid discord. This personality does not have a clear place in a dealership.

Each department has their own culture so after taking the personality test and getting the results, we look at the personalities and attitudes of each department.

When you look at all these personalities on a chart, you start to realize why you did not get along with another person. You see why/what their triggers are and learn what helps them to produce better work. Doing this personality test was amazing and it changed us almost overnight.

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Now, you have a combination of the departments, the personalities and everything else coming together so you start to wonder how you get it all to work. From the start, these parts of the dealership were already separate and operating under their own thing. In order to get them to work together, you have to start tying them together.

The Fish Follows the Head

When looking at your departmental issues, it is helpful to remember the phrases “the fish follows the head” or “the fish rots from the head down.” If you have departmental issues, it is likely coming from somewhere besides the department. The issues are coming from the culture of the dealership and that culture is coming from the dealer principles. The managers and everybody that works above your general people set those principles and if the tone is set to be toxic, it’s going to multiple quickly.

So, the question is how do we get everyone to work together? Why should the parts guys care about the service guys? Why should the service guys care about the sales guys? You have to put a structure in place that will make this happen. We put our structure in place and have a CFO that falls under the dealer-owner-principle. The CFO oversees accounting, IT and HR and the COO oversees corporate service, sales and parts managers. This is where we really changed things.

We now bring our department heads together and they operate together with meetings. When they start working together, their team naturally follows that same path. Meetings are the key to everything, so we set up a structure at the company with meetings that have actual value and meaning that brings the team members together.

Every month, our directors — owners, the COO and the CFO — have a meeting where high-level topics like opening new dealerships, changes to structure and dealership plans are discussed. Following this meeting, corporate managers are immediately brought in and directors trickle down the information that is ready for them. They then take that information back to their teams.

There are also four weekly meetings with an agenda that has been set ahead of time. The first three meetings are an hour with each of the department directors — service, parts and sales. The fourth meeting is a departmental meeting where the corporate managers have a phone conference with each department’s managers to go over what is happening and what the department focus is.

Once more each week, our actual service managers and parts managers are expected to have a 10-15-minute meeting with their crews in the mornings. They go over the projects for the week and give techs the opportunity to speak up on certain issues.

Providing an agenda for the week helps to make employees more willing to do certain jobs and adapt to changes in the schedule. Technicians will stay late to finish a job because they know the rest of the week is busy. They start to take responsibility for themselves and own what they are doing. When everybody had knowledge about what was going on, we saw them suddenly start making decisions on their own.

We continue to set tasks and deadlines, two of the biggest things that make change happen. We also have constant follow-up and accountability. To make it work, we use SharePoint folders that we share between meetings. These folders have an agenda and task for everyone and can be updated by everyone.

How to Keep Growing

Everything is modifying to the economy; smaller dealers are closing up and big ones keep getting bigger. The competition continues to get stiffer so in order to match that, you have to bring incentives to the table.

Some believe that people only come to work for you because they want to enjoy where they work and feel like they are a part of it. While that is a huge thing, money is definitely a trigger. Everyone goes to work every day because they are trying to support themselves and their family, so we started incentivizing every department.

At Burnips, we incentivize our service managers through recovery rates, absorption and growth. Our parts guys are incentivized on a monthly basis which is done through measuring their year-over-year growth for that month. You take the margin and depending on which number it is, they get a percentage of that growth. Doing this gets your parts guy looking at their sales from last year and working to improve that in order to get that extra paycheck. Our sales department has quarterly competitions that may be salesperson vs. salesperson or store vs. store.

In the fourth quarter of the year, we do a compact tractor competition that incentivizes the whole company. I make a price list of every machine on the lot and give it to every person in sales, parts and service. We also take the entire store and most offices to dinner at the place of their choosing. It is always the most expensive steak house there is but if we sell 200 compacts in a quarter, it blows that dinner cost out of the water and you have every department trying to take part in it.

If you start incentivizing the entire dealership to work together, they actually start functioning together and trying to figure out how to help other departments. We never stop changing and we have our employees to the point where they don’t hate change. Generally, when you want to change something, everyone gets upset and frustrated. Now, we have employees that want to keep adjust things and making sure they’re growing. Why? Because it puts money in the pocket.

Other actions we have taken to institute change and grow as a company:

  • Set up a flat rate guide. There is a spreadsheet with every tractor and everything that can be done to it and the departments agreed on those numbers.
  • Outsourced all of our marketing.
  • Started a YouTube channel for equipment tutorials. These tutorials include the sales, service and parts departments.
  • Got involved with a number of universities for recruiting. We send all of our departments to recruit so we are getting more than just technicians.
  • Set up a parts route that the sales and service departments help with.
  • Our service department meets with the sales manager once a week to go over every piece of equipment in the shop.

All of our departments are working together to make sure our customers have the best experience possible. At the end of the day, you would not believe the changes we have seen at Burnips. If you start putting all of your groups together, you will see changes in your bottom line because an organization that sells together, profits together.