In working with dealers, I’ve encountered three simple non-numeric, non-financial ways to evaluate a dealership. Each of these questions came from a successful dealer principal or from an OEM dealer development manager.

These questions are more important because good answers to these questions are likely to drive good numbers.

Question #1: How Fast Do Your Employees Move?

Here are some examples:

  • Do your parts counter people retrieve parts quickly from the bins? Do they operate your business system quickly and efficiently? Are parts unpacked and binned efficiently?
  • Do your technicians plan their work with the fewest movements and make every move matter? If they have to pick up parts from the parts department, is their stride up to parts purposeful and direct? Do they complete the work order without pause and clean up the work area quickly?
  • Is your truck driver looking for safe, efficient ways to save time, combine trips, unload and load quickly?
  • How quickly do sales reps complete quotes, contact another prospect or answers customers’ questions.

In short, is the pace of your people fast enough to generate positive momentum and achieve high productivity?

Why is this important? In dealerships where people move quickly, customers are taken care of and work gets done. These dealerships have a customer-oriented culture. The speed indicates a desire to please and a desire to get things done.

A dealer-principal who offered this as a key question owns a dealership with 5 stores. He noted that even if all his stores were under the same ownership, there are differences among the stores in how fast people move. He explains differences in history, leadership or interaction among people to explain how one store performs vs. another.

Another dealer-principal said this is a key test when interviewing new employees. As he walks them around the dealership, can they keep up? Do they have the desire and ability to move quickly?

Question #2: Would a Farmer’s Wife Use Your Bathroom?

In my 42 years in the farm equipment business, I’ve been in hundreds of dealerships and used their facilities. There is a huge difference in cleanliness, space, smell and function from those that are top-notch to those that are — frankly — places where you want to do your business and get out ASAP.

This question centers around your dealership’s approach the needs of your customers and their families. It relates not just to the facilities but also to a general concern about customer and employee needs. So:

  • How are your bathrooms equipped and maintained?
  • Is your dealership welcoming to all those who come to buy parts, wait for machines to be serviced, talk to a sales rep, pay a bill, etc.
  • What about the other areas for employees needs? Is the technician locker room clean, well ventilated and show a respect for them?

Why is this important? The focus on customers and employees’ personal needs, indicates both an attention to detail and a respect for them as people. Your efforts to look after them will result in higher loyalty, better morale and higher productivity.

Question #3: Does Your Shop Look Organized and Busy?

Early in my career with an OEM, I was traveling with a mentor (Don Shockey of International Harvester) who started every visit to a dealership by entering through the back shop doors.

Here’s what Don coached me to look for in a dealer’s shop.

  • Work spaces where tools and parts are arranged purposefully and efficiently
  • Machines waiting for repair or completed are clearly marked.
  • Technicians’ toolboxes are organized and not cluttered.
  • Parts are efficiently delivered or available to techs.
  • Tools in the tool room are clearly marked and are returned after use.

Why is this important? Don’s lesson has proven true. “If the shop is running well, then the dealership is likely to be running well.”

Call to Action

Walk into your dealership tomorrow and ask yourself these 3 simple questions. Are there other non-numeric ways to evaluate a successful dealership? These are three questions from insightful people.

What else can you offer? Send your contributions at