Remember when your dealership was a stand-alone operation? The distance from your boardroom to the breakroom was measured in feet. Now with acquisitions and expansion into big multi-location dealers, some of which span states, that distance is measured in miles.

The culture of a 2nd Machine Age (SMA) dealer must consistently reach from your boardroom to your team members no matter where they work. Leaders of SMA dealerships MUST effectively establish a consistent culture from values of connection, collaboration and agility, regardless of size and distance.

Words Matter

Words define values — values create culture — culture drives performance. So, performance starts with words. The words you choose can and should impact the larger organization. Values and culture start at the top of the organization.  

In September 2021, a Leadership Lessons article within our theme of creating a customer centric culture suggested that your employees should take care of your customers with 

T.E.A.M. represents the words of Trust, Empathy, Alignment and Motivation. Building trust in the actions of your employees, acting with empathy to the environment in which they work, aligning corporate goals with individual actions and motivating your people to perform are essential actions of the leadership team

The words you choose to define your leadership character and the resulting expected employee behaviors should be short, direct
and memorable.  

The Fewer Carefully Chosen Words the Better

As the distance from the boardroom to the breakroom increases, your communication in words and deeds needs to be clearer and more consistent. There should be an inverse relationship between the distance from your boardroom and the number of words you use to represent your values; less is better and adds to understanding and consistency.

Brevity with substance is not difficult if you put thought into their structure. A key leadership lesson at the mid-point of my career resulted in a coachable moment. 

After an annual performance review, I was told that my actions were good, my leadership was motivational, but I used too many words to get my point across. 

Bruised, but not disagreeable, I was motivated to summarize my leadership values in just 9 words. I wanted to be able to write my business ethic on the back of my business card. The result was a 9-word statement: “Lead by example, drive customer happiness, build trust, listen.”

“There should be an inverse relationship between the distance from your boardroom and the number of words you use to represent your values…”

As another example, as part of the 2022 Leadership Lessons theme ‘Building a SMA Dealership’ my MAC colleague Luke Sheppard simplified the dealer’s business: “We sell tractors, we fix them, we collect the money” — Sell, Fix, Collect.  

Luke then defined the actions to improve the excellence with which your dealership operates. His steps were clear and concise. Operational excellence is achieved at the intersection of people, processes and technology. Luke emphasized the need to fix processes that impact the performance and efficiency of your organization. 

The outcome of disciplined processes is your employees have more time to innovate. Building 2nd Machine Age dealers comes from both process execution and innovation.

Building a Culture: & G.R.I.T. 

I propose these words to define SMA values: Generosity, Respect, Innovation and Tenacity, or G.R.I.T.

Leaders and managers need to be generous with their time. 

Take the time to mentor and coach on the fundamental processes of your organization so there is a clarity of understanding and consistency in execution. 

The correct onboarding of new employees, being generous with your time to explain the processes and culture of your organization, is a good example.

Respect between people and across your organization starts with values of connection, collaboration and agility. Company culture is strengthened by the extent of respect that employees share with each other and with your customers. When employees know and understand your dealer’s correct business processes, they have a greater respect for the dependencies of each team member.

Innovation is the driver of positive change. Time for innovation will increase when your processes are clearly established and consistently executed. When your organization has time to innovate, employee ideas surface and your organization will thrive on the agility and speed of change. Performance improves when your employees have time to think, recommend and innovate.

Leadership is not developed easily. Your customers’ businesses are built on demanding work and tenacity. 

Great dealerships demonstrate a similar work ethic to solve customer problems with a ‘whatever it takes’ attitude and a ‘go the extra mile’ approach to create positive customer experiences. Customers will reward your organization’s tenacity and grit with their loyalty and respect. and G.R.I.T. shorten the distance from your boardroom to the breakroom, and between your people
your customers.