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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Is YOUR Dealership a "Dictatorship"?

"This is a Dictatorship, not a Democracy".. Ugh! - Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

Image of Ralph Paglia
Ralph Paglia
Introduction by Ralph Paglia
When I read this post (below), it was almost scary the way I could hear Tom Vann's voice telling the story. That's because within the auto industry there are very few professionals like Tom Vann and his brother Fred. They grew up the sons of a car dealer in Michigan, yet were spared the personality damaging spoils of the genetic "Phd." degree being conferred upon them. "Poppa Has Dealership" is what I am referring to... Tom Vann had to go make his money from scratch to buy his first dealership, which he did by working his butt off in the foodservice industry.  Then, when he bought his first store, it was a tiny Dodge dealership in a small town with a population of about 5,000 people. Breaking the 25 cars sold barrier was a monthly goal before Tom and Fred acquired the point.

From there, in the mid 90's the Vann brothers adopted a "Digital Marketing Strategy" and executed with a passion that made news, and sold more cars than anyone ever thought possible from a dealership located in a small and economically depressed Michigan town.  I first heard of Tom Vann when my adopted brother Danny Alkassmi gave me a copy of the Wall Street Journal article that featured the story of Tom and Fred's dealership transformation which seemed to defy the concept of a franchise point's "Planning Potential". Danny gave me the article because he knew I would be thrilled to read that the Vann brothers were successful primarily through their use of Automotive Digital Marketing.

In 1998 I visited Tom and Fred at their dealership and stayed at Tom's house as a guest. What I learned during that visit served me well, and continues to provide me, the dealers I serve, the products I helped develop at Reynolds and later ADP, as well as many members of the ADM Professional Community in ways that I doubt Tom Vann realizes.  I will spare this blog post the repeated sharing of specifics that I have previously posted on ADM, but let me be very clear on this important point:
Dealers who listen, seek to understand, and then implement the strategies, thought leadership and tactical business practices that Tom Vann teaches, writes about and lives in his own dealerships will be more successful than those that don't heed Tom's advice.
There are very few automotive professionals who have embraced, studied and practiced automotive digital marketing and the commitment to inspired leadership that is required to make it work within a retail dealership environment as long as I have... But Tom Vann is one of them.
What follows is a repost of Tom Vann's article published on the ADM Professional Community:

"A Dictatorship.  That's How the Business Works!"

by Tom Vann
Yuck... These words came spewing out the mouth of a Senior Executive Manager at a struggling car dealership who asked for my help in evaluating his Management team.

Written by Tom Vann

"It's what?", I said with a hiccup-style chuckle in the back of my throat (a long time bad habit when I hear ridiculous comments)
"A Dictatorship!", he said (no chuckle).
"What's that mean...exactly?"
"It means I hire people to do the job I've hired them to do.  And when they don't get that job done, they gotta go.  I pay them WAY too much to get these piss poor resultsI"
"What does that have to do with it being a Dictatorship?"
"It means if they'd just do what I tell them to do, we'd be selling 400 cars a month right now.  I used to sell more than that with only 20 guys".
I said, "Fair enough.  So give me all the stuff on what you tell them to do.  I mean both the Managers and the Salespeople. That should tell the tale."
Sure enough, the "stuff" he'd tell people to do had more to do with his expected results, and much less to do with workable, achievable, and relevant strategies for TODAY's business environment. He'd say, "Keep calling 'em back until they buy or die", and, "Get your salespeople to contact everyone they know and see who would be willing to trade if the deal was right", and other old adages of the car biz.  It DID tell the tale.
Even his "hired guns" of experts, gurus, and event-speaking "pros" allowed this poor, but well-meaning fellow to continue with his toxic and damaging "Dictatorship" culture.   
It took two full days of conversation, 2 meals out, and a "French Connection Style" car chase all the way to his house. He blew up when I compared him to a Gorilla throwing his feces around a cage. It was meant to break him of his current beliefs.
Afterwards, he knew I meant well.
The fact was, is that his sales were WAY down (dealership-wide) and he was rightly frustrated.  He worked for the dealer group for a LONG time and couldn't see the facts through the fog.  He was spark to the fire (and the gasoline when trying to put the fire out).
And then finally...he got it.
.............................................................................................................................................................................
The essence of great leadership in car dealerships, TODAY, is executing a structure of Management that involves Coaching, Training, Mentorship, and Analytics.
The mentality of "Move the Metal" is like a limping Gazelle running from a Lion on the Serengeti.  Sure, you can MASK this mentality in Social Media "Speak", CRM systems, and Internet leads, but the Lion is still gonna eat you.
Coaching involves that area of managerial focus which compels both the "Coach/Manager" and "Team member" to collaboratively define individual motivations, targets, objectives, and/or goals ...and then agree on a pathway and timeframe for the "Team Member" to reach the agreed-upon milestones.
People have MUCH MORE AT STAKE in achieving their own goals as opposed to achieving yours.  Makes sense, right?  It should.  That's how YOU work best, too!
Training involves the specifics of the "How-to", yet doesn't fall prey to the "Lecture" approach which bores the crap out of most everyone in the world!  Interaction and the challenge of LIVE, ever-changing, conversational and mechanical dynamics...that's the ticket!

Mentorship involves providing individual guidance to those with "ladder-climbing" ambitions across the much wider spectrum of Leadership principles, strategies, tactics, and methods ...while COACHING them towards MASTERY in their current dealership positions.

Analytics involves a smart, yet balanced approach to managing the "numbers" and "measuring tools" in order to best support YOU and ALL team members in fulfilling each person's fullest potential.

Piece of cake, right? 
Hell no!  It takes hard work, smart work, and full commitment to adaptation and growth of your dealership and your own career.  The good news?  The payoff is extraordinary!  Gratitude, Gifting others, and Building a much more Successful Legacy of Success!