CommentaryMar 12th, 2024

Drowning in Demands: 5 Key Ways to Stay Afloat

Drowning in Demands: 5 Key Ways to Stay Afloat

Written by Colby Joyner, Vice President of Marketing and Strategy at Cavender Auto Group. Colby is also an Auto Remarketing “Dealers Under 40” Honoree and Automotive News 40 under 40 Nominee.

In the whirlwind of responsibilities as the Vice President of Marketing and Strategy for a multi-store dealership group, the words “calm day” aren’t in my vocabulary. With eight rooftops representing twelve thousand plus opportunities knocking at our doors each month, orchestrating this symphony of operations with a small but mighty team of four can seem daunting... but it’s actually the perfect recipe for managing this world of organized chaos. However, after eleven years entrenched in our fast-paced automotive industry, I've learned a thing or two about navigating, not only weathering the storm, but thriving amidst the maelstrom – particularly when the size of our team and the tools available don't always align with our ambition.

Caffeine and Chaos

For me, every morning begins with the consumption of multiple energy drinks, a symbolic gesture marking the start of another day ensnared in the whirlwind that is retail automotive. An easy way to prepare for that familiar, low-level hum of anxiety that creeps up right before settling in for the day's onslaught. It’s my ritual. Yet, I've come to understand that relying solely on caffeine to propel me through the day won't save you in this business. Structure is needed to harness that energy. So instead, I've embraced the necessity of implementing robust systems and processes to channel that caffeinated energy effectively.

If My Inbox Could Talk

If you’re anything like me, your inbox is a living, breathing thing, like a perpetually buzzing showroom floor. And just as that busy showroom is filled with different customers with different needs, so is that inbox:

  • Sales wants to launch a new campaign by the end of the day
  • BDC team needs updated email flows
  • Service wants to send out a 10,000-piece mailer next week
  • Advertising agencies want feedback
  • C-suite wants productivity reports

To put some order to the chaos, I’ve implemented a ticket system we call “Project Cavender” that allows our team to much more easily manage the influx of requests that come from across departments. The variety and flow of requests prove out the importance of a solid marketing team that can deliver results to the right audience, with the right message, at the right time.

“Just a Quick Change” and Other Famous Last Words

Often, the most dangerous demands come disguised as harmless requests. But if not managed correctly, these harmless requests have the potential to unravel even the most meticulously planned strategy.

A seemingly minor adjustment that a sales director states is "just a small price edit" on an already-live ad, or worse, the abrupt release of new brand guidelines mid-quarter, and suddenly the marketing team thrusts into high gear. I've witnessed firsthand how these seemingly "quick fixes" can snowball and derail major projects, leaving my team overworked and our results suffering. Therefore, I've adopted a vigilant approach, scrutinizing every request to understand its potential impact before allocating the resources to complete it.

This approach allows the team to serve the overall needs of the business while staying focused and on track.

5 Ways We Survive the Deluge

My team isn't just here to survive – we are here to help drive those 1350+ monthly sales. Survival in this industry necessitates more than mere resilience—it demands strategic acumen and tactical finesse. Here's how we continue to make sure we maintain not only our composure but also our professionalism, no matter what gets thrown our way.

  1. Play Offense: I started my career when budgets were smaller and tech was more limited. Being purely reactive then was a death sentence. I still dedicate time each week to developing a proactive strategy. Market analysis, competitive research, and identifying emerging trends keep us aiming ahead, not just scrambling to adapt, are the key actions that keep us ahead. In this business, proactive = productive.
  2. Stay on Schedule: Our shared calendar is my lifeline. I ruthlessly protect blocks for the focused work that keeps us on track. Our ticket system streamlines requests, but my calendar ensures those requests don't own my team's time.
  3. Learn to set realistic expectations: I want to say 'yes' to everything, but the result of too many yeses may be creating unnecessary stresses for the team, and dedicating resources to underdeveloped or unplanned products. To make sure we stay on task, and ensure that our time and assets are best utilized, I clearly outline project parameters upfront, both internally and with external partners. We all thrive when deadlines are achievable. The way to do that is by being deliberate when considering what to say “yes” to, instead of chasing moving - and often arbitrary - moving targets.
  4. Organize or Die: We're a high-volume group, which means I've seen every possible sticky note system, half-baked CRM workaround, and "where did that vendor login go?" disaster. Streamlined processes are essential. I'm not afraid to invest the time here as it pays back tenfold in saved hours and sanity.
  5. Get boots on the ground: There are times when technology and workflows alone won't cut it. I trust my team, so I delegate strategically, assigning workload based on strengths, and even re-structuring their assignments to handle surges as a team. Remember, even with limited staff and resources, shifting roles temporarily for the sake of the big picture is a win.

Saying No is ok. In fact, a diplomatic “no” may be my best weapon. Here’s why:
Declining a request (even politely) may feel impossible, especially in the beginning of your career. At least it did for me. And maybe early on, it should feel that way. But as I progressed in my role, and grew as a leader, understanding when to say ‘no’ actually empowered me to say 'yes' to what is most important.

This is not only important to me, but to the people we are dedicated to supporting in our organization. The family-owned Cavender Auto Group has thrived since 1939 by focusing on short and long-term gains. Sometimes this means protecting my team from short-term distractions in favor of pursuing long-lasting results. In order to make myself and my team available to say yes to things that really move the needle, every so often saying no is the best plan of attack.

The Bottom Line

The automotive industry is an ever-shifting landscape, characterized by perpetual pandemonium and relentless demands. Yet, it's that challenge that fuels my fire, and passion and drives my determination.

I choose not to let the mayhem control my team. By being proactive, fiercely protective of our resources, and ruthlessly honest about priorities, we’ve transformed our crew into an unstoppable force poised to conquer whatever challenges the industry, or our inboxes, throw our way.

Written by Colby Joyner, Vice President of Marketing and Strategy at Cavender Auto Group. Colby is also an Auto Remarketing “Dealers Under 40” Honoree and Automotive News 40 under 40 Nominee.

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