You are probably tired of hearing one million “right” ways to run your store or department. The truth is there is no right way, you have to find the right people and processes for your needs. This is merely my view on what works for us. Hopefully you can implement similar methods to connect the goals of your dealership departments.
To begin, it is important to identify the weaknesses of your departments, but it is more important to identify the weaknesses between your departments. Far too often, we create department heads and have directors and managers watching parts of your business. In truth, they need to work together to watch the entire organization.
Here are some ideas how to bridge the gap:
Monthly Meetings With Your Department Heads in a Room Together
This means sales, service, internet, marketing, parts, etc. The key to making this work is to have alternating meeting leaders. Pick 12 topics that affect all departments for the year and have everyone prepared to discuss monthly. Feeding them usually helps with attendance, but making it part of their responsibilities ensures it.
Treat Department Heads with the Respect They Deserve
Stop handing out titles to anyone who wants one, but when they have that title (and deserve the title), make sure they get the respect that goes with it. Allow them to share opinions. Bestow upon them the authority to make decisions. Give them the tools and access they need to properly use said tools. Lastly, encourage creativity.
Conduct Monthly Launch Meetings with All Departments
The more you unify the people, the better the integration between departments, their goals and messages. Use this time to highlight goals, accolades, individuals, achievements, upcoming events, and marketing campaigns. This way, every customer experiences a unified front instead of the confusion existing in so many dealerships today.
Create a Set of Rules and a Mission Statement for Your Entire Organization
You should require the immediate implementation of a few simple rules like greeting every customer with a smile, leading a customer to a destination instead of pointing fingers to provide directions, and never relying on the “its not our policy” response to answer questions. These are simple guidelines that all department heads and every employee can follow to make a better overall experience for your customers. A simple mission statement for your employees to identify the goals of the organization can help set the right frame of mind.
Make Sure Your Managers or Executive Team Is Actively Involved
The more removed your decision makers are from daily activities, the harder it is to make the necessary changes. Decisions are often made based on gut instinct rather than evidence; we jump to conclusions rather than study the problem. Don’t keep reinventing the wheel. Instead, test and tweek, ask and answer. Make sure you are actively talking to and, more importantly, listening to the employees. Managers (like everyone else) have their biases and it is crucial to have an ongoing conversation with the moving parts of your departments.
When we start looking at the bigger picture and put the company first, we all succeed. Drop the importance of defending your turf and start looking at how no one department can function without the other. Integrate and hold each other accountable, allow yourselves to communicate strengths and weaknesses you see in other people’s departments to strengthen the team as a whole! And most importantly, remove any cancerous individuals from the team. One negative person can ruin your efforts to bridge the gap!
Overall, stop thinking of automotive dealerships being an exception to normal business structure. We aren’t different than any other retail organization. Treat your dealership like a corporate environment with rules, communication, teamwork, accountability, and some fun. The results will be incredible.