Leadership & ManagementCommentary & Insights

Leadership & Management
Donating blood truck
B+: Social Responsibility through Heliotropic Leadership

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How do we make a positive impact other than just selling cars? Not just in our attitudes but in our actions. What does it mean to be positive? When you read words like cheerful, active, high-energy, optimistic, or outgoing, does it make you think of positivity?  My personality IS my blood type, B+ (positive). BING is “the opposite of negativity.” B+ is a blood type that is not only rare but also holds tremendous power. It is estimated that only about 7.6% of the population has a blood type of B+.  Mark Twain once wrote, “kindness is the language the blind can see and the deaf can hear.” This ties in with positivity when it comes to genuinely connecting with your community. When this happens, people rally behind you and support your cause and your business! The cause I’m talking about is your corporate social responsibility, specifically - hosting a community blood drive. I recommend doing this twice a year at your dealership. Once in the spring and once in the fall. This is an authentic & genuine way to exhibit heliotropic leadership inside your organization and your community and the payment value is immense. I watched a TEDTalk given by Dr. Harry Cohen recently and discovered the term heliotropic effect/leadership. The heliotropic effect is the tendency for all living systems to move towards energy that is life-sustaining and away from energy that is life-depleting. Heliotropic leaders are positive energizers that can make people feel great. You feel good in their presence. These are leaders who often share qualities like being a good listener. They are compassionate, forgiving, vulnerable, real, and they smile. It is the definition of “us, at our best.” These leaders are the organizers of dealership blood drives! The sobering reality is that the need for donors to donate blood never really goes away. In every community across this country, there is a person who is in need of blood every day. Coming out of a global pandemic, there has also been an increased demand for a diverse blood supply. As automobile dealerships, it is not expected for us to do anything else besides sales and service, or is it? Do we have to take that extra step and do more ? You decide. Either way, it certainly bodes well for your dealership if your organization does more than just have a case of commission breath when dealing with your community. The optics are great & it makes people feel better about doing business with you. Let’s face it, what customer wouldn’t want to support a local business that shares the same values? Hosting a drive really helps the blood supply, but it is also a very selfless way to bring people into your facility, and participate in something selfless themselves. Part of the payment value that comes from hosting a blood drive, beyond saving lives, is bringing people into your store that otherwise might not have considered ever setting foot inside your establishment.  While there, they may look around and test drive a vehicle. They might see how your amenities are set up and want to give your service department a try for an oil change. They may order a set of all-weather floor mats or get an old battery replaced in their car or key fob while at your store. These are just a few ways to introduce them to your capabilities, all stemming from a simple blood drive.  Take a moment to reflect on what you are doing to set yourself apart from the competition not only in terms of your pricing and retail strategy but in terms of your social responsibility strategy. It’s not enough to know what you have to do - you must take action. You can give blood to make a difference in the world. One in three of us will need blood in our lifetime yet only one in 30 of us actually gives blood. If you are looking for an easy way to tap in and make a difference by leading heliotropically, give my idea a try and I don’t think you will be disappointed at the way you are left feeling at the end. I always say give 100% in anything you do. Unless of course, you are donating blood. Then definitely don’t give 100%. A pint will do just fine, and you could save up to 3 lives in the process. Happy organizing!!  Scan QR Code to View: Heliotropic Leadership | Harry Cohen | TEDxElonUniversity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4QUp6tuo-E
man walking on line
Is it Time to Make the Entrepreneurial Leap?

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The last year and a half has been one of the immense transitions and has left many of us asking if we’re in the right place and if what we’re doing is worthy of our time and energy. For those of you who may be asking yourself if there is more you can do or additional ways you can help, I encourage you to consider whether it’s time to make the leap to consulting. I’ve had the privilege of owning my own agency for more than two decades and have been asked several times how to make the transition from employee to agency owner. Below are a few of the tips I’ve gleaned from my own experience and the successful entrepreneurs from which I’ve been able to work and learn.  How do you begin?  I get this question often. Many people want to know when I knew it was time to go out on my own and how I began. I was fortunate enough to have a mentor who helped get me started but will say that there is an inner calling in most consultants I know. Some speak of it as an intense desire to help the industry, some speak of it as outgrowing their current circumstance and needing a challenge, and others say it was born out of a need for the next step. But every single story has one thing in common – successful entrepreneurs have something burning within them – gnawing at them – that won’t go away. Whether it’s an idea, a new way of handling a current situation, or for me, a desire to control your own destiny and be the person in charge of your interactions. Do you have an idea that won’t go away? A feeling that propels you to act, even if it’s scary? If so, it may be time to go out on your own.  Networking is Key Once you decide to make the leap, it is time to network, network, network. Reach out to current and past colleagues, let previous business partners know that you have begun your own company and post as often as possible on LinkedIn. When reaching out on social media, ensure you are giving value through advice and offering to connect people, versus just asking if the people in your network need your services. As Sandy Zannino, Founder of Innovative Auto HR has wisely stated about starting, “I should have started networking sooner. Begin before you’re ready.” Time Box like a Pro  I have long been a huge fan of the idea of time boxing. Time boxing is setting aside chunks of time to accomplish specific goals. When I first began my PR firm, I would literally sit at my desk during the time I had set aside for working, even if I didn’t have the client work. Instead, I would focus on my website or branding. Anything to set me in the mindset that the time I had set aside was for building my business. Today I am fortunate enough to say I no longer have that problem, but I do keep the time boxing methods to ensure I stay productive and don’t lose my momentum to meetings, phone calls and social media.  Keep Going!  Owning your own agency is not for the faint of heart. It takes patience, joy in risk and a strong amount of grit. Many of the most successful firm owners I know have fallen in some way. But more importantly, they’ve gotten themselves up and found a new way to go after what they want and continue their calling.  Is this the year you heed the call and make the leap to owning your own consultancy? Is an idea or concept calling to you at a louder and louder pitch? Do you have the grit to keep it front and center? I’m betting on you and hoping that the answer will be yes! 
embrace change
Embracing Change As a Leader - Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

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Leaders who embrace change have a dynamic team with a stronger and healthier culture, whereas dealerships that aren’t open to change tend to BE stagnant and vulnerable to failure. In other words, if you’re not willing to change, you’re not ready to lead. One of the biggest reasons that embracing change leads to success is because when we try new things, we learn from the new experiences, and we innovate new improved ideas. Whether the outcome is good or bad, every time we navigate through the unfamiliar, we undergo processes that will allow us to grow.    “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” ― Albert Einstein When leaders frame change in the right way and take action to support that change, team members are way more likely to embrace it. And guess what? The need for change exists everywhere, no matter how successful the company or dealership, and yours is no different. As a leader, you should constantly be asking yourself how to improve and be willing to test the waters when needed. Once you do identify the need for change, reflect with your team about how to address that change. How does your team feel about the change? How can you support them? Do they have any questions? Next, you must understand that people will be naturally resistant to change, and even if everyone appears to be on the same page at first, it’s going to be your job to usher people past the disruption and create a new status quo. Effective leaders are able to communicate change in a way that takes into account their team’s perspective, including their emotional well-being. In times of change make it a point to check in with emotions and concerns whenever possible.  . Strong leaders are able to see the change through the lens of their team, always consider how will this change impact the service technician, the valent or the new sales consultants and understand how to best connect value to each individual. There is always a question of value when we make significant change. This is when it is time to tune in to my favorite radio station, WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) Remember, you are asking people to change from the comfortable, “the way we have always done it around here”, to a new way in how we do business so always understand the shift you may be excited about, can feel overwhelming to some Most people won’t buy-in 100% until the either recognize the individual positive consequence it entails. The more you can communicate and cast a vision that connects with their individual “Why”, the more they feel trust you, the more you commit to helping them, the more they will invest their hearts and their time.  Make sure everyone has a clear role they feel good about. The whole team should be crystal clear about what everyone’s role is so that things can run as smoothly as possible, with minimal confusion about who is responsible for what. Understanding where they fit into the new change initiative will help them feel less anxious about the change.  We know that dealerships must change in order to thrive in an always-changing market. In order to help your team (and yourself) stomach change in a manageable way, break down each step of that change into small steps. Do your best to map out any major hurdles and plan solutions for dealing with them. This eliminates an enormous amount of stress, burnout, or disengagement.   The more that you map out your path, the easier the road will be! “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” ― Rob Siltanen
Automotive Careers: What It Takes to Move Up the Ladder

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F&I is a position in the dealership that provides excellent opportunities, but it is a career that comes with extremely high expectations and demands. In traditional thinking, the lot attendant might aspire to selling cars someday. While the salesman who has either started a while back or is a new hire is already thinking, someday I want to be a sales manager. There is always the desk manager who never worked in F&I and wants to grow. What about the F&I pro who might want the opportunity to run a store and serve in a GM position? And finally, there's the GM who wants to buy in and become a partner or a dealer in the end.  We are all trying to advance ourselves and our careers, and that is a good thing. And then there are some people who realize they are better at some things than others. This means it's okay to "stay" in sales or "stay in F&I." This is a GOOD thing! I am not trying to discourage anyone from following their dreams or pursuing their goals. I am however, encouraging those who have a passion to learn more about F&I to take a moment and think hard about the requirements and skillsets needed to perform the tasks, execute the responsibilities of that role and perform them at the highest levels of excellence.  The key to greatness is the business office is twofold. The first is being really proficient with paperwork, filling it out neatly and completely. Having an eye for mistakes while still being able to move quickly is paramount. You have to be the person who sweats the details inherently. This is one of the more important qualities to hone as a strategy in the world of F&I for moving up and getting promoted into a manager position within that department.  The second skillset you must possess is the ability to gain common ground quickly, establish trust and credibility, and being viewed as authoritative and consultative while not coming across as arrogant or 'salesy'. This is imperative so you can present and gain acceptance of participation for your products and services. Typically, salespeople are either really good at filling out paperwork, but they can't sell or close a deal. Or you can't read their handwriting (when it's present), but they can outsell the whole floor. It is much rarer to find an individual who possesses BOTH qualities and executes at the highest levels. Those are the people, who with the right guidance and proper training and development, can be molded into high revenue producers with great CSI and 5-Star online reviews - the ultimate in "more winning!" Salespeople who are just selling cars because it's a "job" or they are doing it until something "better" comes along need not apply. Those that fear being rejected and have the inability to move forward definitely can't stomach the life of an F&I professional. You must be a great listener who asks all the right questions and remembers that everyone is a prospect for something we have to offer in order to be excellent in this profession. The appeal of the warm office on a cold day, waiting for salespeople to bring you closed deals, comes at a price. That price is: you have to be the best closer in the store, who can break down a deal, check it for errors, fill in all the blanks, submit and electronically digitize the various components of the deal with all the different portals and logins, and then present the options and contract the deal – quickly, effectively, compliantly, and profitably – all at the same time, while remembering to smile! When you can do this and still keep a positive attitude even when you run into mistakes constantly, you know you might have a chance to make this a career and start your climb! #bing #morewinning #noextrachargeforapositiveattitude
Master the Art of Seeing Clearly to Create a Culture of Success

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The Forest and The Trees In the unforgettable words of New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra, "You can observe a lot by just watching." Perhaps hidden within that bit of classic nonsense is a more meaningful lesson: keep your eyes on the prize.  If you own or run a dealership or you are a vendor supporting dealerships, the prize is to gain and sustain market share. And the best way to do that is to understand, promote and deliver your Unique Value Proposition (UVP) to your employees, customers and partners, helping to clearly separate your business from the competition.  However, winning this prize requires a deep dive into your business. Whether it's an effort solely done by your in-house staff or with the assistance of an outside vendor, you will need to take an up-close and personal, as well as an over-the-horizon, look at all aspects of your operation.  I call this putting your business  under the scope , and, whether you're a dealership or a vendor, there are three perspectives you must first observe and then analyze to help ensure success: individual performance (microscope), teamwork across the board (binoculars) and long-term vision (telescope). Microscopes Dealers -- Be grounded in data and metrics. Know your team's key performance indicators and manage to them. For instance, are your sales agents sandbagging their efforts for the next month to take advantage of a more favorable plan in place? Are their behaviors trending towards your goal or away from it? Look carefully at each performance, as well as your compensation plans and adjust as needed.  Vendors -- Be prepared. Don't just show up at your client's dealership. Make sure you understand their needs and pain points. Try to understand their goals and how they or their customers perceive value before offering a solution. Understanding a client's culture requires words matched to intentions and actions. Binoculars Dealers – This is the field general's 3-D view of what's happening in your store. Do Sales know what's going on in Service or Finance and vice-versa? Does everyone understand your brand and do they stay on message? When a customer talks to someone in your store is that information passed on to the rest of your team? Are you still operating within department silos instead of as a single team? In the words of Laurie Foster of Foster Strategies Group, "Locked doors only lead to divisiveness." Vendors – To cite Laurie Foster once more, here's her insightful hashtag, which to me best summarizes the dealership-vendor relationship: "Better Together." As a vendor, you'll want to understand a dealership's strategy and how your client is executing on it, as well as how you can help their strategy succeed. Remember to look at how all the client's pieces fit together. Promote a culture of sharing. You want to be viewed not just as a line item in the relationship but truly as a partner. Whatever you seek to achieve, make sure it's a win-win-win and everyone emerges with a positive attitude of working together.  Telescopes Dealers –The unexpected rise of Covid-19 propelled the dealership community to consider online retailing , perhaps sooner than many dealerships expected. However, a telescopic look isn't just about the technology ahead; it's also understanding what your employees and customers want to remain loyal. For an employee, it may mean the chance to work more from home; for a customer, it could be to travel further down the sales funnel on their own. A telescopic view also extends to how you support the local community. When a community is in trouble, there's always a dealer raising his or her hand to help out. Investing in your community is investing in your future. Vendors – Ask yourself, what can you do to help your client increase revenues today, and, more importantly, over the long-haul? How can you provide more value to the dealership? Is it by offering a lifetime warranty? A reinsurance program to help them earn 100 percent of underwriting profits? Customized Sales and F&I products? When it comes to applying a telescope to a business, I like to think of the book and movie "Moneyball"; it was about drilling down on baseball metrics to help better set draft expectations and better predict career success.  I opened with words from the great Yogi Berra, the mystical sage of baseball. Better still are these wise words from another baseball player of yore, Satchel Paige: "Don't look back, something might be gaining on you."  Seeing is believing.
Dealers: Are You in the Clubhouse?

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If anyone missed high school cliques, you could thank Clubhouse for bringing that feeling back. Yes, the newest social media app is consuming our industry with exclusive invites to the platform where you can connect with others in audio-only chat "rooms" (what the app refers to for different discussion topics). Clubhouse is essentially an unfiltered, live podcast that's extremely interactive. And like anything else, you're either in or out when it comes to Clubhouse. There is so much content, networking, and brainstorming that happens in these rooms that it's just another chance for you to miss out if you're not a part of it. The opportunity is tremendous as there is so much room-- n o pun intended -- for dealers to grow from the conversations that happen in real-time. Nothing is pre-recorded or accessible after it happens, which means no editing (and frankly, no B.S.)   So while Clubhouse has been around for quite some time, it's really making its mark on automotive right now as invites are creeping across the industry. As a rookie user, I've already participated in rooms about one-price stores, modern-day car sales, and auto cocktail hours. All the things I love about conferences jammed into one social media app! But as I mentioned before, if you're not in, you're out, and below are some critical things you could be missing if you're not jumping on the Clubhouse train.  An always-on 20Group The automotive rooms in Clubhouse-- like  Modern Day Car Sales  that goes live every morning at 6:45 AM EST (you read that right)-- allow you the opportunity to brainstorm and kick around ideas with dealers all around the country. It's basically like an "always-on" 20group, giving you access to different types of dealers everywhere. One morning a dealer asked for feedback on his website, and within minutes he had so much work to do to make his website 10x better. Instead of waiting for the next 20group meeting or conference, you can simply jump into a Clubhouse room to get this kind of feedback and information every single day. You can basically assume that other people in the room share similar interests, so connecting with them will widen your network and introduce you to even more conversations. Convene around industry-wide news and events We all have expectations about events, conferences, and press releases that get a lot of attention. Now, with Clubhouse, the automotive industry is able to run discussions around these big-impact events so we can share experiences and discuss exciting and/or controversial topics. This means anything from  NADA Preview  rooms to prep for the biggest annual convention, to reactions to the anti-dealer Vroom commercial rooms. This activity fuels your dealership with informed next steps on how to get the most out of any situation that hits automotive. And, the shared feedback helps understand different perspectives.  Connecting with your vendors I also noticed quite a bit of vendors hosting rooms for their clients to pop into -- while I haven't personally tried this yet, I can imagine this is extremely beneficial for dealers. Not only does it give dealers access to "office hours" from different partners, but it also allows them to connect with other dealers using the same vendors. Clubhouse is essentially facilitating a user community for dealers to ask, compare, grow, and hold vendors accountable for performance as it becomes easier for dealers to interact on this platform.  So, feeling left out for the first time since high school? I have some invites left in my app, so reach out to me before they run out and if you're on the platform, connect with me @ilanashabtay! (PSA: app is only running on iOS right now) See you in the Clubhouse?