Success in the used car business, as with any business, always comes down to people. Processes and customer needs change rapidly and the only system I am aware of that can readily adapt to these changes are human beings. So, if you want to maintain your success, you must maintain and nurture a staff of great people. When evaluating your staff, the best place to start is at the top, with your used car manager.
What distinguishes a great used car manager is his or her ability to successfully manage and oversee the entire used car process, from vehicle sourcing through sale and post-sale service. To say that you need an experienced, qualified, hands-on individual in order to run a successful used car operation is an understatement! To start, great used car managers are very skilled at inventory sourcing; they don’t just focus on local auctions, but know to travel to a myriad of sources, even expanding their net to include private party vehicle sales. Great used car managers also know that in all instances, a thorough and detailed inspection of the vehicle is critical—they don’t just buy based on how the car looks in the lane, they get inside the car, start the car, and touch the car. Ultimately, this helps to keep costs down.
Once the inventory is sourced and at the dealership, great used car managers monitor the inventory on a daily basis. They keep an eye on reconditioning and any mechanical improvements required on each vehicle and they follow each vehicle’s progress through this process. This close monitoring will keep costs down as well, and will keep the process moving. Remember the old idiom, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
With the vehicles ready for sale, great used car managers spend the time to position their used cars properly. Great used car managers are aware of their lot’s location relative to traffic and they use this asset to the fullest. Remember that when your lot is well organized, you improve access to buyers. When you create a powerful, positive first impression of the cars on your lot to potential customers, they will assume that you run an excellent operation and that they too will be handled well.
At the time of sale, great used car managers are effective at managing the balance between going after big grosses and knowing when it’s time to move a car off the lot and replace it. If you are buried in a car, the process of unburying yourself is going to take a long time and what comes along with that is depreciation and opportunity cost. Don’t be afraid to take a short deal and move on.
Finally, great used car managers are able to take a long-range view of customer relationships and are effective at handling and resolving any and all post-sale issues. If all this sounds like a lot for one person, it is. Of course, there are many key players inside every dealership that support an excellent used car operation; one person cannot do it all. The leadership, plan, and execution skills inherent in a great manager, however, ultimately account for the level of success of your dealership will achieve.
Joel Kennedy is EVP/COO and cofounder of Pelican Resource Group, LLC (www.pelicanresourcegroup.com), an innovative lending and servicing partner currently operating in the Mid-Atlantic region. For more information please call 866-989-9688 x702.
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