COVID-19 blind-sided us with an uppercut, right hook and hard hit to the gut. We may be down and a little dizzy, but we are not out for the count. I’m so proud of this country and multiple industries for answering the call of duty. Our manufacturers have switched over entire assembly lines. Dealerships have created new processes to accommodate online sales and employees working remotely. And the patriotism and support I’ve seen nationwide are encouraging.
We have accepted the situation dealt to us that was beyond our control. We have adapted to the changes necessary and continued to conduct business. Now it is time to figure out what to do next. I call this Phase 3: Recovery. The road to recovery will be challenging and something none of us have encountered before. The market and the economy will need some time to bounce back. So what do we do when the stay-at-home orders are lifted, and non-essential businesses begin to slowly reopen?
First and foremost, you need to return with a game plan. Now more than ever, your employees need strong leaders. Set a positive example and establish new goals. What did we do that worked? What didn’t work? How can we grow from this experience? We have to look forward, not back. The uncertainty will not disappear overnight, but your leadership can dictate your future success.
In a time of uncertainty, people want information. We may not have all of the answers immediately. Talk to your floor plan rep and find out what programs they’re offering. Talk to your manufacturers about inventory. With the assembly lines shut down, stocking product could be a challenge in the immediate future. Talk to your lenders. The situation moving forward is critical for your finance managers. Find out how the lenders are handling the unemployment situation and possible credit hallenges. And, ALWAYS be honest on your credit applications. Never take short cuts to get the deal done.
Most likely you have deals and title work pending for much longer than usual. With so much unfinished business, it can be overwhelming on where to start. Align your priorities with what your dealership needs most. Is it working capital or cash flow? Is it funding issues with contracts sitting in transit? Keep in mind, everyone else was also closed during the pandemic. So you won’t be the only business trying to catch up.
Create an environment where they feel appreciated, safe, and possess the desire to persevere. Your employees have had life-altering changes recently. Some have transitioned from never being home to always being home. Others have small children that have adjusted to new routines and schedules. And don’t forget our furry friends that have enjoyed our recent company. The transition back to full staff and working hours presents some level of difficulty for your employees. Be empathetic and allow them time to readjust to a full work week. It can be physically and emotionally draining for the ones that find change difficult.
Everyone is laser-focused on money, but the economy will need some time to rebound. This can create a mindset of desperation and could spiral out of control. It is critical to know how to cut your losses and move forward. Take a good, hard look at your inventory. It will take a while for the factories to swap back over to producing vehicles and parts. You may be currently stuck with last year’s models or older units. The book values on used vehicles are all over the map. Re-evaluate your auction sites and wholesalers to determine which vehicles are costing you the most and liquidate. Work your service lane for vehicle service contracts. If you have an antimicrobial product – promote it to everyone in your CRM. The latter two options can generate immediate income.
This season has certainly created a necessity for transparency. If you were not following a transparent, compliant and ethical process prior to Covid-19, you will be now! The online sales market is a different beast when it comes to honesty and compliance. Customers are shopping your competitors and the commitment to buy is not just based on price or payment. Did you sell yourself and your brand during the process? What changes did you make during the shutdown that were effective? What set you apart from the competition and how can you grow from the experience?
My usual response to full chaos or downtime in the showroom is “get back to basics.” However, we are entering a new era of the auto industry that we need to embrace. The basics may take on a new look in the future. We must accept, adapt and grow. Take what you’ve learned through this situation and make it work for your future business. Some of us will push for business as usual; however, the path forward displays a unique set of new processes. Although these may differ greatly from our concept of what is normal, keep an open mind. There are lessons we can all learn from this experience.
The road to recovery will be our greatest mission.