Beating The Holiday Blues

August 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Greg Goebel - Also by this author

It is hard to believe that it is the holiday season again. It seems like yesterday we were celebrating the Fourth of July. (Admittedly, it is a little easier to forget the time of year when you live in Florida.) This is the time of year that we turn to family, children, faith and times of joy. Then, there is the car business.
I was conducting one of my last 20 Group meetings recently and the conversation turned to the holidays and to Christmas. Almost every dealer was moaning comments like “It would cost less just to shut the store down for the month,” and expressing general dread of the season to come.

I admit there were times when I did not look forward to the inevitable slow down that often took place right before Christmas. No dealer likes to see sales slow down, regardless of how predictable it was. Additionally, it was always the time of year that Christmas or performance bonuses were paid out, all of which just added to a less than glamorous bottom line. I can remember during the company Christmas parties, and even the parties we provided for the underprivileged children in the community, thinking how much more fun it would be if we were selling more cars.
One year in November I was talking to a dealer-friend of mine at the auction. His store was about 90 miles west of mine, and he commented that he always seemed to have a good December. I am sure I looked like I had just seen a red-nosed reindeer when he said that. Naturally, I asked how he managed to have successful Decembers, especially when he was a buy here-pay here used car dealer–which is significantly impacted by the customer’s available down payment. He simply said, “I expect it to be, and I plan accordingly.”

Interesting advice, I thought. I took it to heart, and that December was our best in history. Mind you, it wasn’t in the top 50 percent of the months that year in profitability, but it was profitable, and it made the holidays a bit more cheery!

The next year I went one step further. I started accruing the anticipated holiday and year-end bonuses each month, as well as money set aside for charity and the company Christmas party. Off the books, out of sight and out of mind. When Christmas rolled around the next year, we again had a good December—plus, we had already expensed 92 percent of the expected costs off the books. My mindset through the holiday season was even better.

I believe it is not only important to your family and to yourself to find ways to truly be able to enjoy this time of year, but as a dealer or management team member, it is equally important to your dealership. Those individuals paid on incentive-based pay plans can quickly have their attitudes sour in a month of slow sales or car count through the service department. Sales performance is so driven by attitudes that you can not afford to have someone off their game when traffic count is down. If you cannot be happy during this time of year, you will certainly find it difficult to keep your team positive and upbeat.

Ultimately, this is a special season which should be filled with love and joy. The fact that the automobile industry often takes a dip this time each year should not be allowed to taint your outlook. Enjoy the days to come. Celebrate with your families and loved ones. Remember that should sales slide during the next few weeks, they will come back just like the always have in prior years. Then, next year, plan ahead in order to insure you walk through the season with a heartfelt smile on your face.

Happy Holidays to your and your families!

Vol 2, Issue 12!

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