Article

Bringing in the Herd

March 2007, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Greg Goebel - Also by this author

January brings the new year and for many, a resolve for improvements in both their personal and professional lives.  Resolutions come in many shapes and sizes.  They are often as simple as “I am going to lose weight,” or, “I am going to quit smoking,” or as complex as, “We are going to average 2.5 hours per repair order through measuring our activities and insuring that we are selling at least 70 percent of our technician-inspection recommendations and with 100 percent service menu presentations.”

This article isn’t necessarily about resolutions, but more so about what is behind resolutions.  Dealers and their management teams have generally put together a business plan for the upcoming year (or if they haven’t, they are hopefully about to).  If the goal is to achieve something different from last year, then they must indeed do something differently.

The key is knowing what must be done differently.  If you personally intend to lose weight, you know you must change your eating habits.  The problem is the solution isn’t always that easy in your dealerships. 

Years ago, in my stores, to discover what needed to be changed, we hunted for  Sacred Cows.  Something I recommend to this day for dealers that I work with.  

The Sacred (not Scared as a few of my friends put it) Cow Hunt involves the entire dealership operation and has nothing to do with the Hindu religion.  To hunt for a Sacred Cow, however, you first have to understand what one is.  A Sacred Cow is another name for a traditional manner of doing something.  It is something – a method, process or operation – that has “always been done that way.”  You probably have dozens of them around your store.  It may be the way you stock your inventory, the way you design or budget your newspaper advertising, the way you schedule your service drive, or the way you (do or don’t) record your lot traffic. 

A Sacred Cow can also be a problem that has always been there but has been ignored – a “work-around” in Microsoft speak.  It could be a piece of faulty diagnostic equipment robbing time in the service department, a recalcitrant copy machine that jams once every three times it’s used or the ice-skating rink that forms in winter (up north) every time the lot attendants rinse off the inventory.  Whatever it is, it’s robbing your people of time and their efficiency.  If calculated out over the course of a year, it can provide some astonishing numbers.

A Sacred Cow can be hiding virtually anywhere, and that is the problem – you are either too close to the forest to see the trees, or in this case, the cows, or too far away to recognize them.

So how do you organize the hunt?  It is simple.  First, you involve absolutely everyone in the operation.  Lot attendants, yes.  Receptionist, yes.  New hire, three days on the job, absolutely yes!  (The new hires may see the cows the easiest since inefficiencies or issues may appear more prominent to them.)  By involving everyone, you have the best potential of seeing through the trees, and you will gain valuable insight to the perspectives of your team.  You’ll likely identify some with hidden talent as well – as some that are just going through the motions.

There are only five rules.  First, make it fun.  Better frames of mind will equal better results.  Second, all employees must identify at least one Sacred Cow.  Third, you may identify as many Sacred Cows as you wish, but for every one you identify, you must also offer a solution – no problems without suggestions.  (That is just whining.)  Fourth, the employees must provide the information in written form.  Finally, no one can get terminated from this if they participate. 

I have seen some absolutely amazing results from these hunts, and I have never been disappointed.  When discovering a problem, I would ask a supervisor or manager, “Why on earth is this done that this way?”  The answer invariably came back, “I don’t know; we’ve always done it that way.” 

One example of a Sacred Cow would be a dark workbench that a technician worked at.  The solution he offered was a light installed over the workbench that allowed him to see well.  It wound up adding an hour per day to his productivity -   over a year that equated to $17,000 in additional labor sales and $12,000 in additional labor gross profit. 

Another example would be reconditioning costs not being posted in a timely manner to vehicles.  The solution provided a better flow for the posting of the ROs on internal tickets, thereby allowing sales managers to always have correct reconditioning costs factored in their inventory cost.  And still another offered a good solution to the “always missing keys” syndrome. 

All of your employees have the insight to make a real difference.  The problem is that many of them may be afraid to speak up for fear of rocking the boat – even though they are acutely aware of the inefficiencies of the methods.  You just have to give them a forum where they feel comfortable communicating their feelings.  As an additional incentive, you may wish to offer a gift or spiff for the biggest, most important Sacred Cow identified.

In any case, there is likely to be a herd roaming around or hiding in your dealership.  It is time to call on all parties to round up the herd.  The sooner you do it, the sooner you will find surefire ways to make a difference in the upcoming year.  If you want the form I used to initiate a hunt – just drop me an e-mail.  I’d also love to hear of some of the Sacred Cows that you find.

Vol 4, Issue 1

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