Article

Internet Resources: Utilize the Wealth of Information at Your Fingertips to Learn and Save Money

June 2008, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Justin Spath - Also by this author

The conservative estimate is that there are over 150 million Web sites on the Internet. If we ignore all the Web sites in a language other than English and those that have no reason to be viewed in the work place (pornography, gambling, etc.), we are still left with over 40 million Web sites. In my ongoing efforts to bring the best information on human resources and management to the readers of Auto Dealer Monthly, I will review all 40 million of these Web sites and compile my findings into an easy-to-understand-and-implement report.

Believe that? I didn’t think so. The simple fact is that the Internet is a far too large for any single person to have a handle on. The size of it has reached a point where it has become an abstract idea, like the national debt or the number of books in the Library of Congress. It’s so large that you cannot comprehend what it means anymore. Unfortunately, when something reaches this point, we begin to almost entirely ignore it. We deal with it when required, but rarely take the time to really understand what it can mean to us and by so doing, we miss out on information that could make life easier. So while I can’t begin to cover the entire Internet, I can take a little time to highlight a few resources online that will be beneficial to you as a dealership owner, operator or manager.

Data, Examples and Information Resources
The Internet at its essence is about the exchange of information and the three Web sites listed below some very useful ones that you might not  be using to the fullest.

1. About.com
The About.com network of Web sites strives to be one of the most up-to-date resources online with information generally provided by experts in the fields represented with an emphasis on writing in plain English. Specifically, I would point you towards the human resources and management subsections which provide articles, commentary, case studies and examples of best practices in HR and management. Browse around these sites for a while, and I’m sure you’ll come across useful information. (humanresources.about.com/, management.about.com/)

2. Office Depot
No, we aren’t running subliminal advertising in an article here. Frankly, I don’t care where you get your office supplies. What I do care about is a little hidden area on the Office Depot Web site called the Business Resource Center, a small chunk of the Web site devoted to free resources for businesses. Among the articles and tips found here, there is one area I find of particular interest, the free Business Forms Templates. These are samples and examples of forms needed in businesses in areas such as finance, HR and marketing. These are the same types of examples you might pay hundreds of dollars to a consulting company for, provided free by Office Depot. So the next time you need a drug test policy, a collections letter or a customer satisfaction survey, pop over to Office Depot’s Web site for an example before shelling out the money to have someone else develop it. (www.officedepot.com/a/business-resource-center/)

3. National Automobile Dealers Association
This is a Web site you’ve most likely looked at before, but I’m betting you haven’t used a lot of the information provided. The NADA Web site provides a great deal of information regarding the industry in the form of articles, tips and in-depth analysis. If you are a member, it provides even more, but even their free information is worth more than a little of your time. In particular, something that I continually refer to, and refer my clients and readers to, is the NADA Data publication. This publication provides yearly statistical information on the retail automotive industry in surprising detail. Did you know that the average new car dealership in Indiana employs 44, while in Tennessee it is 53, even though they have a similar number of dealerships? NADA Data also provides information on where dealerships spend their advertising money, the distribution of loans in car sales and aftermarket income from service. This is an invaluable tool for benchmarking the performance of your dealership against the industry. And the feature I probably like most of all is that they have the information going back five years, allowing you to look at trends over time. (www.nada.org/, www.nada.org/Publications/NADADATA/)

Podcasts
Podcasts are audio, and sometimes video, programs distributed over the Internet on a nearly infinite variety of topics. Think of them as talk radio online. They are generally downloaded to a portable audio player (such as an iPod or other MP3 player) or listened to directly on the computer. I think a lot of people shy away from podcasts because they feel they don’t understand the technology, but if you can save a spreadsheet at work, you can use a podcast. And, if all else fails, just ask your kids. They’ll be thrilled to huff, puff and grumble about how mom or dad don’t understand anything.

1. The Cranky Middle Manager Show
This podcast is one of my favorites. It’s an irreverent discussion about the field of managing people that is as dense with information as it is fun. I’m sure that after listening to an episode or two you will find yourself saying, “I’ve had that happen before.” Though the title says middle managers, it really applies to all levels of management. The host discusses his own experiences and interviews or discusses topics with authors and experts from management, human resources and marketing. (www.crankymiddlemanager.com/)

2. Manager Tools
In my opinion, the best management podcast online, Manager Tools, continuously provides me with insight and information that I never expected to receive. It generally consists of a conversation between two experienced managers on a wide selection of topics, including setting goals, managing teams, effective feedback and many more. This show is accessible to all levels of management, but is probably most useful to managers with less experience. I’m not ashamed to say that when I was starting out, the information provided on this podcast influenced my management style a great deal. Premium content is also offered to provide supplemental material to the podcasts, but the podcasts themselves are free. (www.manager-tools.com/)

These five Web sites are drops in the ocean of the Internet, but I hope they will get you thinking about the resources that are available to you online. I plan to continue to scour the Internet for useful information, and when I find any, you can be sure I will pass it along to my readers.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one more site, however. Auto Dealer Monthly’s online home is also a wealth of information including articles from past issues of the print magazine. Take some time to browse the archives, and you’re sure to find information beneficial to your dealership.

Vol 5, Issue 5

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