If you want to count your business among the country’s top car dealerships, take the time to learn a thing or two from current elite performers.
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” – Henry Ford
Whether you’re a new dealership owner, or you’ve been in business for decades, there’s always more to learn. Success and failure both promote personal and professional growth. However, it’s always smart to step away from the showroom once in awhile and learn a few lessons from some of the top car dealerships.
Their tips and advice may not always suit your individual dealership, but you’ll undoubtedly pick up some nuggets of knowledge that could elevate the entire way you do business.
Not sure where to start? Auto Dealer Monthly frequently features articles about top car dealerships around the country. In those stories, the dealership owners share key secrets to their success. If you don’t have time to sit down and read a bunch of stories right now, scan the list below of five business lessons you can learn from top car dealerships.
Tips from top car dealerships that could change the way you do business
1. It’s never too late to reinvent yourself.
If you’re afraid of change, you may want to run away from the auto industry while you’re still ahead. The truth is that even if you think you’ve got it all figured out and have a seemingly well-oiled car-selling machine, life happens. The good news? Even if you’ve been in business for 50 years, it’s never too late to reinvent yourself.
The father-daughter team of Mike and Sue Finneron run Finneron Hyundai. Their current dealership, however, has only been around for about seven years. In the 30 years before that, the Finnerons owned Mike Finneron Pontiac Buick GMC. In 2009, the Pontiac brand was discontinued, and their dealership was disenfranchised. Instead of leaving the auto industry and calling it a day, the Finnerons decided to reinvent themselves and get into the business of selling Hyundais. Finneron Hyundai is now the number one Hyundai dealer in Canada.
2. Treat employees like family – without the drama
To combat the high turnover rate in auto dealerships, many owners try to create a family atmosphere that bonds employees together. This goal is definitely on the right track, but there’s a fine line between creating a professional family and a dysfunctional family that’s too close.
Jason Heard from Lee’s Summit Honda in Missouri believes there are three ways to create a close-knit team that doesn’t cross professional boundaries. He recommends watching the level of personal talk, and setting expectations for how employees communicate with each other (and customers) via text and social media. He also says that while it’s great to have get-togethers outside of work, try to make them larger events that promote camaraderie but provide fewer chances for conversations to get too personal.
3. Put the customer’s needs ahead of your own
It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers game and worry about profits, but if there’s anyone you should listen to, it’s Allen Turner from Allen Turner Hyundai in Pensacola, Florida. Turner is the 2016 Hyundai Dealer of the Year for the entire United States and is a three-time winner for Florida Dealer of the Year.
Turner believes he operates one of the top car dealerships because he prioritizes a customer service campaign that extends to every department. “It’s about the culture. There is no magic pill,” he said. “It’s 100 different things you do every day. Putting the customer’s needs ahead of your own is key.”
4. Embrace new technologies (and the people who know how to use them)
Technological advances, from the Internet to CRMs to social media, have changed how auto dealerships do business. Technology is always evolving and changing, so if you’re not up to the task of staying ahead of the game, hire someone who can and let them do what they do best.
Michael Brown, partner and owner of the Atlantic Auto Group in Long Island, hired Toni Anne Fardette as the dealership’s director of business development. She’s an expert when it comes to Internet marketing and she’s well-known in the auto industry for being on top of her game.
“I took this position at the right time to really get involved at the start of digital marketing,” said Fardette. “Dealerships were just getting into it, and I had a lot of support from the managers. They allow me to make my own decisions, and they back me up from the top down.”
5. Don’t ignore your managers
Your managers are in the trenches every day, trying to make you money. If you feel like they are holding back and not communicating with you properly, it may be time to think about why that is.
Steve Fox from Lithia Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Santa Rosa, California says that if you’ve experienced repeated issues in which managers don’t communicate with you, you need to ask yourself if you may be the problem. Be approachable, let the managers know you want to hear about new ideas and challenges they’re facing, and tell them directly that you value open communication.
Never stop learning and improving the ways you do business. Take one of the lessons you learned above, and try to incorporate that knowledge into your dealership starting today. Who knows, you may just find your name listed among the country’s top car dealerships one day as well.