There are several benefits to working in the car business. We get to meet lifelong friends, we are taught life lessons and we learn what true leadership is — and isn’t. After working in several dealerships, I have seen firsthand some of the worst managers and some of the best leaders. There is a big difference between “leaders” and “managers.” I believe anyone at a dealership can be leader; unfortunately, the same can be said about managers.
A lot of the time, managers are simply the salespeople who have lasted. Year after year, people quit and get fired. Eventually, poorly run dealerships just hire out of necessity. They look to the person who has dodged various bullets and made it through all the firings and cutbacks. This person might be a mediocre salesperson, but stays out of trouble. These are the people we all look at and understand that they are in the position because they’ve been there the longest.
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These people are not leaders. They are managers.
They tell the stories about how the business used to be. The reality, however, is that the business is nothing like it used to be. Telling stories about the good ol’ days only shows the lack of experience and drive that the new car business has to have to thrive. Talking down to other employees and forcing people to work open to close six days a week does not work.
One of the benefits I gained by working at a few different dealerships has been the opportunity to truly find great leaders. John Maxwell wrote a book called The 360 Degree Leader, in which he talks about everyone being a leader. If a dealership wants to go to the next level, it must provide the opportunity for every single employee to become a leader. I’d bet the house that dealerships that recognize employees in the recon department, the accounting office and the service bays are some of the most successful dealerships. The best way to run a dealership is through multiple levels of leadership. The more leaders a dealership has, the more successful that dealership will be. They have leaders in the finance department who are willing to help salespeople close deals. They have sales managers who are willing to help the recon department. They have service managers who aren’t afraid to get involved with an upset customer in the body shop. These dealerships have the ingredients for success.
In today’s market, to be a successful dealership, you have to have every single person in every single department willing and able to be a leader.