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A Lesson In Accountability In Best Buy

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Dennis McGinn is the founder and CEO of Rapid Recon

If you’ve followed my columns about reconditioning best practices, you know my drumbeat is time-to-market (TTM) frontline readiness, workflow and accountability, all which describe nonnegotiable processes for turning recon operations into a profit center for the dealership.

Dealers using reconditioning workflow software to reduce their TTM or cycle time to three to five days continually point out the necessity of accountability. They tell me that, without the accountability aspects baked into this software, their goal to improve results would not be consistent from week to week and month to month.

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This part of workflow software works to define concretely each step of the reconditioning process. For every individual who touches cars through recon, from service to the photo studio, accountability describes who does what when, how long management has set for the time to get that task or tasks completed, and where the vehicle goes to next on its journey to the front line.

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If this sounds like assigned seating in a classroom, you get the parallel. When we know what’s expected and where things go, we make better use of time and resources — and if you’re in the wrong seat or not doing the proper thing at the assigned time, the instructor can respond to that immediately.

As we’re all adults now, we know where our seats are, what we do next and when break comes. Knowing those steps that take us throughout the workday, however, doesn’t always translate into being accountable for being in the right seat or tackling the next task during the assigned times. We’re human, and we prefer to make our own choices and do things our way. I get it. I see this attitude often in individuals being asked to do something they don’t want to do; often, that’s because the standard or directive or boss’s order is asking them to rise to an occasion unfamiliar to them.

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Let’s face it — too many of us are OK right where we are, going through the motions from muscle memory and not commitment. We’d probably do better were someone to shake us out of that sluggishness by handing us a visible way to control our accountability.

A Mom Teaches a Lesson

So I’ve been pondering this matter of accountability in the reconditioning department. At a basic level, when employees aren’t given a clear job description and job objectives and goals, against what exactly can management measure their performance?

They can’t. That’s a problem, whether in recon, service or the upstairs offices.

I’ve been around too many dealerships where job duties are assumed — never clearly defined — and then management wonders why benchmarks seem to be only a goal they read about their peers achieving. (Point: Assemble job descriptions and review them periodically with your staff — they’ll thank you for that; most of us work better when we have clear objectives and goals in mind.)

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And then the other day I was at Best Buy. There, in an aisle near a bin of DVDs, I observed a timely reminder about what accountability is — and why, when we’re held accountable, we usually go through life more successfully. The comparison works for the reconditioning department too, where accountability is closely linked to higher vehicle throughput that gets cars frontline ready faster.

What I observed during that visit to Best Buy was a young mother, busy browsing through displays of cell phones as her son, whom I guess was around five or six, quietly slipped a couple of DVDs under his tee shirt into his pants. He walked back closer to his mother, who eyed the bulge at his waist. She pulled up his shirt.

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“Did you pay for that?” she asked him, obviously aware that her son had not. He shook his head. “What do we call that?” she said, taking the discs out of his pants. “Follow me,” she said and pulled him toward a checkout. “Tell her what you did, Kyle,” Mom instructed. Eyes downward, one foot atop the other, Kyle mumbled that he’d taken the DVDs without paying. “I’m sorry,” he told the cashier. Mom handed the DVDs to the clerk, took her son’s hand, and left the store.

A small snapshot of what occurs probably every day in retail stores across the nation. Some parents (and dealership managers) ignore such teaching moments. Others, like this mom, seize them to teach responsibility. This mom was teaching her son accountability for his behavior and actions.

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Make Accountability Essential

Those assigned to performing certain functions within a recon operation must take responsibility for executing the right actions and behaviors their job descriptions define. Accountable people own the responsibility for doing their job by and within the parameters set by management.

But I think management is in error when it “clocks” staff to tasks and outcomes without first making certain those individuals understand why. In selling, we call this the “WIIFM” — What’s In It For Me? Employees want and need to know this as well to enjoy their role while performing it better.

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For modern recon operations, this WIIFM process goes like this:

  • Proper Onboarding: Are you onboarding your recon staff adequately to the bigger picture? Is skills training available to them?When was the last time you reviewed job descriptions and job task expectations with them? Do they know how you evaluate their performance? Recon workflow software gives you a standard and the right data to be objective.
  • Proper Orientation: Does the detailer know his or her performance influences downstream coworkers and overall results? Don’t assume so. We often compare reconditioning to the factory assembly line. I’ve heard of people who’ve worked for years putting widgets into bigger widgets without ever seeing the final product. We take more interest in our work when we know the bigger picture. Review how each reconditioning phase can help or hinder the dealership’s ability to make money. The right result keeps them employed; that is an important part of the story for them to understand.
  • Proper Accountability: I hit this in item No. 2, but more explicitly teach staff that their accountability — their responsibility to the right actions and behaviors set for their job tasks — translate into keeping the lights on, benefits programs funded and their compensation flowing to their bank account. Success isn’t the other guy’s responsibility —it’s the job of everyone earning a living from your recon operations.

My guess is that every parent and child has lived through their version of my Best Buy experience. We’re thankful for moms and dads, or big brothers or sisters who didn’t let us get away with irresponsibility. Our lives and careers are better for it, having learned that accountability means success. Call me to discuss how accountability in your reconditioning operation can put more money in everyone’s pocket.

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