The first owner I ever worked for had a mantra: “I don’t want to be a pioneer — I want to be the best copycat in the industry.”
He drilled this idea into each of us managers and I can still hear him saying it. “You each are responsible for knowing what is working best in the industry,” he continued. “Use your vendors as a resource and if they can’t tell you more than just about their product, then find another vendor.” While that statement was made over 15 years ago, it is truer today than it was then.
Many of the dealerships that are growing the most year over year have developed a practice of quarterly resource meetings with their managers and vendor resources. For some dealerships, finding vendors-as-resources was like hiring a new employee — an employee filled with questions and evaluations of the answers. For others, certain vendors were always sharing market ideas and practices and were accurate in their findings. Whichever route was taken, the end result was a unique group that became the brainstorming, visionary team that not only talks about concepts but comes up with actionable implementation and accountability reviews in order to push the dealerships to continued growth.
Why is this strategy successful? No one knows your dealership in terms of personnel, talent, capabilities and drive like you and your managers. A strong vendor resource is someone who is in the field daily, working across many OEMs and is not afraid to take the time to be inquisitive and investigative in their approach with each dealer — to find out where their strengths lie and where they may need help or ideas, and then is willing to be a part of the solution to each dealership they serve.
This vendor resource is not common, but rather a rare and valuable commodity. They are quick to analyze and refer products and personnel outside of their product and be able to furnish you with references to back up their suggestions. This vendor resource shows that networking to be a valuable asset to each of their dealerships is more important than their own personal gain.
Once you have found one or more vendor resources, now make it a priority to have your first meeting. Begin with an honest assessment of where you are in terms of marketing programs, sales year over year, gross profit year over year, leads and sources of leads year over year, etc. and identify which type of customer is your customer (prime, near prime, that tweener with a 600-650 credit score or subprime). What is your competition doing to sell to your lost customers and what can you do to minimize those losses? This is the type of meeting that will take you to the next level in terms of growth.
Growth starts with an honest evaluation of where you are currently at and then outlining a game plan with a qualified resource group that is committed to your success. Are you still trying to be a pioneer and figure things out by yourself and just reacting, or are you willing to be the best copycat and follow the leaders by implementing this resource group and committing to it for the next year? The choice is yours. How willing are you to set your ego aside for the success of your dealership?