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Leaders: Either Change or FAIL

Leaders in automobile dealerships across the U.S. are inundated daily with shouts that they must change or they are going to get left behind and fail. My question is: Change may be necessary, but are we listening to others or asking questions ourselves? And secondly, are we asking the right questions?


Business Development Director - Auto Industry Professional - Writer - Trainer - High-Performance Coach

Leaders in automobile dealerships across the U.S. are inundated daily with shouts that they must change or they are going to get left behind and fail. My question is: Change may be necessary, but are we listening to others or asking questions ourselves? And secondly, are we asking the right questions?

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There is one question that only you as the leader of your dealership should be asking and answering about your organization. If you aren’t asking this question, all the changes in the world won’t make any difference; you will not grow at the rate you want and reach the dealership’s ultimate potential.

The most important question that you must be asking is: What is the culture of this organization?

Culture – What is It?

So what exactly are we talking about when we refer to “culture.” The definition is:

The beliefs and customs of a particular group. A specific group or organization that has its own beliefs, ways of life, a way of thinking, behaving or working.


From this definition, there should be no doubt in any true leader’s mind that culture has to be focused on at all times. It also seems that each organization’s culture is unique. The culture of your organization is of the highest importance. It should be about the beliefs, the thinking, the behavior and how the organization works. What else is there?

If you have a consultant or trainer come to you with a blueprint that they use to fix all problems and doesn’t talk about the unique culture of your dealership, kick them to the curb.


IMPERATIVE No. 1 — Questions that must be asked ASAP:

•  What is your current culture?

•  What are the beliefs, the thinking, and the mindset?

•  How does the organization behave and how does it really work?

IMPERATIVE No. 2 — The most important thing is to determine who in the organization influences these things the most. In other words, who are the dominant influencers?

Here is a three-step exercise to determine the current culture at your dealership or business.

STEP 1: Who are the dominant influencers on the dealership?

In my experience, after doing a deep dive into the organization, the dealer or general manager is very rarely the dominant influencer. It is an absolute must that you identify the one or two most influential individuals in your dealership.


•  Who influences whether or not people are hired?

•  Who determines or has the influence on how many salespeople or technicians you have?

•  Is everyone held accountable for doing their job, or are some things or some people allowed to slide?

Don’t do anything till you have this step completed.

STEP 2: Identify the dealership’s most dominating belief.

This may become very clear once you identify the dominant influencers because, in most cases, it comes from the people who have the most influence.

This dominating belief is what they are committed to. What is the overwhelming belief in your organization?

• What is the dominating belief toward customers?

• Do the customers come first?

• What are the beliefs about how employees are treated?

• Are they believed to be assets or liabilities?

• Is the belief that caring for others transcends profits?

• Is there an emphasis put on having a positive mindset towards one another?

After completing the two imperatives and first two steps, it will become apparent who is the most influential person, what the dominant belief of the organization is and what forms the vision that impacts the very direction of the business.


STEP 3: Determine what the organization’s behavior is and how it works.

First, we need to look at the written processes to determine how each department is supposed to work. You should look at all processes in each department.

Next, look at the dealership’s reputation to get the truth about the organization’s behavior and how it is working.

· What is the dealership’s reputation when it comes to how it treats customers and also how it treats employees?

·  When you look at the sources of business for the dealership, does sales have a lot of repeat and referral business? The only way you will have people coming back and referring others, is if your reputation is good which means that the behavior and working of the organization serve customers well. If the opposite is true, then that indicates that the behavior and working of the sales department are not appealing to customers and they choose not to come back or refer people to the dealership.


The behavior and working can also be gauged by the tenure of the employees. If you have people in leadership who have been around as long as the owner has that is one thing, but if you have employees who have long tenure, that’s a sure sign that the behavior and the way the organization works is good towards its employees as well as customers

Lastly, look at the dealership’s turnover rate for the last 12 months. I am afraid that we just accept that turnover is high in the car business. This typically means poor employee relations, poor training, poor leadership and the need for a culture change.


Change may be necessary. Just yesterday, topics I had brought to my attention that need to change — and need my attention — were SEO, SEM, attribution, engagement, A.I., etc. While those are necessary, I am firmly committed to this truth:

If your culture is broken, you can become an expert in all of those areas, but it will make no difference. You may not fail, but you will never achieve growth and your ultimate potential.

Today, if you want to make an impact, ask: What is the culture of this organization?

Then, ask the right questions and take the necessary steps to identify your culture.

Now that you have the answers, decide what you want the answers to be and then — and only then — can change be made.


Expect to Win!

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