Ready or not, the year is in slow-down mode. Vendor meetings are coming up and you are going to be pushed and prodded to make decisions that are not based in reality. Take a few hours and think through your 2014 strategy now.
For most dealers, just the thought of doing planning is a non-starter; they see it as a huge, time-consuming task that adds little if any value to the dealership. But what if it was simple and didn’t take up a big chunk of your time?
If you are willing to follow a few simple steps, you can build a plan that will have your dealership going down the right path from the moment the season begins. The first thing you have to do is set aside some uninterrupted time. Walk away from your store and find a spot where you can sit and focus for four hours.
During this hour your goal is to identify three key areas in your dealership that are in need of improvement. It might have to do with vendors, customers, employees, marketing, service efficiencies, margins or cash flow. Define the three most important things to your business in 2014.
Now that you have these three areas defined, it’s time to take a moment and give some thought to what each of them would look like in a perfect world. If “customers” was one that you selected to focus on, what would your customers in a perfect world be like? What would they buy? How much would they spend? How many times a year would they come into your store? How would they be treated by your employees? What would they say to others about your dealership? This exercise helps to crystalize your thinking and will aid you in communicating your expectations to your people.
This hour is all about doing a reality check. Take each of your three key areas and rate them on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 means you are worse than bad, and 10 means that no one does it better than you). As you do this part of the exercise, you are making a determination of how well you are currently living up to the vision you set for yourself in hour one.
Now the hard part takes place. During this hour I want you to establish some priorities. The reality of a dealership is that you can’t do all the things you want to do, and you won’t do everything well. So what is your greatest opportunity for improvement? Where is the largest gap between what you want to see happen and the current reality of where you are? Those one or two areas should be your focus for the upcoming year.
During this hour develop an action plan to move you from where you are in those one or two key areas to where you want to be in 2014. You have to get clarity on who will do what and when. Think about all the possible actions you and your people can take to move your closer to your vision. Now is the time to think outside the box and not limit yourself to what you believe is possible.
Now that you have outlined the actions, it is time to assign a specific person to be accountable and determine when that action item will be completed. This will involve you taking time to think about specific “mile markers” so that both you and your people will know when you are on track or if you have fallen back to the old way of doing things. I would encourage you to hold weekly meetings during the season to share with your team how they are doing and to embolden them to help your reach even higher levels.
This four-hour process of thinking strategically about your dealership can be the launching pad for increased opportunity, profitability and excitement for you and your people. You will find that the payback for your four-hour investment will be high, and help you build a dealership that can withstand the change and uncertainly of this business.