Throughout my careers in wholesale inventory finance and as DSM with a Powersports OEM, I was able to witness firsthand how some businesses continually “Hit it out of the ballpark” with sales, marketing and customer service. At the same time, I encountered businesses that consistently stumbled, not able to understand why business wasn’t improving and looking for reasons to justify their situation. Ultimately, success and failure fall at the feet of the owner(s) of a business. That’s where the buck stops. I believe a significant difference between those successful and struggling businesses, is leadership … or lack of leadership.
Over my career, I have dealt with hundreds of dealerships and their owners are as varied as snowflakes. Some are self-made by working their way up; Some inherited the family business; Some have a business education and some are enthusiasts who want to share their passion and sell fun and adventure. The management styles of running their business are just as varied but expected due to their own previous experiences.
Regardless of their past or how they became an owner, it was their attitude and approach to business, to the people who worked there and to the customers who walked through the front door every day, which determined if they were a boss or a leader. The difference between the two impacts everyone involved. It is leadership that provides the direction the business takes. It is leadership that keeps good employees at the dealership and it is leadership that keeps customers loyal and coming back to the store.
I’m not about to write about all the differences between leaders and bosses. You can google that and read about it for hours but I do want to write about why you should want to be a leader instead of a boss.
A leader has a vision for the future and shares that vision with their staff and customers. A leader gives their staff a reason to believe and buy into a frame of mind that makes them want to follow you because they believe in you. When that happens, that positive attitude is experienced by your customers. The reverse is also true. A boss dictates what to do and the focus is on the task at hand. Staff that have no direction or vision and just told what to do, develop a negative attitude which becomes quite evident to customers. Which would you prefer?
As an owner or GM, it is your hands that are on the steering wheel of the business. You determine and point the direction the business takes. In having that responsibility, do you think your business will grow with you being a leader or by being a boss? There is much truth to the phrase, “Employees quit their boss, not their job”. Being a boss seems to be easier and doesn’t appear to take as much work and effort (It actually takes more work and effort in the long run) but it also offers the least return in productivity, commitment and of course, profit.
Leading your staff takes work but offers the greatest return possible for your business. Sharing your vision and direction allows your staff to understand their role within the business. As a leader, you provide training and coaching to your staff and in time, empower them to make decisions and solve their own issues in their department. As a leader, you understand that you’re only as strong as your weakest link so you listen to issues and concerns your staff have because what they say matters. As a leader, you realize that staff may have good solutions you never thought of and you appreciate the fact that by actually taking the time to listen and get their input, it improves your relationship with them.
No one likes being ordered around and told what to do which is what a boss does. People need to feel respected and acknowledged. People need to feel like they matter, make a difference and feel like a member of a team. A boss rarely makes that happen but a leader acknowledges and fulfills those needs because they understand it results in getting the best effort from their staff which is always appreciated by your customers. This will make customers come back and tell others of their experience.
You can tell your staff “Go do this” or you can say “Let’s go do this.” Your choice, your future… Nobody wants to work for a boss. Everyone wants to work for a leader.
Bruce Marcia is the director of Bruce Marcia and Associates, a retail management consulting firm that specializes in assisting and supporting dealerships in the RV/marine and powersports industries. As a recognized troubleshooter with over 30 years of experience in inventory finance, dealership general management and as a district manager for a major OEM, Bruce has had the unique opportunity to understand and learn from all three important fields that make these industries function.