Believe it or not, the crazy summer season is almost over, and the cold dreary days of winter will be upon most dealerships in a few weeks. The phone stops ringing; the door seldom swings open; and dealership staff are mingling around wiping down helmets that were just cleaned a few hours ago. Last year, I spoke to several dealerships during these slow times, and we discussed ways to capture this seemingly extra time we are given. The main thing we discovered is the change in attitude. During the “season” staff are excited and always busy taking care of customers. During the “off season” we must not take a defeatist attitude. Often we just sit around the dealership doing nothing because the customer flow has slowed way down. However, once we understand this is a part of our business cycle, we can look for things to maximize this opportunity. Yes, I said it, the “off season” of the dealership should be looked at as opportunity!
Let me share the ideas I have discussed with some successful dealerships. Starting with management, the extra time can be spent on higher thinking. During the busy season, much of the management’s time is used putting out fires and trying to keep everyone motivated to work harder and faster. The slow months provide time to review processes and see what works and what doesn’t. There is time for planning next season’s growth. Time is available to review which events were successful, what marketing worked and what didn’t. We may want to get out of the dealership and meet other local business managers and share ideas on ways you can cross market in both slow and busy seasons. Study the bottom line and see what saving can be had next year to increase profit. Spend time reviewing purchases with venders to make sure the dealership is optimizing purchases in all departments.
For staff members, the opportunities may be even greater. The following are some of the ideas that sounded very good: Train in other areas and ask your boss if you can spend a couple weeks working in another department. Learning how all the departments work makes staff members more efficient in their dealings with those departments. One of my favorite ideas is to spend some of the time training. There are so many good online OEM and other training available to all staff members. Completing OEM certifications helps the staff be more knowledgeable and productive. It further helps with business efficiency and makes employees feel more connected to the dealership. The service and parts departments can build a project bike or side-by-side for marketing the following season, or even for customers wanting custom work that the dealership may not have time for during the summer. There may even be time for a deep cleaning of the dealership! When is the last time you cleaned behind those displays in the parts department? A fresh coat of paint goes a long way in making your dealership seem clean and ready when the “season” kicks off again.
One of the often overlooked areas of opportunity is volunteering some of the down time to help others in the community that need help. Not only is this a great way to help boost the dealerships reputation in your community, it helps employees feel good about themselves.
Lastly, it’s extremely important that each employee spends time catching up with family and friends. We often have to neglect those relationships when the dealership is slammed. These relationships are very important to our staff's overall happiness and ability to function during the stressful times. Maybe have a group lunch and let the families come hang out at work with staf,f so they can share what they do. Good luck and enjoy the opportunities old man winter brings your way!
Jackson Smith is the parts and service manager at Destination Powersports, a multi-line OEM dealership located in southwest Florida. Jackson has more than 30 years experience in both the automotive and powersports industries.