Some folks got it; some folks don’t

Jackson SmithI have had the pleasure of visiting several dealerships over the last year, and most of them fell into one of two categories. Type one is full of staff drama with lots of conflict among the staff members, managers who are at a loss as to how to correct the problem and customer reviews that are, shall I say, less then stellar. The other type of dealerships were pretty much the opposite. Their entire staffs displayed positive, upbeat attitudes. They all seemed energetic, approachable, knowledgeable and confident in themselves and their companies.

I was left wondering how companies that sell the same product are so different. After thoughtful consideration, I have found some common traits in the upbeat and positive dealerships that were missing in the other shops. I would like to share these positive traits with you, and perhaps if we could work towards making more dealerships function in this way, more employees will be drawn to the industry, and we will have more happy customers!

The first thing I noticed were these dealerships have scheduled company outings, which were chosen by and put together by members of the staff. Most of these involved not only the company employees but also their families.

Second, the dealerships have anonymous feedback or "idea boxes." When the dealership gets suggestions, multi-department teams are set up to review and present proposed changes, if warranted.

Third, the dealerships have some type of promotional and/or pay increase plan that each employee is aware of and can strive to achieve by following a written plan.

Fourth is perks, such as employee discounts, demo use, real lunch breaks, paid holidays, employee recognition programs, insurance, 401k savings plans, etc.

The last thing I noticed was the lack of negativity. When I spoke to staff and managers, they all stated that if someone is not happy at the dealership that person is let go to make room for someone who truly wants to be part of the team.

How do we create and maintain this positive environment? First, we have to ensure management personnel are setting the standard for what we expect. Management should be upbeat and positive when dealing with staff and customers at all times. Giving positive feedback and encouragement must be standard operating procedure. If redirection is needed, it should be done in private only.

Second, make sure you have the correct staff in place. You can’t make people like their work if they don’t like their work. Encourage staff involvement and participation in all incentive programs. Make sure your staff members are positive and have the best interests of the dealership in mind in their daily interactions with other staff and customers.

Lastly, staff and management must be able to change to keep up with today’s fast-paced business world. While these were some of my observations, I would be interested in hearing from you — ideas that make your dealership great!

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.



  1. The key difference between the two types can be reduced to 1 word: Leadership

  2. Nice article with great practical advice all dealers should embrace. Mike made a great point as well, but I would add one word; "GOOD" leadership.

    According to a recent Gallup survey, the reality is that fewer than 20% of our "managers" have management skills and less than that have leadership capabilities. It really falls on the owners and GMs to create a positive culture in the dealership. Sadly, some owners are the source of the problem rather than being part of the solution.

    In these cases, the business operation could only improve if they would hire the right GM and back away from active management of the dealership.

  3. I meant to say - all great points Mr. Smith in my prior post, but was on small screen.

    So - GREAT POINTS Mr. Smith! Dealers need a trusted friend or advisor to come in to store and shop it - make a list of all the issues - and then take action on those negatives.

    Good Point Steve. I've been fortunate to only have good Leadership (or maybe just the smarts not to follow bad leaders).

    Bad apple will spoil the whole batch - If the whiteboard in the employee lounge has a countdown to the end of the week then you might have a problem?

    (Unless you are taking all the staff on a 'Team Building' ride - then CONGRATULATIONS! You get it!)

    Run it like a business - love it like a hobby!

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