Make your managers manage, and let them flourish

“I’m too involved. I’ve got to get the hell out of those departments!”

This was a quote from a dealership owner/operator at our last round of 20-clubs. At our 20-clubs, we identify many things within a dealership that need attention, but these items are not necessarily for the owner to tend to. You have managers to manage and “own” their departments. You pay them to do this task. Let them.

How many times do we see sales managers actually selling bikes? Why are service managers turning wrenches? In the “E-Myth Revisited,” a great book by Michael Gerber, it is discussed in great depth why small businesses fail. The “myth” is that because you are good at doing something, then you will be good at managing others (in addition to running a business) who are doing the same task. Most managers can never make the leap from doing to managing, and frequently fall back into their comfort zone … doing. This book broke down the dynamic so simply that it was required reading for our management development attendees at Lemco from 2001-07.

In 2004, I wrote an article entitled “Quarterbacks Selling Hot Dogs” for our then-Lemco Letter. I spoke about one of the best QBs in the league back then, Peyton Manning. The question posed was, “Could Peyton run up into the stands and successfully sell hot dogs?” Of course he could, as many people would want to buy a hot dog from such a star. But was that the best use of his time? Wouldn’t you rather have him leading his offense, and preparing for the next set of downs? Just because a manager is good at a task doesn’t mean that he should be doing that task.

Looking specifically at sales managers, I break down the success/failure into three buckets:

1. Deal Management (the ability to help close their employees’ customers on the floor);
2. People Management (the ability to lead, motivate and cultivate employees);
3. Process Management (the ability to adhere to best practices and manage the department by the numbers).

Most managers are very good at one of these three, decent at another and horrible at the third, all based on that manager’s background. Often times, we see sales managers good at Deal Management (good margins, volume of units, etc.), as they were most likely very successful selling bikes on the floor. As a result, DPs and GMs step in with Process Management (traffic log & CRM implementation, inventory and flooring decisions, etc). True People Management (daily one-on-ones, trend analysis to improve behaviors and performance, etc.) seems to fall by the wayside, which fuels high departmental turnover. Take a minute right now and gauge your managers on those three buckets.

“Good” managers are aware of what they are actually “good” at, and work to improve their personal deficiencies. They realize that for the department, and ultimately the store, to be successful, they must be balanced within these three buckets.

Some ideas of balanced, “good” management:

  • Managers should be looking for negative online reviews from customers. A negative review is an indication of a breakdown in the “machine” and an opportunity to enhance the customer experience.
  • Video role-playing has been the key to success for many dealers. Cameras are cheap these days, and mandating video role-playing with the staff allows for each employee (in the company of his manager) to critique his/her own performance, without blowing out a customer. Don’t role-play an entire engagement, just a step in the sales process.
  • When driving in mandated behaviors from the staff, have a philosophy of quantity, then quality. Get more names on the traffic log first, and then worry about the quality of the lead. Have more outbound calls made first, and then listen in on the quality of the calls. This instills the culture first, which, in turn, becomes habit.
  • Understand the science and the art of fashion and merchandising. Just having the stuff on the shelf isn’t going to move it. If you want to be a premium retailer, you have to look like a premium retailer. Often times we see one person responsible for the inventory and turns, while another is responsible for the staff and the selling of said product. Rarely are the salesmanship and analytical, inventory-management characteristic traits found within the same person.
  • Embrace CSI scores as opposed to telling your staff why they aren’t a true indicator of your store’s performance. Yes, we all know they are based on the number of responses from your customers. Why isn’t the manager calling each customer directly (as opposed to the employee), thanking him for the business? I wonder what the response rate would be with that personal touch? My guess is considerably higher.

Managers need to manage their departments. They need to manage the systems, employees and best practices that we know move the needle. Falling into one’s comfort zone (i.e. actually selling the bikes personally), never allows the department to flourish and creates confusion with employees. It requires someone else (typically the GM or DP) to step in and handle balance being dropped. By definition, management is getting things done through others. Train ’em. Trust ’em. Empower ’em. That earns you the right to hold ’em accountable.

Sam Dantzler is the founder of Sam’s Powersports Garage, a membership website dedicated to best practices and all-staff training. He can be reached at


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