Category Archives: Leadership

Is this a “Training Issue”…?

Nearly every week we spend training in a Dealership, we try to identify and help correct deficiencies in production, CSI and dealership employee performance. The rub is that every dealership has different issues and problems.

Sometimes it’s the training, sometimes it’s the employee and sometimes it’s the management.Is this a "Training Issue?"

And 100% of the time when there is little progress in performance or profit improvement, the dealership employees and management say “It’s a TRAINING ISSUE!” Of course, it must be a training issue because there is no way on this green earth that is could be the dealerships employees or management team.

So, let’s tackle the myth of the “Training Issue.”

Inconsistent application of processes is not a Training Issue. Once a process has been introduced, trained on and implemented, it can’t be un-introduced, un-trained and un-implemented. It can be ignored. It can be discarded. It can be disregarded.

Processes are systematic steps completed in a specific order to achieve a desired result. Once personnel have been trained on them, practiced them, implemented them and used them, training is complete.

When they are not being followed, it’s because a human being decided that they were not going to follow that process. This means, it’s not a “Training Issue. “

Lack of follow through on promises made to the Customer is not a Training Issue. As an Advisor, when I made a promise to the Customer to call them by 2:00pm with an update on their vehicle, if that did not happen, it most definitely was not because I had not been “trained.”

There may be any number of reasons (excuses) that I missed my call back time. What’s not important is the reason, what is important is the implication, not only to the Customer, but to the Service Team.

If I as a Service Advisor, do not follow through on my promise to the Customer to call them back, take care of an inquiry, make sure a part got ordered…etc., why would that Customer trust me or the Service Department to take care of their needs in the future?

That is the real consequence of lack of follow through. Customers stop coming back. And that hurts the entire dealership.  And it is most certainly not a Training Issue.

Absence of performance results is not a Training Issue.  Performance increases remain the end result of repeated application of processes. Stop applying the process, start deceasing performance. It does not matter if you are talking about a sports team; orchestra, business team or dealership team, the performance achieved is directly related to the consistent application of a process.

So, what is a “Training Issue?”

It’s when someone does not know how to do something. They require Training to understand the process, what steps need to be taken in what order, how to circumvent obstacles and how to implement what’s been taught.

As a young Advisor, I needed to be shown how to write a repair order. I needed Training to understand the steps necessary to make a piece of paper print on a printer so I could present it to the Customer for their signature. Someone had to Train me to do that.

If I did not follow the steps, a piece of paper did not print and I could not get a signature. It was not a matter of not being Trained and entirely a matter of not following the steps.

In the CarBiz, we all have processes in place to help us take care of the Customer whilst making a return on the investment of time we put into following that process. Anytime we deviate from that plan, we risk losing all that we put in plus we risk losing the Customer.The Truth

Make sure that what you believe is a Training Issue is really a Training Issue by asking the simple question “Do they know how to do what we are asking?”

Because most “Training Issues” are really “Leadership Issues.”

By Leonard Buchholz


Where does Profit Improvement start? At the Service Managers Desk, of course!

In every Dealership there is a desk. And behind that desk sits someone who has the responsibility to increase Profits.

In Fixed Ops, this person is called the Service Manager.

Typically  (when I go into a store that is not profitable), I find the person sitting behind that desk working on everything not related to increasing Profits while believing that they are working on everything related to increasing Profits.

I call it the “Theory of Un-relativity” and it goes like this.

P=ATD+PIxNC. Profits equal the Amount of Time Dedicated plus Process Implementation times the Number of Completions.

Simply, the Manager must dedicate as much time as needed every day to making sure processes are being followed and that they are being done with every Customer.

In stores that are not profitable, the Manager spends more time on things that have nothing to do with Profits and everything to do with nothing…including Managing the department…or as I stated before the “Theory of Un-relativity.” The things they are doing have no Relativity to making more Profits for the Dealership.

UP=ATW+UTxNC. UnProfitable equals the Amount of Time Wasted plus Unnecessary Tasks times the Number of Completions.

Let give you an example. I am standing in the Service Drive with a Service Manager when he is approached by the Sales Manager and informed that the tethered marketing balloon outside which normally is in position first thing in the morning is not up yet and “Could you take care of that as soon as possible.”  Unnecessary Task.

Another. SM is working in his office when he is informed that the lights on the front lot “are not lit up and can you do something about it?” Unnecessary Task.

One time, as the owner of my store had just handed me another daily task not related to Profit growth, I decided to write down all of the daily tasks that had been thrown my way over the past year just so I could get a handle on it. The list was 40 plus items and guess what…not one of them had anything to do with making more money.

Were some of them important? Yes. Necessary…no doubt about it. But at the end of the day when the Dealer Principal has “The Fin” in his or her hands and wants to know why “Fixed Ops is off by 15% and what are you going to do about it?” and you have the “But Boss, I’m so busy doing all of these other things!” excuse sputtering out of your mouth…now doesn’t that paint a pretty picture Mr./Ms. Service Manager?

By the way, when I handed the Dealer my list and asked him to specify which of those tasks were Top Priority and which were not, he actually apologized. He had no idea how many things he had “delegated” to me until I pointed it out to him.

Here are a few things you can do to get back on track making more Profits.Profit

1st, make a list of the things you are doing every day. Now separate that list into “Tasks That Make Money” and “Everything That Does Not Make Money.” Give Top Priority to Monitoring, Coaching, Training, Managing and Nothing, Zero, None, Nada Priority to Everything Else. Within a few days someone will come to you and say something like “The lot lights are out again” and then you can show them your list that makes the Dealership money and they will find someone else to ask about the lights.

2nd, share this list with your Dealer Principal or General Manager. Why? Because they forgot they told you to do half of those things and don’t remember the reason why they told you to do the other half.

3rd, learn to say No. Point out that working with your Advisor on Phone Sales Skills is way more important than stocking toilet paper in the bathroom or talking to the coffee vendor about the price of the new machine.  Stick to what makes money and makes sense.

Lastly, you and I work in the real world. If the DP drops the keys off and asks to get his demo washed and gassed, don’t show them your list. Get the demo cleaned up and gassed. Remember the 20 foot rule. Walk outside the building 20 feet and look up 20 feet and see whose name is up there.

by Leonard Buchholz

The Right Way and The Wrong Way

During the analysis and evaluation we conduct prior to starting a training program the question of ethics and standard business practices we train on usually requires some explanation. In other words, Dealer Principals and General Managers want to hear from us that we conduct our training programs ethically and professionally.

If I were to stand in a room full of Dealer Principals and ask “Who in here believes that the best way to take care of a customer is to sell extra or un-needed services?” I would venture to say that not one hand would be raised.

This misconception is a holdover from an original misrepresentation/misconception of our industry from the early beginnings. It is far past the time that we begin the process of changing the perception that people who work in the car business are only interested in taking as much money as they can using unethical business practices that prey on the public at large.

In 99% of the situations I have personally investigated where something went awry and the customer felt that they were “wronged”, I have found that almost every one of these situations was an error (and not a conscious decision) and 100% of the time it was resolved in the customers favor with little cost to the dealership.

In every dealership and within our industry we have a small percentage of people that just don’t get it, no matter what the culture, training and daily business practices that you reinforce at your dealership and it is those people we must remove permanently from our industry.

Customers are nothing more than the person standing in the mirror every morning, they are you. From Dr.Tony Alessandra “Treat other people as they want to be treated.”

All this means is dig into what the customer wants, separate those wants into needs and then identify the must haves from the needs. Communicate those must haves to the customer in a way they can understand you and do that ethically and with passion.

By Leonard Buchholz



Why “Old School” Communication is the new “Class Dismissed”

Fierce Leadership (Sketchnotes)

Fierce Leadership (Sketchnotes) (Photo credit: murdocke23)

Clearly there is a huge gap between what “we” (old school) managers and Leaders consider useful and proper communication,  motivation and Leadership techniques and what the “new” generation responds to.

There is a choice to be made.
A. Keep doing what you’ve been doing and keep getting the same results while expecting a different outcome.
B. Do something different.

In this business “transitional people” are a given. We attract people because we are the largest OJT training industry on the planet. ANYBODY can work in the Car Biz because we accept everybody.

The only people we reject (and that’s not a given either) is the people who cannot pass the smog test or background check…but I can guarantee you this…nearly half if not more reading these words do neither when hiring. It’s not an accusation or condemnation…it’s just the way it is.

So, having to deal with a generation who does not respond the same way, think the same way and act the same way should be no real surprise. What is a surprise is how much “old school” wants to hold on to the familiar and safe ways of management and Leadership style rather than adapting and overcoming this communication and Leadership gap.

Do we hold them to established Dealership standards of conduct? Yes
Do we hold them accountable to established performance goals? Yes
Do we expect professional behavior while on the job? Yes
Do we monitor and coach on a regular (daily) basis? Yes

HOW we communicate those standards of behavior and professionalism is where we need to to grow. HOW we hire and train is where we need to change. HOW we grow our own pool of qualified and professional people is HOW we overcome the challenge of finding qualified people.

This generation, like any other generation, still wants to Succeed. Just not in the manner we have defined Success! Identify and qualify that definition and you will have the employee you want and an employee you can count in in the future.

Keep applying “Old School” Communication and Leadership techniques and it will be “Class Dismissed”.

4 Challenging Employees and What To Do About Them

Employees are the life of any organization. We spends hours recruiting, screening and interviewing them. After we have hired them, we spend more time training, coaching and monitoring them.

And when it’s all said and done, we like to think that we have contributed to the Dealership’s future and had a hand in weaving the very fabric of that Dealership.

And in every Dealership there are some employees we label as “The Challenges”.

These people make us wonder why we became managers.

Maybe you inherited them… maybe you hired them and maybe… you managed them into the underachievers they are.

Whatever the situation, you have got to find a way to transform them from the under performing underachievers into consistent contributors to your Team.

Here are 4 of the most Challenging individuals and some strategies in guiding them through their transformation into Performing Team Members.

Before we go too far, there is one rule you must be aware of.

You can’t fix their Attitude. They own it. It belongs to them. The only way it changes is through their thinking.

What is an Attitude? Let’s define it before we move on.
I like this definition, see if you don’t agree.

An Attitude is a thought process. It is a reflection of a person’s internal reaction to their external environment.

Attitudes are influenced by emotions, actions, reactions, events and people. They can be extremely fragile or incredibly strong. And they change constantly in some people.

If you spend your time trying to change the “Attitude” instead of focusing on the “Behavior” you will die a slow death in Leadership hell smashed against the rocks of “The Unchanged Cliffs” much like a beached ship washed upon a coral reef.

Here are the 4 most common underachievers.

The Axe Grinder. This person exists in every Dealership. They are the one person that had something happen to them in their employment and they believe the Dealership or the manager had a hand in it. They are the ultimate “conspiracy theorist” when it comes to changes within the Dealership. To them, everything that has happened to them was the result of “poor management” and if they ran things everything would be perfect.

Instead of focusing on a solution, they would rather focus on telling everyone how “messed up” the Dealership or you, the manager is. They prefer to carry around their sad tale regaling coworkers from time to time with their own private philosophy and “management style.” (This is the “What I would do if” scenario)

They can become quite bitter towards the Dealership and even other co-workers if they are allowed to continue with their Axe Grinding.

The Fix. It’s a 3 step process. 1st, identify the Grinders main problem or issue. This can be extremely difficult to get to because, as with most Grinders, they usually have a list of things that are wrong. You need to focus on the items on their list that are repairable and can be addressed. Get them to acknowledge that  there are  things that will never be fixed and to put them away for good.

2nd. Ask for their help in resolving the issue(s). This is the buy in. You can’t move to step 3 without getting the Grinder to say that the solution you both agree on will take care of the issue to their satisfaction.

3rd. Describe the course of action you will take and describe the behavior that you expect from the Grinder from this point forward. Notice I did not say anything about “changing their Attitude” or “shape up.” If you want them to stop talking to everyone about everything that has ever happened then tell them that it is part of the agreement. One final thought here is that they agree to bring to your attention other problems before they get out of hand and they have a solution they believe will solve the problem.

The Agenda Maker. These folks have something to prove. They are totally focused on getting something done for themselves, quite often, at other people’s or the Dealership’s expense. They are not team players and do not have anyone’s interests in mind but themselves. In order to get what they want, they have been known to undermine other coworkers or you.

Quite often they are brilliant in what they do. Many Dealership’s rely on their performance. The numbers they produce can make or break a month or even a quarter. For many managers it becomes a matter of managing the lesser of two evils.

Every Dealership needs performance, and yet every Dealership requires cooperation and harmony to excel. Your internal battle is “For performance and numbers, do I allow this person to run roughshod over my department? Treat other workers poorly? Maybe even become arrogant to the point of openly defying management?”

The Fix. This includes identifying the behavior and setting some boundaries for this individual. By letting them know that you do not nor will you allow them to set the pace or tone for your department, you are also setting the expectations for their continued employment.

Tell this person that you appreciate their efforts, and will continue to support them in the performance of their duties. At the same time, let them know that you require cooperation and that if they want to play their own tune they may have to find another band.

Ask them to help build the department or business. Ask them to help train and support other team members. In some cases they are actually looking for additional duties and would like to have a hand in developing the business.

If they are not willing to play by the rules, they leave.

Mad Bombers. These are the quiet people. They never say much. (In public) They can be aloof to the point of unfriendliness (sometimes).

Now, some of you are saying, so what? Hey, at least they are being quiet, and doing their job… what more do you want?

This is the problem with these employees. One day, they come into your office and say “I want to file a complaint” or “I’ve taken another position” or “This is a hostile work environment” or any number of other bomb drops.

Because they feel they are not involved in the Success and Daily Dealership Business they never tell you what is going on and they have little loyalty. The bombs they drop often are the result of years of feeling “stepped on” or “I’m not appreciated.”

The Fix. Identify them and ask them for their input regularly. Get them involved and talking about what they are involved in. These folks will require a little more MBWA time and will open up if they feel you are genuinely interested in them. Here is a hint. You can learn at lot about your Dealership by talking to the quiet folks rather than the noisy folks. They are generally great observers.

Help them become better participators by involving them in more daily activities. You might consider starting a Toastmasters or speaking club in your Dealership, as these folks will benefit from speaking in public.
Make sure you involve them in making decisions and policy by openly asking for their input and suggestions.

Paychecker. These folks are here for the money. They perform their duties as well as anyone else; however, they will not perform above the call of duty.

They never volunteer for anything, yet are first in line for the food at the annual Dealership picnic. You can count on their coming to work, and not much else. They do not have much loyalty, and can become job hoppers.

They are also the “first” complainers. Every time something new comes about or requires a little more effort than before, they complain. Then they put their hand out.

In some cases, they can become the “malicious obedience” or “selective obedience” employees. They never doing anything outright that would get them fired for say malfeasance or performance, but they just tip toe the line right on the edge.

The Fix. This is a 3 step process.

1st. Let the Paychecker know that they are performing at an “average” level. Help them see that meeting minimum levels only guarantees that they will have minimum paychecks and that continued performance at average will mean that they get replaced first should the need arise.

2nd. Identify goals that can be met and achieved by the Paychecker that will lead to increased levels of production and pay. Help them see a new vision of them that will happen if  they commit to an increased level of performance.

3rd. Plan to review with them monthly for the first 90 days and see what progress they have made on their goals. Once they see that you are really interested in their achievements, they will begin to come around.
If they persist in maintaining minimum levels, give them duties and tasks that reflect those levels. If they wish to always remain a “Paychecker”, chances are you will not have them in your employ too much longer, as they are always looking for the BBD. (Bigger, Better Deal)

One final thought.
There is not a “one all fixes all” solution for these underachievers.

It requires some serious thought on your part, designed implementation and regular follow-up. (Persistence) You can’t have one meeting with any of them  and expect that all will be perfect from this day forward. It doesn’t work that way.

Take the time to identify the underachiever, make a plan that gives you and your Dealership an opportunity to help someone make a change for the better and follow through.

Grasshopper Pie

A traveling salesman had come to the end of a long day and was very hungry. He had not made many sales and was feeling a little frustrated with his results. He decided to stop and get something to eat and mull over his next step.

He stopped in town, parked on Main Street and looked around. He found two restaurants side by side.  Above each there was a sign.

The one on the left said “Food, more expensive but worth it” and the one on the right said “Food, average, cheap and will fill you up.” The man stood for a moment and looked at both signs. He weighed his choices and after deliberating for a few minutes, chose the restaurant on the right.

He stepped in and was greeted by the maitre’d who showed him to the only table in the place. It was in the center of the restaurant and was circled by chairs with people sitting and sipping cool drinks with umbrellas and limes.

He thought it was rather odd and asked the maitre’d who all the people were sitting and sipping. The maitre’d replied “Oh, don’t worry about them. They are just here to see the show.”

The man asked “What show?”

The maître’d replied “The show that starts in a few minutes. What can I get you to drink?”

The man placed his drink order and waited somewhat nervously as he wondered what sort of restaurant he had wandered into. The waiter returned a few minutes later and placed the drink on the table and said “Hello, I’m your waiter this evening. Let me describe our special for you.”

The man thought to himself “Well, at least this is normal. Thank goodness.”

The waiter said “For our special this evening the chef has prepared an average dish using locally available average ingredients and prepared it using only average tasting sauces and wrapped it up in dough made only with average flour and served on a plate with average bread.”

The man thought to himself “Well, that does not sound too bad” and said to the waiter “I’ll have it.”

The waiter replied “Very good sir” and walked away. The man noticed that suddenly all of the people in the restaurant had moved a little closer to his one and only table. This seemed a little odd to him and made a mental note to ask the waiter when he came back with his food.

In a few minutes the waiter returned carrying a large tray with a steaming pie in the middle of it. He proceeded to set it down on the table. The man looked at the pie and said “Hmm, this looks good, what is it called”

The waiter replied “Grasshopper Pie.”

The man said “What? Grasshopper Pie? I’ve never heard of it! What’s in it?”

The waiter replied “Locally available average ingredients mixed with an average sauce and wrapped in average dough.”

The man thought about it for a second and said “Ok, I’ll try it” and with that took his fork and started to eat. As he took the first mouthful, he noticed that the other people sitting in the restaurant were quiet and watching him with renewed interest. And they had stopped sipping their limed up umbrella drinks.

The man chewed for just a second or two and then jumped up while spitting out the bite he had just taken and started wiping his mouth furiously with his napkin as if it were on fire. He then grabbed his drink and took a long gulp trying to wash the taste out of his mouth.

He yelled for the waiter.

The waiter returned and the man said “What is this?” pointing at the dish in front of him.

“What you ordered sir” the waiter replied. The man then pointed again and gestured with his fork “That is not what I asked you. What is in this pie?”

The waiter replied “Locally available average ingredients mixed with an average sauce and wrapped with average dough. Why, is there something wrong with it?”

The man replied somewhat angrily “Yes! It tastes terrible!” Immediately all of the other people sitting in the restaurant started passing money back and forth amongst themselves.

The man now really angry said “And who are all of these people passing money around?”

The waiter replied “Well sir, these are the people here for the show I told you about and they have been betting on whether or not you would eat your dish. I must say sir; there are a lot of them whom you have made very happy, including me. We all bet that you would not eat more than a bite of the pie.”

The waiter gestured to one particular group of people “Those people over there in that small group, they bet that you would eat more than one bite. Only those two people (pointing across the room) bet that you would eat the whole pie. They always bet on the longshot. Will there be anything else?”

The man was really angry by now and said “This is outrageous. All I wanted was something to eat at a cheap price. And now look at me. I am still hungry, the center of a show and I’m really angry! That dish was terrible!”

The waiter replied “What did you expect sir. You ordered Grasshopper Pie.”

The moral of the story…when you are hungry for change it’s better to pay more for what you really want rather than try to make a terrible choice into an average result. Remember that many people who know you will gladly watch and bet on the outcome with no other interest than their own self amusement and lastly, Grasshopper Pie is really what it sounds like and it does taste terrible. You get what you pay for.

What 3 Components Do You Need To Succeed In The Car Biz? ASK And You Shall Receive!

Communication Skills Lab

Communication Skills Lab (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That’s right! There are  3 Components you need to Succeed in the Car Biz!


A strong Attitude will get you through the day even though you may feel like giving up. Attitude smooths out the ups and downs of a not so normal day and enhances a great day! With a great Attitude you can complete all of your tasks in a friendly and helpful manner.  The benefit to you…HAPPY CUSTOMERS! Your Attitude makes their day better!

Don’t believe me? Just walk around all day with a frown, growl and use one word answers and exhibit aggressive or apathetic body language and facial expressions and see if you don’t have a meeting with your Manager at the end of the day…if they are paying attention.

Better yet, have a meeting with Grandma Jones and the Manager because you had a case of retinal crapitus. That sounds like a great way to end the day, wouldn’t you agree?

Attitude can be fickle without proper maintenance. It requires adjustment from time to time much as a car requires a tune up and oil change. It needs to be fed  good material just like a good meal nourishes the body. Reading and listening to positive examples is the way to do it. Anyone can build a good Attitude with the proper material.

Start with the classics like Earl Nightengale, Drucker, and the like. Then you can plug in the more recent authors like Covey, Gitomer, Rackham, Ziglar, Cardone, Anderson. The point is to start reading and feeding your new Attitude!

The second item you possess free and clear is your SKILL SET!

These days an effective Skill Set will include assertive communication skills, dynamic listening skills, anger management skills, organization skills and creative thinking skills. All of these are necessary to complete everyday tasks in the modern Service Department and compete with the competition.

You can start developing your Skill Set the same way you develop your Attitude, by reading and listening. Practically every vehicle made today has a cd player or mp3 connection. Turn your vehicle into a rolling university. It’s the best quiet time we have during the day normally!

You can purchase cd sets on all of the above mentioned topics and a lot more at several websites or your local book store.

Start with an area you feel you need a little help in. You will gain a whole new view and way of looking at things just by gaining the confidence in your new skill or refreshing an old one. Keep working your way through communication and listening skills. Soon, you’ll have the confidence and skill level you need to Excel in the Service Drive!

Lastly, you’ll need to increase your Knowledge!

In the car business, this would seem to be an easy thing to do. Every year the new models come out and the factory starts pumping up the Sales Department with tons of material on models, warranty, etc. Hey, Mr. and Ms. Service Advisor, if the Knowledge is good for Sales it must be good for you too!

There are other ways. Take a class, sign up for an online Training Program, get a   new Process for write-ups…start increasing your Knowledge!

And, Oh, by the way, you can try and “do it all at once” or just do it the same way you learned everything so far…a little at a time. Just be consistent.

These 3 Key Components of Success will set you up to make more, do more and be more in your day. Start with your ASK and pretty soon you will be on the Receiving end of everything you want.