Is it Marketing, the Manufacturer or Leadership? – August 2005
By Sean Wolfington
Take a look at your dealership, think about other places you’ve worked and other organizations you know and ask yourself what is it that fuels their success?
Is it market conditions? Inventory mix? Franchise number and type? Number of rooftops? Marketing strategy? While there are many factors that contribute to whether a dealership will thrive or flounder in the industry today, it’s leadership (or lack thereof) that will make or break a store. Leadership is about implementing new ideas. Whether you’ve been in the business five years or 50, leaders learn quickly that it’s important to continually change themselves. They stay flexible and seek to continually improve themselves and those around them. Leaders appeal to higher ideals and values of followers. In doing so, they model the values themselves and use charismatic methods to attract people.
A leader in the automotive industry emerges from being able to identify and serve the fundamental needs, aspirations and values of the customer. Leaders engage their customers and their stakeholders by: developing a vision, selling the vision, finding a way forward and leading the change.
Developing the vision
Leadership starts with the development of a vision, a view of the future that will excite both employees and customers. This vision may be developed by the leader, by the senior team or may emerge from a broad series of discussions. The important factor is the dealer and the leadership team buy into it completely.
Selling the vision
It’s not enough to create the vision; you have to sell it. Selling the vision isn’t something that happens once and bam it’s sold. Instead, a leader finds that he or she is constantly selling and reselling the vision. This takes energy and commitment, as few people will immediately buy into a radical vision, and some will join the show much more slowly than others. The leader takes every opportunity and will use whatever works to convince others to own the vision. In order to create followers, the leader has to be very careful in creating trust. The personal integrity of the leader is a critical part of the package they are selling. In effect, they are selling themselves as well as the vision.
Finding the way forward
To adapt and thrive in the ever-changing automotive industry, the leader is constantly seeking the way forward. Some leaders know the way and simply want others to follow them. Others do not have a ready strategy, but will happily lead the exploration of possible routes to success in bringing the vision to life.
The route forward may not be obvious and may not be plotted in details, but with a clear vision, the direction will always be known. Thus finding the way forward can be an ongoing process of course correction.
Leading the charge
The final stage is to remain up-front and central during the action. Leaders are always visible. They show by their attitudes and actions how everyone else should behave. They also make continued efforts to motivate and rally their followers.
It is their unswerving commitment as much as anything else that keeps people going, particularly through the darker times when some may question whether the vision can ever be achieved. The leader seeks to infect his or her followers again and again with a high level of commitment to the vision.
One of our goals is to help dealers clarify their vision, sell it to those around them and create a tactical plan to move the dealership forward. We leave it to them to lead the charge, and as a result, they fi nd themselves selling more cars, making more money and having more fun while the competition is left in the dust.
Sean Wolfington is the owner of BZResults.com. He can be contacted at 866.802.5753, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.