Becky's blog

A New Year Requires New Goals

Januray 21, 2008 With the advent of every new year, most of us make new resolutions. Usually, they involve something that might improve our health: we will lose ten pounds (or more!), or cut out fried foods, or cut down on coffee, or quit smoking, or exercise more. Over the years, unfortunately, we’ve learned that our resolutions are made to be broken. No one holds us accountable for our failure to keep them. When no one cares about our success in such matters, we become lax in our efforts, and then we cease to put forth any effort at all. Little to nothing is changed. Once again, we settle for the status quo.

Dealerships and managers often make new resolutions, too. But, as happens with our personal ones, they quickly fail. Why? Because they are too general in nature. Because they are seldom written down or discussed or taken seriously. And, because no one holds anyone accountable for their achievement. Dealers, sales and finance managers say, “Let’s all work harder this year. Let’s sell more cars. Let’s sell more products. Let’s see if we can go over our quota this month.” Then they nod and initiate enthusiastic high-fives and pat each other on the back. This works . . . for about a minute! Once again, they settle for the status quo.

How can this year be different from all the others for your dealership? First of all, require attendance at a group meeting. Ensure that everyone involved understands that business resolutions are not goals. Resolutions are simply declarations that individuals in your shop want or hope to do. They are usually general in nature, they seldom include an action plan, and little to no thought is given to the long-term benefit of their achievement. Declare the “resolution” that your dealership will make no more resolutions! Pull out a white board and assign someone to take careful notes. From now on, your dealership is in the business of creating a detailed roadmap. This roadmap contains business goals that state specific, reasonable, and achievable targets or objectives. They are detailed and results-oriented. They are put into writing using active verbs: by the end of the month, Smith Cars will have increased its customer base by ten percent; within six months, Smith Cars will have surpassed its current sales quota by ten percent; by the end of the fiscal year, Smith Cars will have captured forty percent of the local market for sales of pick-up trucks. Use realistic, but somewhat aggressive numbers. Your new “great” goals should be challenging, without being impossible.

In order to ensure such goals are reached, of course, more is involved than merely talking about them. In other words, your dealership’s new business goals must also involve clear thinking about the action steps required to accomplish them in a clear-cut timeframe. They must be written down, agreed upon by all involved, and assigned to particular personnel. Any changes in company policies or methods should be clearly related to important, strategic business objectives, otherwise the attention of management will wane. The achievement of these goals will require dedication, ambition, and accountability by everyone concerned. It doesn’t work for only one or two people to work toward their fulfillment. Everyone must be involved. Everyone must follow the roadmap. No detours. No stopping by the wayside to “relax.” If a wrong turn is taken by one employee, the others must pull him back onto the straight road.

Once the new goals are established, action steps assigned to every employee for their execution, and a timeframe set for fulfillment, the real work begins. Weekly or monthly meetings must be set for discussion of progress. Goals are meaningless, unless they are attained. Why did the action plan work? Why did it fail? How has the achievement or lack of achievement of each goal affected progress, company morale, determination to forge ahead with the changes? Measure the progress. Review the goals. Revise the goals, if necessary. Make new ones, building on those that were achieved. Determine how to keep up the momentum.

One other requirement will ensure that everyone is working on the same page: proper and continuous training. Goals cannot succeed, if personnel don’t have the proper tools. Don’t assume that simply because they have the titles of “salesman,” “sales manager,” or “finance manger” they fully know and understand how to best execute their responsibilities. Times have changed. Too often, people don’t change their methods. Provide the know-how and the ongoing education. There is no substitute for education.

Measureable goals can be tracked and their progress discussed. Get everyone to share ideas and methods and problems. Encourage communication in weekly meetings involving everyone who is impacted by or driving the process An anonymous businessman once said, “I have never seen a poorly-structured change succeed or a well-structured one fail. I have seen well-structured changes poorly communicated, with the result being pain on the way to the change; I’ve also seen badly-structured changes beautifully executed, with the result that no one changes.”

So, in the nutshell, right now, gather your troops and clearly define measurable goals for the year. Detail the action steps required to reach each goal. Put it all into writing in order to gauge progress. Don’t forget to set target dates or to record your results.

Ken Austin runs a motivational Web site. His stated goal is to assist interested readers in building self-confidence and self-esteem. He wrote an article regarding the setting of business objectives. He says that the goals of businesses and individuals alike “should be SMART . This means that they should be S pecific, M easurable, A ttainable, R ealistic and T ime Based.” Think about how your dealership can use Austin ‘s suggestion to advantage.

The wisdom of Seneca, a Roman philosopher and statesman who tutored and advised Emperor Nero, is still quoted and appropriate for today’s market. He said, “Our plans miscarry, because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.” Aim to make 2008 the most profitable year your dealership has ever experienced and know exactly how to go about it, because you have established a roadmap that works.

The Automotive Dealership Institute is a Scottsdale, AZ-based automotive management training facility that specializes in educating the next generation of Finance and Insurance managers and service advisors. ADI is approved by the State of Arizona Board for Private Postsecondary Education. For more information, call (877) 998-7200 or visit www.autodealerinstitute.com .

Becky Chernek, president and founder of Chernek Consulting, LLC has enjoyed an exemplary sales career spanning almost two decades, and experienced every aspect of the car sales process. Over the last several years, Ms. Chernek has worked with hundreds of automotive dealerships, including JM&A and AutoNation. For more information, call 404-276-4027 or visit www.ccielearningcenter.com or www.chernekconsulting.com.