Leadership Strategy+Planning

Flipping the Switch

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Pointing out the problem and identifying ways to fix it are all well and good, but the hard work is everything that comes after. Jerome George, parts and service director of operations, works closely with each and every single person in fixed operations to make sure that the roadmap that he creates is followed and the dealership is pulled out of the hole that it is in. By setting deadlines for action items, checking in constantly and making his expectations clear, George has been able to turn three dealerships’ fixed operations around and is frequently sought after by other fixed operation directors for advice.

The roadmap and the process will be different based on the particular issue, but George takes us through his process—from finding the problem to coaching staff to success—for one of the most common and most important trouble areas in fixed operations, in his opinion.

Identifying the Issue

The first step in creating the road map is identifying the issue that needs to be addressed. George spends time in each department monitoring the day to day operations, as well as going over numbers that help reveal what is driving the issue. Each issue requires a different approach, but for this example, let’s use an advisor with a low CSI, which is an issue that can be identified from reviews and customer satisfaction surveys.

“With Toyota, surveys are sent directly to you for CSI so you can review them right away. We can look at the exact area that scored low,” George says.

Getting Buy-in

Identifying an issue is all well and good, but without a commitment to turn it around from the staff, the problem won’t go anywhere. George, throughout his years of experience, has found a way to get his employees behind his plan.

“I look at myself as a football coach,” George says. “What I mean by that is that a good coach continues to develop, grow and purify the team. If there’s a player that’s not playing the game to the best of his or her abilities or not trying to change their ways, they may have to find a new player,” George explains.

George says he tries to show people the light when he gives the roadmap and show them proof that the store is underperforming. Once that happens, it’s up to them whether or not they want to adjust and help find a solution.

“Sure, you’ll have people that will say, ‘This isn’t going to work,’ or, ‘I’m not going to do that,’” George says. “Those are the people that can’t work for you—regardless of how long they’ve been with the company.”

If there’s someone on the team that’s close-minded and not willing to grow, George says it’s time. Throughout his time in the industry, George has let master technicians go. He’s let advisors that had been with the company for over 15 years go.

“Those people begin to think they’re entitled,” George says. “You have to overcome that and unfortunately, sometimes the only way to overcome that is to replace.”  

Setting the Expectation

Each roadmap has a timeline for each of the action items. George has his own set of timelines for himself so he can check in and make sure all of the dates are being met.

“Certain things have to be accomplished by my dates so I can ensure that I’m staying on track for the goals that I’ve set, it’s the same for them,” George explains.

Let’s circle back to our service advisor with the low CSI score. For that advisor, George will create a roadmap that has guidelines for improving this along with specific dates to check in and dates that the score needs to be raised by. For an issue that’s as important as CSI, George has a 60-day turnaround period, meaning if this issue isn’t fixed in this time period, the person is let go. Other issues will have a longer time frame, such as 90 days.

Monitoring Progress

Holding someone’s job on the line unless he or she turns something around in a certain amount of time may seem harsh, but during that time period, George consistently meets with that person to monitor progress.

“It’s not just, ‘I’m giving you 60 days and if in the end, it’s not better, you won’t have a job.’ We’re touching base,” George says.

During the 60-day period, George points out areas that the customer was not happy with and asks the associate to go through his or her process and way of thinking to work toward a better solution.

“We’ll go through the scenario and we’ll do a bit of role playing,” George says. “If the advisor is not thinking of a good way to handle it, I’ll give them a word tracker that they need to be utilizing or a process that’s been effective.”

Coaching to Success

The goal is never to replace, but in order to be successful, George needs to see results, which is why he holds his team accountable and makes it clear what he expects of them and what will happen if that goal is not reached. That being said, he makes sure that he’s everyone’s biggest cheerleader within the dealership.

“I keep a positive, upbeat attitude at all times,” George says of his leadership style. “I’m always in the same mood.”

George is all about getting people to think like managers, which is part of the reason he places such an emphasis on training and understanding financial documents.

“I want the guy that wants my job and will use me to help him develop to the next level,” George says. “If I can get them developed into the mindset of a manager, then they can make the most positive decision for the business and how it will impact their bottom line.”  


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