Save Yourself!

If you are looking for a knight in shining armor to save your sales team, don’t.  Your savior will not arrive on a white horse. Knights in shining armor are for fairy tales. The rescue that you need will arrive in an SUV that requires regular monthly payments and has two car seats strapped in the back.   An overwhelming number of the people driving those SUV’s are recently finding themselves out of work.  They need to make car payments.  They need to take care of the little bodies that ride in those car seats and they need a job to make all that happen.

A year ago, the national unemployment rate was at 3.6 percent.  This type of economic climate made finding the very best employees extremely competitive and challenging.  However, with the current unemployment rate hovering around 11 percent, not including the recent college and high school grads, it provides an enormous opportunity.  If you have an employee who is not returning or one that underperforms or is simply hard to work with, now is the time to make your move.

With the onset of the coronavirus, most of us have had more time to examine at our staffs and their production levels.  We are finding that as we start the re-opening phase, some of our employees either do not want to return to work or can’t return because of the various dilemmas produced by the virus.  For example, in-home, on-line school for the kids, means that parents have to juggle the roles of teacher and babysitter, while trying to accomplish their professional obligations.  This creates a complicated employment situation that does not always fare well in the areas of productivity and work quality.

Now more than ever, we need the very best team in place who can deliver great results in a challenging environment. There are literally millions of highly skilled, unemployed people ready to jump at the chance to earn the income and lifestyle that the automotive industry offers.

If you have been in business or managed a business for more than a year, at some point you have wondered, if you have the right people in place. Today’s demanding times actually offer tremendous opportunity to those businesses who are willing to recognize the potential and seize the moment.

The following steps will help to guide you on the road to finding new and better employees:


Step 1. – Take a real hard look at your current staff

Look at each employee’s contributions including, production levels, work habits, team participation, ability to show-up on time, readiness to work.  Ask yourself, are they working with you because they truly contribute, or are they part of your team because it was easier to work with them, rather than find a replacement?  Are they here because you have a great personal relationship with them? Are they here because they have been with you for a long time? I am a loyal person, especially to employees that are loyal to me. But loyalty is more than just showing up on time and being easy to get along with. You are running a business.  If you are the business owner or manager, you owe it to all of your employees to provide them with everything they need to maximize their opportunity. Allowing an underperformer to stay on-board, when you have other options is not fair to those who show up and give their all. If they perform to your level of expectation, great! If not, retrain, reassign, or replace.


Step 2. – Place an ad

Even if you feel you have a perfect team of employees, place an ad.  Employment ads are cheap, and you never know who might answer them. I found one of my best salespeople ever, during the last recession when unemployment was at its highest levels. When I placed the ad, I didn’t really need a salesperson, but I thought, what if I place it and the best salesperson ever responds? She did and she is still with me. I believe that if the recession never happened, I likely never would have found this amazing employee because she would not have been looking. Placing that ad when I did, really paid-off big for me and my company.


Step 3. – Let’s face it

The auto industry does not have the best reputation. How many people have you ever heard say at the birth of their child, “She is going to be the best service advisor ever, when she grows up!” I bet zero. As a matter of fact, my own mother still thinks I am going to burn in hell because I sold cars for a few months, a very long time ago. So how do you attract the highest caliber of people with that negative perception floating around? You write ads that explain what you have to offer the candidate and not what you want them to do or be for you. I have helped many dealerships find and hire employees that would have never identified the auto industry as a place to enjoy a great career.  I did it by explaining and showing the candidate, the type of lifestyle they could enjoy by becoming part of this great industry. (In a future article I will show you exactly how to write these ads.) I have been thanked more times than I can count by people who have appreciated my leading them into a career in the auto industry because of all its rich benefits – a career they would have never considered prior.


Step 4. Don’t be afraid to be flexible in your offer

You may have to adjust your pay scale or benefits package to bring a great person on board. You will receive responses to your ad from a far more diverse group, than you ever have before.  Some are likely going to be looking for different forms of income. For example, I once helped a dealership sign an employee by simply listening to what she was saying in her interview. Her big concern was having someone there to meet her kids at the bus in the afternoon. The dealership did not offer childcare. It looked like it was going to be a deal breaker – until we got creative.  We learned that she had insurance through her husband’s work and would not need insurance through the dealership.  We repurposed that benefit into straight income that she could use for childcare.


Step 5.  Don’t think solely about your department

In desperate times, people will answer any ad because they have to work and are willing to do whatever it takes to survive. If a person applies, who is not a fit for your department, they may be a good match for another part of your business. One of the best bookkeepers I ever employed, answered an ad I placed for a customer service rep position. Within minutes of talking to her, I knew she did not have the personality or skill to be a customer service rep.  However, I noticed that she had an accounting background and I offered her the bookkeeping job that I also needed to fill. She worked with me for eight years and only left when her husband got transferred to another state.

Having a job and being employed has become a major issue for many Americans. At this writing, it is being projected that by the end of September, 25 percent of all restaurants will close and never reopen. They are predicting that 20 percent of hairstylist have executed their last haircut. Nearly 50 percent of the gyms will never reopen. Major retailers who operate in malls all across the country are filing for bankruptcy and closing stores by the thousands.  This means that there are thousands left with no income and few job prospects. I could go on here, but with just these industries alone, there are thousands who possess the skills or could be taught the skills, to be the best service advisors, auto sales professionals, parts employees… You get the idea.

Many of these people have been out of work for months and would jump at the prospect of having a rewarding career in the auto industry.  They will gladly learn the word tracks and processes you want them to use.  They will walk around cars on service drives and they will get the job done. They are on the verge of losing everything they have, and you can provide them with a chance to save themselves. And more than save themselves, you can help them to thrive in ways they never considered before.  The average service advisor makes about $70,000 annually and 20 percent in the field make $100,000 or more. That is an income significantly higher than the income provided by the jobs I mentioned above.

I am not suggesting that you go buy a hatchet and totally replace every employee you have. Many of you reading this have great employees that deliver maximum results. But, unfortunately many of you do not. These are unprecedented times providing an unprecedented occasion to upgrade your staff. To fail to take advantage of this opportunity would be a disservice to yourself, your business, your employees, and especially to your customers. Don’t expect a knight in shinning armor.  That only happens in fairy tales and the current economic environment ain’t no fairy tale.  Be smart.  Recognize that extreme challenges can provide extreme rewards. Be brave. Save yourself and you will be saving others.  Maybe you will get that fairy tale ending after all!