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December 2017
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Accomplishing results through and with your associates!
John Walker
John Walker

The highly successful dealer principals, general managers and department managers learned long ago that to get tasks done they must work through and with employees. There is an old axiom that states the best way to get yourself promoted is to hire someone who through their constant efforts will push you up the ladder!

There are numerous methods by which the productive dealer or manager achieves results from their personnel. Let your employees know that they are valued. Employees will recognize their value by the manner in which they are treated, by the level of trust that is put in them, by the amount of involvement they are allowed and by the recognition that they receive.

If you want your customers treated like kings and queens, then treat your employees like royalty!

Employees should be treated in the same way that the manager would want to be treated. This means that you, as a manager are always courteous, always honest and always willing to listen to your employees. Personnel policies, rules, regulations and management techniques should all reflect respect for the employees. This should include the reasons why certain rules exist, etc. Remember that one of the major motivating factors for personnel is their being in on the decision making process. This applies across the board to every employee, without regard to their particular position or status.

Personnel want to perform! It is crucial for management and staff to trust each other. Managers must believe that workers want to be productive and want to participate fully in the dealership’s organization. On the other side, employees must believe that their managers (leaders) have their best interest at heart. This kind of trust doesn’t happen by itself. By nature (experience), employees are usually cautious until trustworthiness has been demonstrated. Fortunately, if managers demonstrate the right traits, trustworthiness will be evident. There are several very important traits that encourage trust on the part of a dealership’s personnel.

Open information is an important trait indicating trust. This is particularly true between general managers and department managers. There is a definite need to share department financial information with managers. A manager’s job, which is to make a profit by running an individual department is tough enough, but is made even more difficult if they do not receive the financial information necessary to measure and monitor the success of that department. A successful dealer and manager will let everyone in on information pertaining to the dealership, department and the individual position. Encourage and facilitate information exchange. Encourage questions and recommendations for improvement.

Successful managers are patient and tolerant. They will accept (but not ignore) honest mistakes. They will guide employees in correcting their mistakes and in avoiding future mistakes. The successful manager will help their personnel learn from their mistakes.

An effective manager treats employees with fairness and consistency. This manager will treat employees equally; they will be fair, impartial and consistent. This manager will also be honest with their employees. This type of manager won’t make promises that can’t possibly be kept. This manager will be accountable to employees.

There of course is always the possibility that a manager’s trust in their employees will be abused. However, the benefits in productivity and commitment that you will receive the majority of the time from your employees will far outweigh any negative impacts that trust, fairness and consistency create within the dealership.

Your personnel want to have some input, some part in the decision making process in order to feel that they have a degree of ownership in their jobs. To establish a participatory work place, a dealer principal or department manager must: 1) solicit communication, 2) listen, 3) provide feedback and 4) share the power.

In addition to investing the time and energy to explain the whys and the ways of the dealership’s goals to staff and personnel, dealer principals and department managers must be willing to make the communication process a two-way street. Of course, this means that managers must listen to what their personnel are saying. Sometimes what the employees want and what management thinks they want are two very different things, as we have discussed in earlier articles concerning what really motivates personnel.

To instill a feeling of cooperation, managers should share some decision making power with employees. Giving employees a say in how things are done is the second most important motivator. While principals and managers should make decisions about dealership and department policies and budgets, employee groups should be able to, at the very least, have some say in what happens in their end of the business. Employee input is critical to the financial strength of the dealership. After all it is through and with the dealership personnel that all tasks will be accomplished.

The genuine key motivating factor with employees is recognition. It should be further recognized that this recognition does not necessarily always require financial recognition sometimes a simple “thank you” is quite enough. Share the rewards of mutual efforts with all those involved. Install a formal recognition program -Employee of the Month type program. Many of the most successful equipment dealers have found that their recognition programs are most effective if they undergo frequent updating and change. As an example, one month the award for the employee of the month might be tickets to a ball game and the next month, it might be dinner for two at the employee’s favorite restaurant or tickets to a major local event.

Praise employees who have completed a difficult task, gone beyond the normal daily routine, provided additional customer satisfaction, have been cooperative and pleasant under pressure or have been supportive to programs or other departments or employees. Praise is easy to give, doesn’t cost anything and does wonders for morale. Use praise often in your dealership and see what an effective motivator it truly is. Always remember to give credit where credit is due!

Successful and effective principals and managers will always know what is going on in the dealership and in the department’s area of responsibility! Many successful equipment dealers use a form of what is called management by walking around, or as they say in Australia “walking about.” This is a process of getting managers out of their offices to look at their operations first hand, either within the dealership or out into the field. It is an essential ingredient to managing people, especially if the managers have never worked on the line or in the field, or if it has been a long time since they have done either.

For a department manager this may be just listening and watching how the phones are being answered, how the customer is treated over the phone or from behind the counter. Is suggestive/related selling taking place? Is the customer being taken care of courteously? For the service manager it means seeing how the job is finished. Cleaning out the cab of a backhoe, washing the windows on the cab before delivery can be an effective factor of customer satisfaction. For the sales manager it may mean calling on accounts with the sales person, listening and watching for customer reaction and feedback. For the dealer principal it means watching for clues indicating strengths and weaknesses within the dealership.

One of the major benefits of developing the walk-about process is to obtain first-hand information. In order to get the kind of information that reports can’t measure, managers need to see for themselves by going around the layers of management and getting a feel for the factors that can impact the equipment dealer’s success.

By using management by walk-about, a dealer principal or department manger becomes visible and immediately accessible to employees. Your personnel appreciate a manager they can relate to, someone who presents themselves as unpretentious and easy to talk to and this all helps to achieve an atmosphere of confidence and trust.

Walk-about can provide direct feedback by talking directly with employees and this can open up valuable, but previously untapped, resources. This assists the dealer or manager in picking up on ideas and problems that need attention.

Once again, these are but suggestions for achieving results through and with your dealership personnel. The key person in this entire scenario is you the dealer principal or you the department manager. Nothing will happen unless you desire to make it happen!

John R. Walker is president of Aftermarket Services Consulting Co. Inc. E-mail to contact John.