The General Manager role isn’t an easy one, nor is it a role for the faint of heart. You need thick skin…. But that doesn’t mean we don’t try our darndest to succeed and approach each and every day with a smile. Whether we were prepared for the position or not, adequately trained or not, it’s a role we took on, and through the years, we’ve learned a lot from it. One of the biggest struggles GM’s, humans, are still facing today is taking responsibility for their shortcomings. These shortcomings take many forms, such as lack of training, and then you have to find the time and make an effort to work on them. No one is perfect, and no GM has it all figured out on day one, if ever. But what we can do – whether you’re a veteran or new GM – is make a conscious choice to not play into what “everyone” thinks a GM is or should be. Most notably, we don’t want to be the GM that our teams or vendors say, ” you will only have him for 5 minutes before he loses interest.” As if we have a “condition” that our teams use to excuse us from the way we interact with our staff, colleagues and vendors. 

Having been one of those “GMs” when I first started (and throughout the better part of my career), it’s critical that we work on this “condition” (a mentality) that’s used to excuse the way we approach our profession. Whether it’s dealing with the excuses people make for us behind our backs, “only having 5 minutes” to offer, or confronting the reality of the situation, which starts with the willingness to break the mold and not be the GM they think you are, but being the GM you need to be. 

So, where to start? Changing the way you lead is everything from dealing with ineffectively managing your time to not properly observing your teams to not creating and building a culture for success to not investing in the right training. Or, the worst one of all, micro-managing your managers to the point where they cannot make a decision without second-guessing themselves or without coming to you. The reality is this is no way to effectively manage your dealership’s growth and success. As the GM, it has to come from the top – YOU – and your time must be invested appropriately. Now, before someone hits me with the “one-off” examples or the advanced time management bucketing techniques whereby you dedicate time to tasks based on importance, yeah, I get it. I’m not referring to those. Like my old self, somebody may speak up and hit me with their respective accomplishments with said “condition,” but I’ll ask this: if you’re doing “so well” doing it wrong, how much better could things be by doing it right? And, if you don’t believe you’re doing it wrong, why are your people, your vendors and your colleagues making excuses for you? Why are they also making fun of you behind your back?

Instead of playing into what you think a GM should be, be the GM you need to be to manage your dealership effectively. 

You Only Have him for 5 Minutes: this is one of the most commonly used excuses your management team uses when working with a vendor or even your sales staff. Sure, it might be a punch in the face. Or, you might laugh it off as a joke. But this isn’t a joke, and certainly not something to simply laugh off, implying that as a GM, you have this innate “condition.” Importance, nope. That’s definitely not it. Instead, ask yourself – taking a step back – have you taken the time to understand why this is such a common statement? If you are going to participate in a meeting or vendor demo, make sure you are prepared and invest the time. Sure, this doesn’t mean that you need to be in every meeting. After all, if you trust your sales managers, you don’t need to be in every meeting or make every decision. That’s what you have sales managers, no? Or did you hire them wrong? Perhaps another meeting (interview) you weren’t paying attention in? More importantly, if you’re taking the time to meet with your sales managers or sales consultants, allow them the time needed that isn’t interrupted with several phone calls, or a time where you’re entirely distracted and not “present” in the conversation. There is nothing worse than trying to communicate with an unengaged GM. Pay attention. Observe what they are saying. Offer positive critiques. More importantly, use this time to mentor your sales managers. Sharing your overall growth strategy and how they fit into the bigger picture. The more your sales managers feel a part of the bigger picture – as their work directly impacts it – their performance will increase. 

Training: this is not a role your sales managers need to play. Yes, your teams should observe the Sales Managers’ performance and reflect it in their own work. But even your sales managers need training. As the GM, it’s your responsibility to cultivate a culture that encourages training and provides the necessary resources for training on the dealer level. If your Sales Managers are not adequately trained, how can they manage their sales consultants? And how can you expect them to train their sales consultants? Investing in quality training on the dealer level for inbound and outbound calls, internet leads, F&I, and product knowledge is invaluable. Building a properly equipped team only means better results for the dealership. And isn’t it about not just cultivating a quality team but also increasing your dealership’s profitability? Make no mistake, trying to increase profits on a broken foundation is not only short-lived but will only cause a chaotic environment with high turnover. Think about it, have you ever experienced a situation where your sales consultants are going through a revolving door, but not your Sales Managers? Is it really all your sales consultants’ fault? Or is it because you failed to provide proper training, is that your sales consultants’ fault?

Vendors: As the GM, you shouldn’t be managing the day-to-day tasks with the vendor. That’s the job of your sales managers or Business Development Manager (for those that have that role) or the respective department head based on the specific vendor. Let them do their job so that you can do your job! If you’re trying to manage the day-to-day tasks for a vendor, it doesn’t effectively allow you to manage the bigger picture. The other unintended consequence of managing the daily decisions or tasks is that it can – in many cases – create a “micro-managed” environment, which stunts growth and leadership opportunities for your sales or business development managers. It’s like moving ten steps forward to then fall down the stairs and have to start all over again, injured, with each step having its own set of issues and unnecessary obstacles to deal with. It’s also essential to effectively delegate tasks so that each sales manager (or Business Development Manager) has a clear understanding of their role and individual responsibilities. Again, this goes back to empowering your teams to effectively manage the vendor relationships so that you may continue to focus on the bigger picture and what that looks like for the dealership. 

Time Management: The GM, in many ways, is the face of the dealership. You should be spending time observing, mentoring, and, more importantly, spending time developing the next steps, setting the strategic direction of the store, developing a plan to achieve and executing against that plan. It’s those next steps – based on your observations working with your management team – that can get your dealership to the next level. But this cannot be done if you’re playing the role of what everyone “expects from a GM” and not what you need to do to be a successful GM. Having the right managers in place and investing in quality training will positively impact and cultivate a culture that enables all of your teams to succeed.

Bottom Line: If you effectively cultivate a culture that promotes growth and development through observation, empowering your managers, and spend time planning the next steps for your dealership, imagine where you’d be? This doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly doesn’t happen by playing into the role of what you think a GM should be. Be the GM you need to be with those five minutes available to strategize and get your dealership to the next level. 

September 22, 2020, originally posted on Driving Sales