12 Apr

The Dealership Manager’s Monthly Checklist

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This article originally appeared in OPE Business Magazine.

In the OPE business, where no two days seem alike, one of the greatest challenges for an owner or manager is consistency.

It’s pretty easy to remember to catch the lights, the alarm, the gate, and some of the obvious daily tasks. But what if somebody leaves the company and you find that something major was slipping through the cracks, like filing warranties before the 30-day deadline?

Glancing at a daily checklist to get back on track can help, especially to score some quick wins on a day of otherwise spinning tires. That’s why, when I worked at a dealership, I put together a checklist of weekly tasks that needed to be completed.

This checklist was inspired especially by some of the painful moments where something slipped through the cracks, like an automatic renewal on an evergreen 60-month contract with a certain uniform service provider (doh!).

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Click here to download the checklist.

Week 1 – Review Goals

It’s a new month with new goals already in place. How have we been meeting and exceeding goals, and how do these compare with 5yr and 3yr average? 2020 and 2021 aren’t good base years. You need to go back a year or two, before the pandemic, to make sure you’re not setting goals based on an outlier year.

Review accounting and reconciliations

Staying on top of your accounting and reconciliations will help protect the lifeblood of the dealership: cash flow.

  • If you carry much of an AR beyond warranty, how are delinquencies?
  • Is warranty AR remaining low and is the warranty clerk reconciling every month prior to your accounting team (or accountant/CPA) running monthly financials?
  • If any warranties are unclaimed, what is the hold-up? Are we hanging onto causal parts in case they are recalled?
  • Are floorplans staying squeaky-clean of units sold out of trust? With the supply chain disruptions being where they are today, floorplan companies have to be making the lowest amount on interest charges in a very long time.

Review inventory turns

Reviewing inventory turns by line compared to the 3-year average is important. Yes, this is a weird supply year, but we also need to watch cash-flow.

If we just calculate gross turns (total stocked vs. total sold), we could miss very important information for a particular line, such as selling mostly special-order parts while cash-owned inventory sits on the shelf. Or a parts manager may have decided to switch from one aftermarket provider to another, without shipping back the other line or a plan to sell through it. It’s very easy to get to order-taking and forget to sell through dead stock.

Be transparent

Setting proper and realistic goals may be tougher now than before, so be transparent about it. Make sure your comp plan encourages each revenue-producing team to try to hit those goals. If the team falls reasonably short of a goal, them to step it up the following month.

Week 2 – Monitor Progress

The craze of the prior month end has worn off and you’re now well into the new month. If you have fellow managers, now would be a good time to get breakfast or have a working lunch and talk through how things are going. Any bottlenecks preventing them from being successful in their department?

Watch warranties like a hawk

OEMs and distributors will happily not pay for warranties filed late or not at all. They can use the extra cash flow just like you and me.

What does obsolete parts stock look like? How many dollars and what percentage of overall parts and their respective lines? If there are parts on the shelf from a wholegoods line you’ve dropped, will they cross to other lines?

If not, best to run a report of that line and call up a few dealers to make them a deal or post up on the dealer Facebook groups. Somebody will likely pick them up, if the discount is right. And the cash could be easily reinvested into something that will make you money (Google Ads, for instance).

Monitor financials against benchmarks

By the end of week two, you should have monthly financials.

  • How do they look compared to your goals?
  • How do they compare to the industry?
  • If you’ve had a great month, did you gain market share, or did everybody do well?

Monitor shop efficiency

What is shop efficiency and recovery looking like? Any techs putting in overtime? If so, why?

Good time to check in on service tools (or if there is a service manager, have them do it). Still in good working order? Is everybody still following your tool check-out procedure so you know who had the tools last?

Monitor your marketing spend

  • Is marketing providing sufficient leads?
  • Is Sales able to work these leads before they go cold?

Adjust marketing spend accordingly—especially those billed daily like Google Ads.

Make time to reflect

Now is a good time to grab a coffee and find a quiet place to reflect. It’s easy to get sucked into the tactical day-to-day firefighting, but you need to make time for strategic (long-term) operation planning and pivots. Is the org chart right for your sized company? How are things on the hiring front? Is employee retention okay?

Week 3 – Review Performance

The month is more than half over. The data is in from last month. We know how we did compared to the goal—we know if we made money or not—and at this point, we have a pretty good idea of whether we’re going to hit this month’s goal.

Check your financials

Customers who get paid and pay their bills on the 1st and 15th may now be emerging from the proverbial woodwork to make their big-ticket purchase for the month—or pay that overdue service bill.

  • How did we do last month on warranties? Overages are quite rare, so the question is, did we write off significantly more than usual? If so, why?
  • How is inventory? Depressing, right? Maybe you’ve pivoted to used equipment. If so, that introduces an entirely new set of challenges. Is everything presentable and sellable? Does it start right up?

Check your delivery fleet

Time to check in on the delivery fleet, or with the fleet manager, if you have one. Are the trucks staying equipped with plenty of straps and chains, fire extinguisher and other necessities for compliance? Is maintenance being kept up? Are the trucks and trailers clean and presentable?

Pulse-check your customer experience

How is net promoter score for each department compared to the prior month? Are we headed in the right direction? Have we rescued any detractors lately?

Set next month’s goals

Now that we’ve seen last month’s financials, we can set goals for the following month. Part of these goals will be to take care of the tactical (pay the bills, keep the lights on) and strategic (YOY overall growth, market share growth).

Week 4 – Touch Base with Your Team

Time to check in with the management team again. If there’s a disagreement, it’s bound to be resolved more easily over tacos than in a boring room in the back of your dealership. Keep it fun and be sure to let these guys and gals know what they mean to you and the company.

Reflect more

It’s an even week, so more strategic reflection is on the menu. This time, you’re looking at the market strategically. Is your product mix right? Is the pricing model sufficient to cover goals and pay the bills? If not, why not? Is diversification or consolidation needed?

Reward your team!

Find a team member to praise. Give them a gift card to take a spouse or significant other out on a date. Maybe $50-60? Doesn’t need to be extravagant. It may well be that the recognition means more than the gift itself.

Author Bio:

Tim Berman is Innovation Manager at Ideal Computer Systems, c-Systems and Charter Software, where he creates apps that helps dealers grow. Tim has a passion for equipment dealerships, having spent nearly 20 years in his family’s dealership