Mike Stoll
| 30 May 2018

Five Habits of a Successful Dealer Principal

Dealer Principals are usually the first to the dealership and the last to leave. All day, they’re balancing the needs of their customers, employees, OEMs and business partners. They’re the ultimate leaders.

But as some people begin to question the longevity of the dealership model, the leadership exemplified by Dealer Principals becomes even more important. These five habits of a successful Dealer Principal will give you the know-how and tenacity to compete in an ever-changing industry.

Habit 1: You Rely on Your Team

The most successful Dealer Principals realize that their dealership is only as successful as the employees who run it. As a result, you empower your team to make decisions. You trust them, but you also hold them accountable. Your members know the importance of their role and how it plays into the greater scheme – because you have clearly articulated it. Finally, you create an environment where employees want to stay for the long haul. Reducing turnover means more knowledgeable staff, less training, and ultimately, more competent and engaged employees.

Habit 2: You Identify and Resolve Issues Before Catastrophe Strikes

As DP, you wear a lot of hats, and are constantly moving from one decision to another. But you still need to know when things in your dealership are headed toward disaster. Checking on the status of your departments while you’re on the move is key. You leverage tools to understand where potential profit leaks are. You ask questions: Is my gross declining compared to last month? Are vehicles sitting on our lot for too long? Are our customer pay hours dropping? Using tools that surface these types of issues are key to helping you focus on the things that will keep your dealership growing.

Habit 3: You Stay on Top of Trends – and Adjust Accordingly

“You never stop learning” are wise words, no matter the industry you’re in, but still, many fall into the rut of doing “what we’ve always done.” The best dealers are those who understand that change is inevitable and continually seek out new ideas to inform their business. They attend conferences, sit in workshops, read blogs and follow influencers to maintain a fresh perspective.

Habit 4: You Set Goals and Make Informed Decisions

The most successful businesspeople understand the value of a strong strategy driven by data. Dealerships are already held to goals by their OEMs or corporate offices. But it’s important for each dealership to articulate its own goals across each department. Even more important than setting goals is adapting to changes to continue to reach those goals. But with so much data available, smart Dealer Principals understand the importance of listening to the data. Then you can make informed decisions about how to adapt your strategy to stay on top. It’s important to use tools that surface the critical insights that allow you to make impactful changes.

Habit 5: You Understand and Focus on the Customer

Seeing as we’re in the “Age of the Customer,” it’s clear that the most successful business people are honing in on how to understand and meet their customers’ needs and desires. With customers’ expectations continuing to evolve, the best dealers constantly innovate to evolve their own dealership experience. Moreover, Dealer Principals understand the impact that a positive experience at their dealership can have for a customer. Some dealers have gone so far as to change their employees’ titles from “Salesperson” to “Life Improvement Specialist.”

The data consistently shows that customers continue to have higher expectations – and dealers who choose to embrace and implement change to meet those expectations will find themselves ahead of the pack. 

Every Dealer Principal has a great deal of things that they’re responsible for – and how you run your business affects a lot more people than just yourself. Focus on these five habits and you’ll stay ahead of the game. And as always, if you need a little extra help, we’re here for you.

Mike Stoll

Mike is a retail automotive consultant with deep experience in strategic planning, workflow re-engineering for variable and fixed operations. When culture shifts are required, process improvements are mapped and measured for sustainable and successful outcomes. Faith driven husband, father, son, grandfather, brother, uncle and friend.

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