How Circle Automotive Group Used CDK Drive to Manage Through Escalation and Increase Profits
Accountability: It’s what all executives want from their teams, yet don’t always get. However, Mike Ernst, the executive vice president of Circle Automotive Group in Southern California does. He achieves it by using data to his advantage, which enables him to efficiently oversee four locations that have sold and serviced Porsches, Audis, Volkswagens and Volvos for more than 25 years.
“On just one screen in my Drive DMS (Dealer Management System), I can see sales, service, parts, F&I, accounting and more for every store. I get the snapshot that I need to help me determine how I’m going to spend my day. Am I giving accolades and telling people to keep up the good work? Or am I poking at the issues with a sharp stick and getting problems solved?” he explains. “Drive gives me the pulse of my day, every day.”
And those days start early. Ernst is known for rising in the predawn hours, extracting data and creating spreadsheets for each one of the stores. “I look for anomalies by using schedule account exceptions so that I’m able to see issues, such as past dues at a certain number of days. Then I send a PDF around to our general managers and others and ask for explanations. By the time I get in the office, I’m already getting answers,” offers Ernst.
Often, though, he doesn’t even have to ask what’s going on. That’s because Ernst manages by escalation, which allows him to identify what key information he is interested in and when those interests become a concern. “Customizing allows me to go into my setup and determine when I want to be notified about certain situations. Most of the time, managers already know when a situation is escalating, because the data tells them so, and they can then act on those issues in time to make a difference. And if the issues aren’t resolved, they know that I’m keeping an eye on things — which means that they should be prepared with answers, because I’ll be asking,” says Ernst.
Ernst smartly ties the escalations to actions that directly affect receivables and funding. Nearly everything that either enhances or inhibits the Customer Satisfaction Index — and therefore the bottom line — is reflected on Ernst’s executive desktop. With data that demonstrates the Group’s performance, he and his team know exactly which actions to spend their time on.
Without a reliable and robust DMS, Ernst says that running dealerships efficiently and profitably would be impossible.
“In this day and age, if we are to meet our margins, we need to know how we’re performing, moment by moment and store by store. Drive allows us to do that at a glance. I know how many ROs we have. How many people are waiting. How many cars are financed. I can even see how we’re performing compared to OEM data,” explains Ernst. “I have 100 percent accessibility to critical information, and so do the other people who are responsible for meeting our standards. At the end of the day, Drive helps us get paid,” he says.
It also helps dealerships not just survive, but thrive in an industry and world that change by the minute.
"Am I giving accolades and telling people to keep up the good work? Or am I poking at the issues with a sharp stick and getting problems solved? Drive gives me the pulse of my day, every day."
— Mike Ernst
Executive Vice President
Circle Automotive Group
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