A “20 Group” is an assembly of dealers from noncompeting markets who get together on a quarterly basis, to “synergize.”

Once it was required that a group consist of 20 dealers, hence the name. But that number does not always hold true today. Some groups consist of 30 dealers while others only 15 or so. Ultimately, the number of dealers is not as relevant as the criteria by which the group itself is structured.

Today’s 20 Groups are structured differently, but it’s important to understand their origin in order to appreciate their evolution.

Originally, participants consisted of dealer principals, general managers and dealership senior management. They would focus on a particular franchise.

For example, in a Toyota 20 Group, you would find 20 different Toyota dealership representatives from 20 different markets. Even though the franchise was the same, diversity still existed within the group.

You could have dealerships that were small, large, part of a dealer group, part of a corporation, in a rural area, in the city, single point or part of a multi-franchise point; all with different strengths, weaknesses, passions and fears.

Some of the most common areas of comparison in a traditional 20 Group were financial composites, expenses, gross, net, return on investment, break down of different departments and new- and used-car sales.

Topics of discussion also included advertising, vendors, customer service and satisfaction, human resources, legal issues, OEM situations, accounting and floor planning.

Each dealer within the 20 Group would be responsible for filling out their input sheets, which would become part of the overall group composite. The sheer act of an individual dealership completing an input sheet and tracking the proper metrics was worth the price of membership. What isn’t being tracked, can’t be measured. What can’t be measured can’t be improved.

The input sheets forced the dealers to hold themselves accountable. Failure to fill out a sheet could lead to a fine or expulsion from the group.

With completed input sheets, the group, led by a moderator, can take the individual metrics and consolidate all 20 input sheets into a composite so everyone sees the entire group and sees which dealers are excelling and which are struggling, as well as where and why. 

From this data, standards or benchmarks are created. With all of this field intelligence, the real synergy begins. The composite acts as a conversation starter. Dealers discuss what is and isn’t successful. The true value is being part of a group of like-minded people as they evolve synergistically.

The core principles described above remain constant and relevant for today’s 20 Groups. People need cars today, just as they did before. That hasn’t changed.

But what has changed is how people are buying cars. With 97% of consumers going online prior to stepping foot in a dealership, the Internet sales department was created.

With the changing times, 20 Groups have expanded from franchised dealers to include specific categories for independents, used cars, special finance, general managers, chief financial officers and the Internet.

The 20 Groups are essential for success in today’s market. Find the right group for your unique needs and situation. Just like you wouldn’t hire a service-writer trainer to coach your Internet sales staff, you do not want to join a traditional 20 Group if you need information, strategy and clarity specifically for Internet sales.

Be careful of groups that claim to do everything. Identify which area of the dealership you want to perfect first and concentrate on that. Once you succeed there, move on to the next area.

Sean V. Bradley, a former dealership manager, is founder and CEO of the training firm Dealer Synergy. He is at sean@dealersynergy.com and 267-319-6776.