The F&I Department is one of the most important profit centers in any dealership. A business manager has responsibilities to the deal-ership as well as to the customer and must have a thorough understanding of these duties to achieve success.

Control the Sale: The F&I manager's job is to secure each sale and ensure that every vehicle sold is delivered.

The manager also protects the gross by arranging financing so outside finance sources do not have an impact on the selling gross. This is the most important responsibility of an F&I manager as it will develop an ideal working relationship between the sales and F&I departments. It helps to cultivate a team philosophy in a dealership that will ensure both production and profits are maximized.

Secure Financing and Establish Lender Relations: The F&I manager secures acceptable financing for customers requesting it through one of the dealership's lending sources. Securing financing for customers accomplishes two very important objectives for the dealership.

First, it ties the customer closer to the dealership. When a customer finances at the dealership, he or she is more likely to purchase from the organization again as opposed to someone who handles the balance himself or herself.

Second, it increases the opportunity for additional dealership income. When the dealership controls the financing it allows for the opportunity to sell credit insurance products and increases the likelihood that a service contract will be purchased.

Generate a Profit: By handling the balance on the purchase of the vehicle the F&I department has the opportunity to generate income for the dealership from many different areas.

First of all, the lender pays the dealership a finance reserve for handling the contracting and financing with them.

Also, an important profit center to the F&I department is credit insurance that will pay off the loan in the event of the death of the insured and make the monthly payments should the insured become sick or injured.

Vehicle service contracts, which offer mechanical protection and cover parts, labor, and generally taxes and fluids on covered repairs are also a valuable product for generating F&I income.

Many dealerships also offer additional profit opportunities through the sale of products such as GAP coverage, maintenance plans, window engraving, and other after-market items. In addition to generating income, all these products offer benefits to the customer and, in the case of credit insurance and service contracts, protects the customers future ability to purchase another vehicle.

Control the Funds: Once a customer and a deal are turned over to the F&I manager, it is his or her duty to maintain control of all the paperwork until it is ready to be turned in to the general office.

This means that on a dealership finance deal, control is kept until the loan is approved and all the necessary paperwork has been signed. On cash deals, the F&I manager maintains control until all the money is accounted for, all checks are received and funds have been verified. On an outside finance deal, the F&I manager maintains control until a draft has been delivered and drafting instructions have been made available.

Complete the Paperwork: The F&I manager is responsible for all paperwork involved with the sale of the vehicle. This means obtaining customer signatures on all necessary forms and also obtaining payoff and insurance information.

In many dealerships, salespeople may perform these two duties. However it is still up to the F&I manager to explain to the salespeople the imp-ortance of the payoff and insurance information and to provide training to the salespeople to ensure the information is gathered accurately and quickly.

Train and Motivate the Sales Department: Many salespeople don't understand the process of the F&I. It is the F&I manager's job to train and educate the salespeople with regard to the inner workings of the department, the benefits of the protective products offered in the department, and the role that salespeople play in the success of the department.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is for the F&I manager to be actively involved in sales and training meetings at the dealership on a regular basis.

Monitor Performance: It is impossible to measure the success of the F&I department if performance is not monitored. Successful F&I managers provide progress reports on a daily basis to the dealer, general manager, and/or general sales manager.

In addition, at the end of the month, the F&I manager will complete an end-of-the-month summary to see how well the objectives for the month were met compared to the monthly forecast.

Be a Better Professional: It is important for an F&I manager to be an individual whose work habits, integrity, and ethics are respected by not only the customers, but by co-workers, employers, and all parties associated with the department. This would include lenders, vendors, and manufacturer representatives.

A successful F&I manager needs the product knowledge, professionalism and empathy that customers look for today. In other words, to be a successful F&I manager you must be the kind of person that you would buy the products from and the kind of professional that you would enjoy working with.

The responsibilities of each business manager vary from dealership to dealership and sometimes state to state. The best way to know your responsibilities is to have a written job description. If there is any confusion as to a particular duty, then put it in writing and have the management team agree on whose responsibility it is.

Communication is extremely important to have a successful business department because it builds teamwork. It is your responsibility to get the business office and sales staff to work together as a team and only by working together as a team can you maximize department income. By working together as a team, everyone wins!

George Jackson of American Financial & Automotive Services Inc. is a training expert who travels the country conducting F&I seminars and workshops. His ASTN programs, "The Role of the F&I Department" and "Introduction to F&I Sales" are in the current program guide.