Here are two quotes on the benefits of training, and the potential results:

“Education is learning what you didn't even know you didn't know.” — Daniel J. Boorstin.

“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows” — Sydney J. Harris.

These are more insightful when you consider what is being said. Think of the personnel in your organization that have the potential to step up to the next level, but some ingredient is missing.

What types of effective training programs are available to a dealer? Obviously each of you has access to sales and technician training utilizing the manufacturers satellite training or tapes/CDs. ASTN offers a continuous menu of training options and there are other options available.

At NCM Associates, we recognized the need for exposing key personnel to a continuous education process many years ago. One of the most widely accepted programs is a 20 Group for key management personnel.

Being involved in a forum where personnel have the opportunity to openly discuss and challenge ideas is priceless. As I have noted in previous articles, I have the pleasure of working with a 20 Group of general sales managers. The most rewarding part of this for me is watching each member's growth personally and professionally.

It is not uncommon for a new member to join and then, within a relatively short period become the “teacher” of a particular process. The members work in the meeting room, continue conversations over dinner and correspond in between meetings using e-mail, telephone, etc. There is not a meeting that l don't hear one member credit another member for his or her improvement in a specific area.

Another process that NCM offers is in-dealership Profit Management Meetings for departmental management. In this process, a NCM staff member visits dealership monthly for a performance review. During this meeting, not only are results of the previous month reviewed, but also goals for the next month are established along with an action plan to legitimately obtain those goals. A major part of this process is training and accountability.

The need and desire for a higher-level concentrated management training program was addressed in 1998. Jeff Sacks and I designed a training program to take key management to the next level.

It's the General Manager's Boot Camp, a training program where participants devote five days and gain a working knowledge of dealership accounting and departmental operations. Can a general sales manager without knowledge of fixed operations attend this class and then become a fixed operations director the next week? No, but the manager will know the areas to address regarding productivity and efficiency, how to improve gross profit retention, open repair orders, process management and work in process.

The students are taught to recognize potential trouble areas and areas of opportunity. They are taught the processes required to correct these areas utilizing other personnel in the dealership.

One successful dealer, after sending general sales managers from two of his dealerships to the boot camp, assigned them to the service department for six months. Each of them began their “service internship” the following Monday morning as service advisors.

These gentlemen are effective general managers today as a result of this dealer's plan to have these graduates work in each of the departments thus allowing them the opportunity to implement processes learned during boot camp.

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire” according to William Butler Yeats. To ensure continuing organizational success and a readiness on their part to go to the next level, invest in your personnel. Sure there are costs associated with training, but never forget the famous quote by Andy McIntyre, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance!”


Tony Noland is director of international operations for NCM Associates. He has 30 years of automotive retail experience.

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