I could buy more deals if I had someone ready to run them." "My general manager has a good grasp on the sales end of the business, but lacks knowledge in fixed operations and accounting." I can't tell you how many times I have heard remarks and conversations about the lack of totally qualified management.

I personally can relate to this since my career started in sales. Fortunately, I had the benefit of working with dealers who took the time to teach me the overall operation plus a few comptrollers who patiently worked with me to understand what a financial statement was and where the information on that statement came from. This basis, plus the benefit of my position with NCM, working with and learning from some of the best automotive minds, has helped me attain knowledge of this industry.

Sensing and discussing the need for a forum that would allow a person to spend a relatively short period of time in an intense hands-on working classroom setting, Jeff Sacks of Jeff Sacks & Assoc. and myself of NCM Assoc., have joined forces. Taking advantage of our more than 50 years of combined hands-on retail experience, we are able to discuss reality and teach part of what we have learned in our professional careers.

We call it "boot camp" for dealership managers.

Our goal is to allow a general sales manager, current or designated future general manager, newly appointed dealer, fixed operation director, comptroller or office manager, the opportunity to spend seven days, eight hours per day getting to know their operation from "head to toe." Using their operation as the focal point, the students are taught the basics, including:

* Financial statement analysis

* Fixed operations

* Internal controls procedures

* Personnel development

* Expense control procedures

* Computer (system) utilization

* Lease portfolio management

* Basic automotive accounting

* Variable operations

* Asset management

* Benchmarking

* Personnel productivity

* Expense management

* Database management

* Transaction processes

In a classroom setting "cadets" not only discuss process management and improvement, but using case studies developed by the course instructors and Harvard Business School, are urged to back away from reality and analyze situations and opportunities. In addition, videos not related to the automotive business are shown, followed by discussions that try to draw parallels and applications to our business, i.e. The Fish Market in Seattle.

The real satisfaction is watching a class convene on Monday morning where no one has met previously, and observing the relationships and friendships that develop during the week. Our limited experience with these classes has shown, by the end of the first day of class, students are openly discussing best practices as well as asking questions and directions from their classmates.

At the beginning of each subject matter, students measure their dealership's current performance against the NCM benchmark for that particular category. For example, in the used-vehicle section, students, using their actual dealership inventory report, complete an asset management report. After completing this report, their actual retail used-vehicle grosses are compared to the benchmark. Following this comparison, a demonstration, relating gross profit to aging is held along with a discussion of methods

It is virtually impossible for a student to learn everything they need to know during this class, but they learn where to go if they need information. An example is knowing what reports are available to them on their dealership computer systems. If there is an inventory problem in parts, the students will know what reports to request and then have a basic understanding of how to read them. The same practice applies to the service department. Students are introduced to the available reports that will allow them to measure technician and service advisor productivity. If there is low productivity, they will have a basic understanding of the processes needed to improve departmental performance.

After spending one week in the classroom and most of their evenings completing homework, cadets return to their dealerships to put into practice the items they have just learned. Their activity is monitored by instructors for a period up to 12 weeks when the students will again come together for a review and class graduation.

Hopefully, this course will help us attain our goal of helping to shape tomorrow's leaders in our industry.

For more information on this class, visit our web site at http: //www.ncm20.com/bootcamp.

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