If I were opening my own automobile dealership and needed to pick my management team with the premise that I could only hire one superstar I would choose the finance manager hands down. (I accept that I am a little biased).

Some would choose the general manager because that person orchestrates the entire management team. Others might choose the sales manager because he or she has to motivate the staff that generates sales. One might say the service manager because service is the business we are in.

And still another might say the office manager, since it doesn't matter how many automobiles we sell if we don't make a profit. All of these are good arguments, but I would still pick the F&I manager as my superstar.

I know this because I've asked the people in the dealership who can give me the right answer — the telephone operators. I ask them, “If you have a call and you're not sure who to give the call to, then who gets it?” Nine times out of ten they tell me the F&I manager.

The finance manager is involved with so many aspects of the dealership. Since 80%-90% of customers are financing or leasing vehicles the payment concern is important to a customer's buying decision. The F&I person needs to orchestrate that part of the car deal with the sales person and ensure the customer is comfortable that their payment needs are met before they leave the dealership.

A superstar F&I person can easily make a difference of 10%-20% more sales by their ability to network the banking community and get more loans approved. They also play a key role in cash flow of a dealership by making sure all legal paperwork is in order prior to the customer taking delivery of the dealership. The well-run F&I department can be the most profitable department of the dealership.

It is essential to be a good manager of time to balance the many activities that occur in the day-to-day responsibilities of the finance manager. The successful F&I person must be able to balance a variety of tasks and move from one priority to the next throughout the day. The actions include everything from selling products to customers, or paper to banks, to preparing all the documentation of a sale.

A finance manager who is a good time manager has the mental and physical energy to accomplish the many responsibilities they have and is still able to generate the passion and enthusiasm necessary to sell their products to the customers. Those that don't are overwhelmed, worn out, and can't maintain the mind set it takes to present the benefits of the products to the customer so they see the value of their offer.

What's the key to time management? Planning. Plan your route before you take the trip. You then control when your day hits you with the unexpected.

Try this out — it works for me:

Sit down on Sunday night or Monday morning and plan the upcoming week. This will only take you 15-20 minutes. This small sacrifice will reward priceless benefits. Planning not only guides you throughout the week, but it allows you to get excited about upcoming events.

You'll approach your work with much more energy and vitality. When you don't plan you end up wandering aimlessly through the week, just responding to the many obstacles you encounter. A winner is proactive — they prepare for the obstacles before they occur.

As you're planning keep these three principals in mind:

Keep the priorities out in front

That means doing what's most important first. Everyone uses to-do lists. You make a list of things that need to be taken care of and as you accomplish them, you check them off. But what about this? At the end of the week you completed a variety of tasks, however you still had those two items that you just never got to. Unfortunately, those two items could be the two most important things. If you keep the priorities out in front, you get the important things done.

What is the most valuable use of my time right now?

This is the best question to ask yourself whenever you feel overwhelmed. Once you establish the priorities, it's easy to focus on the thing that's most important. Typically, the F&I managers' most valuable use of time is a customer. When it's time to take a turnover, everything else should be put on hold. Once you're finished serving the customer, you can go back to what you were doing or handle the next priority. Establishing the most valuable use of your time when setting your objectives will ensure that you keep priorities first.

Plan your work and work your plan.

A dreamer talks a pretty mean game, but what's the point? Not putting a plan into play gets you nowhere. You have to keep your road map in front of you every day, evaluate what you've accomplished and question why you didn't get to the other tasks on your list. Whatever you didn't get done will then go to the next day's activities and will be prioritized with that day's tasks.

The worst enemy to effective time management is putting important things off. Resist the urge to put things off. Do them now! After all, you have big shoes to fill, you are the dealership superstar.

Ron Martin is the author of the book “The Vision of Finance and Insurance” and a national sales trainer and consultant for automotive dealers. You can learn more about his company, The Vision of F&I, Inc., or order his book by visiting the web site www.the-visionoffandi.com or calling 219-637-2796.