It has never been my plan to use this column to report about specific products or services. But George B. Jones' eTools generated so much interest at this year's NADA convention, the General Motors Minority Dealers Association Summer Conference and a meeting of industry CFOs, that I want to let you know how they're helping dealerships manage their operations, expenses and assets more easily and cost effectively.

The eTools automate the extraction of the specific information that you need from your DMS. Using either Reynolds & Reynolds or ADP computer systems, they automatically place vital information onto the PCs of the dealership management team.

The eTools extract certain data from the dealership DMS and bring it into Microsoft Excel. The data is reformatted to provide management with easy-to-read information.

Currently eTools consist of the following:

The eBarometer captures “out of bound” items in dealership accounting schedules. It may be used by dealerships with only one store, but is most valuable for multi-dealership groups.

Installed on a PC or a network server, it gets inventory and receivable account information instantly from your DMS system that is needed to learn about aging inventory and receivables and more importantly to learn where your cash is tied up.

A mouse click gives a consolidated look at all the exceptions in all your stores based on your pre-defined criteria. It automatically captures, summarizes, and places your accounting schedules into a formatted Excel workbook located on a PC or the network server. On the summary screen you can see the total dollar amount and the item count of all these out of bound items.

Another mouse click and you can drill down to the detailed relevant information by stock number, customer number, etc. It provides information in time to impact results. For automotive groups, a network drive enables users located in any city to access the same information, if desired.

eOperations captures operational reports for all your stores with one mouse click. One click and you can view car deals by salespersons, F&I managers, etc. including the front and back end gross detail.

To monitor exceptions, one can click on “view deals with low front or back end grosses,” enter any minimum gross amount, and you will see all deals for the current month to date with grosses below that minimum.

For a used vehicle wholesale analysis, select a wholesale customer, and see total gross profit or loss with that wholesale customer over a period of time. Click on the mouse to view, in Excel, current operational information such as sales personnel productivity, F&I manager productivity, open repair order, heat sheets-pending deals, heat sheets-deals completed by F&I but not finalized by accounting, and other information generated using any report generator. For automotive groups, a network drive enables users located in any city to access the same information.

The eDOC automates DOC/MIS reporting. It automatically downloads the DOC reports from the DMS system, places the information in formatted Excel reports. Managers in any city can click an icon on their PC to view their own departmental DOC report. Top management may access the information for all stores. There is no longer a need to manually distribute paper printouts.

eExpense automates expense analysis. Looking at your factory financial statement, you see a large expense line item. You wonder to whom did we pay this money? Just click on the mouse to view the vendor payments.

For example, select advertising, and the report will automatically display the names of all the vendors paid under that account. This information helps control expenses by not only awareness but also aids in negotiating vendor discounts. eExpense provides a report of payments to any vendor by all your stores. Department managers can view vendor payments charged to their department.

While all of the information provided by the use of the eTools is already available to you through your current DMS, it is often very difficult to gather. eTools were designed for those who want to effectively manage their dealerships, but have found it difficult getting certain information from the DMS.

Let me know what tools you use to effectively manage your dealerships. I would be more than happy to use this column to enlighten others. Some things are too valuable to keep a secret.

Don Ray is the president of the George B. Jones Companies, an ISO 9000-certified national accounting and consulting group for retail automobile dealers. If you would like to know more about tax issues facing dealers, contact him at 800-323-6726 and