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Future Dealership Leaders are Everywhere, it’s just a matter of letting them know

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By Phil Villegas

In the mid-’90s, I drifted among a few self-indulgent jobs (valet, bartender and cabana boy) that were perfect for a young single guy who had just gotten out of the Marine Corps. After a few years of this life and someone very dear seeing some potential in me, I enrolled in St. Petersburg College and started looking for jobs that presented more career opportunities.

While at the time I would have never considered my first dealership job as a file clerk one that I could make a career out of, I now find myself nearly 25 years later feeling grateful for that initial dealership opportunity.

I was reading the Cox Automotive 2019 Dealership Staffing Study earlier this week.  Aside from the retrospective thoughts that the study elicited about my career, it also helped highlight what little progress the industry has made in positioning jobs within a dealership as a viable career option.  This lack of progress is really quite perplexing when you consider higher education is typically not needed to achieve strong earnings potential, which can easily exceed six figures annually.

It is commonplace to find a dealership leader such as a General Manager or Controller who started their automotive career as a porter, sales associate, receptionist or accounting clerk; and put in their time to work their way up through the ranks. The same holds true for any position in any department within a dealership.

The Cox study found when surveying non-dealership employees, less than 25% would consider a job at a dealership. Even more troubling, of the dealership employees polled, 20% of them will likely look for another job in the next six months. The survey pointed out that only 50% of dealership staff say their manager meets with them regularly to set goals and objectives and 1 in 3 dealership leaders don’t think their employees understand their career path options.

A result of the study also found 39% of dealership staff are considering leaving because they don’t feel there is an opportunity for advancement, which was the most alarming part of the study when you consider the origins of most dealership management.  We do not need to get into the costs and disruption caused by employee turnover to emphasize how much impact this has in operations and ultimately, the bottom line.

As a Dealer, General Manager, Controller, Sales, Service or Parts Manager, it is low-hanging fruit to take a few moments every week to show a porter, runner, receptionist, biller, attendant or even file clerk where their current position can lead them into a lifelong career. With an environment as diversified as a dealership offering multiple departments and opportunities, there’s a future for nearly every personality and skill.  It’s simply up to today’s leaders to share this with the potential dealership leaders of tomorrow.

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