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The good ones are always taken…or are they?

By Marilou C. Vroman, CPA, CFE

A recurring challenge we find in the automotive retail dealerships is what appears to be a general lack of available talent.  Many dealers I speak with have asked me if I know of a good service manager or controller looking for a new opportunity.  Turnover is a reality for most dealerships, whether it is driven by poor leadership, high pressure to perform, compensation or other reasons, there seems to be a revolving door in many stores.

When there is turnover, a silver lining presents itself with an opportunity to seek out a better candidate than the one who we had before.  However, what we often find is “the good ones are already taken.”  At times, a candidate may appear good on paper, with glowing referrals and relevant work history but less than stellar results when immersed into the dealership operations.  Similar to a recently detailed pre-owned vehicle with polished wheels and fresh scented interior, it may appear nice on the lot, but at 65 mph, the steering vibrates, and the engine overheats.  We cannot effectively “test drive” candidates before hiring them, so what can we do to help identify “the good ones?”

One tactic which I have used with success in the hiring process is to gain a thorough understanding of the candidate’s life and interests outside of work.  We often find what a person does and how they behave outside the workplace says a lot about what will likely do with your time while working inside the dealership.

Sharing from a personal experience, I completed an Ironman triathlon several years ago.  Those familiar with the sport know it takes a lot of time, sacrifice and dedication to properly train for, and hopefully finish, the race.   I didn’t grow up dreaming of completing an Ironman.  Rather, I was challenged to do it.  One year of 4:00 AM alarms and a thousand training miles later, the mission was accomplished.   The very same determination that drove me to cross that finish line, drives me in business to do what it takes to get the job done, and get it done right.  Whether it’s a race, raising a family, or a charitable cause, determination is just one of many attributes that helps drive success.

The connection between personal behavior and business practices is strong.  We have seen individuals with the right attitude and personality traits go well beyond the success of their counterparts having more automotive retail experience and impressive pedigrees.  We have also seen the failure of highly experienced and well credentialed individuals because they lacked the passion, integrity and energy necessary to achieve success.

How do you find a “good one” for your dealership? The secret is finding out who your candidates really are. Who is the actual person behind the suit and the solid resume? What does this individual do during their spare time? What are their hobbies, unique talents or interests? Are they involved with philanthropic organizations or enjoy giving back to the community? Do they like to travel, meet new people or try new things? What motivates this person? These are some basic questions for which the answers, or the way they are delivered, can be quite revealing.  The answers will not guarantee the candidate will be your next top performer but may very well reveal whether the candidate has the energy, drive and commitment necessary to become one of the “good ones already taken,” by your dealership.

So, now that you have found the right candidate – will they feel the same way about you?

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