A tire dealership organization may look unbeatable on paper, but it never will reach its potential and could even self-destruct without effective front-line managers.
Some say store managers are equivalent to platoon leaders in the military. Regardless of the analogy you choose, the front-line manager is vital because he or she is the company's eyes and ears on the front lines of the automotive service battlefield. This person is the eyes and ears of the boss at street level.
What's more, tire stores reflect the store manager the way a platoon reflects its leader. Effective, conscientious leaders can be a moral compass that keeps soldiers focused and respectful when they could just as easily run amok. Likewise, competent store managers keep service personnel in line so no one takes advantage of motorists.
There's nothing wrong with trying to capture all the legitimate service sales opportunities. These bona fide opportunities often go begging because service personnel overlooked them, ignored them or couldn't sell them successfully.
Yes, it's easy to say that argument is so basic and obvious that it's trite. Is a competent, conscientious manager in place at every tire store? Is he or she really aware of what the staff's doing or not doing at that location? Ask yourself how many managers are truly ignorant-or for that matter, blissfully unaware-of what the staff's really doing. Indeed, many appear blissfully unaware until the proverbial feces strike the fan.
Recently, my Tire Business colleagues and I were discussing a technician's complaints about his employer's allegedly questionable tactics for selling service. This tech also complained that the tire dealer's workers weren't treated fairly or paid according to their skills and abilities.
One colleague defended the organization based on his knowledge of one of its top executives and the impression that this particular worker simply had an ax to grind. This should not deteriorate into a he-said, they-said argument. This shouldn't be about columnists such as me being pro-management or pro-employee.
Instead, the discussion should very much be about the need to ingrain the owner's beliefs and values in each and every front-line manager. The managers, in turn, lead by example-by applying these beliefs and values to the workplace first day, every day. That is, increase service sales by consistently, thoroughly and professionally inspecting each and every vehicle that comes into the bay. Document the results of the inspection, prioritize the work accordingly and then sell it sincerely.
The more often and the more effectively service personnel do this, the more everyone prospers.
As I've stressed in previous columns, selling more maintenance more often is critical to building the bottom line as well as boosting customer loyalty. My field experience indicates that a ton of pending failures aren't identified and/or sold by service shops; a bunch of needed maintenance isn't sold, either.
Turning a blind eye to the actions of the company's best earners is not transmitting your value system. To the contrary, it's looking the other way until a manager or his crew gets caught red-handed doing something underhanded.
Also, bosses must not assume that managers know or understand their values and beliefs. I would communicate this to them eye to eye as well as in writing. Cite actual examples from the dealership's history if you must. Emphasize that regardless of individual sales numbers, all managers are equally accountable to you.
Finally, you should not encourage vendettas or witch hunts, but you could tell employees it's their duty to report a manager's dishonest behavior to you. If you get a complaint, investigate it tactfully and to the best of your ability. If nothing else, just watch that manager more closely.
To edit an old saying, a snitch in time could save nine. Better to hear it from one of your own and address the issue internally than to learn about it from a local television reporter.