Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.Jim Collins
I’m not sure if I have mentioned it in other blog posts, but I work in the automotive industry. At the time of writing this, I am the Director of Business Development for a large automotive dealer group in Pennsylvania. While I have accomplished quite a bit in this role, I desire to run my own dealership. Largely, because I want to be the most influential leader of culture, employee morale and marketing at one with a singular focus for one location.
Over the past year, I have curated a long list of tasks that I aim to complete in the first year of running my own automotive dealership. Below you will find five of those ideas. I feel that the top five things may seem incredibly obvious; but, most worthwhile ideas are obvious. The difference is that they are rarely executed well. My goal is to not just discuss the actual task, but the importance behind the task and how to execute it in a meaningful way.
1. Define My Mission Statement
The best way to predict the future is to create it.Peter Drucker
Often, mission statements are well thought out phrases that go up on a wall in a training room, never to be mentioned again. I believe that a mission statement should be a singular purpose by which you can judge every action by an employee of a company. For example, my mission statement is “to provide the best customer experience in order to maximize profit retention.” Any employee can use this statement to judge their interactions with their customers. It should be clear most times whether your interaction with the customer was the best experience they could have had – or whether we did something in our own best interest to the detriment of the customer.
The most important aspect of leadership is to create a culture that drives your business forward. Therefore, I would continue to emphasize and make decisions as a business using this one rule. It would be part of my training curriculum for every department, as well as the basis for my marketing messages. In essence, my mission statement should be the economic engine to my business that will set me apart from my competition.
In my case, I believe that happy customers start with happy employees. That is why my next move would be to interview every employee and keep open lines of communication from the highest to lowest paid positions in the company.
2. Interview Every Employee
Like most things in life, I am happy to rely on experts to guide me on making good decisions. Interviewing my employees is no exception. I wrote the following questions down in my tasks, but I cannot remember from which book I read them. A quick search on Google shows that these questions are found in a book called 12: The Elements of Great Managing. Here are the interview questions:
- Do you know what is expected of you at work?
- Are the materials and equipment to do your work right available to you?
- Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
- In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for good work?
- Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?
- Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
In addition, these are other questions I would want to ask:
- Do you enjoy coming to work every day?
- Would you recommend this company to your friends and family?
- What are you plans with your career? Are you happy in your current role or are you looking to advance in to other areas?
- What do feel is the most important thing I can do for you or your department?
Perhaps your industry finds it easy to attract talent. If so, that is great. However, the automotive industry is notoriously difficult to attract talent and suffers from severe turnover. As usual, the way to solve many of these problems is to be a good communicator and listener. Employees are valuable assets to any company and replacing and training new ones sets your company backwards. Many times, morale can be improved by simply allowing an employee to vent privately to management. Oftentimes, the frustration is warranted and easily fixed or addressed. Plus, it rarely costs much money and has a high return on investment in morale, customer satisfaction and productivity.
You will learn a lot from your employees. The next step is to learn as much, if not more, from your customers.
3. Reach Out to My Top 100 Customers
Customers are like your spouse, they know you better than you know yourself. Plus, they’re happy to tell you the things you do well and what you could improve. Below are a list of questions that you should take time to ask your best customers:
- Why do you choose to do business with us?
- What is the one thing we should never stop doing?
- To make things better for you, what is the one thing we could do differently?
- What should we stop doing?
- Can you give me an example?
- What annoys you about doing business with us? What do you love?
Armed with tons of data, I would organize that data and see where the biggest overlaps occur. For example, if multiple customers mention the same thing they love about your business – that might be a clear indicator of something worth pushing even harder or mentioning in your marketing. On the other hand, if most customers agree on something that annoys them or you could do better – you may have found a ticket to turning good customers into advocates for your business.
We often get marketing mixed up with just trying to attract all types of customers. In fact, most businesses take the equally lazy route of making price their main competitive factor. Instead, I want to cultivate what speaks to my best customers and build my world of mouth marketing. I don’t need to sell to the masses with low profits. Instead, I need to excel at defining the intersection between my mission statement and my target customer. This way, I can reap the rewards of happy customers who advocate on my behalf without relying on price and low margins to maintain my sales.
4. Define My Target Market
The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.Peter Drucker
It would be nice if I could simply define my target market as everyone who wants to buy X Brand car or everyone who values experience over price. Unfortunately, it may not be that easy. However, Social Media has done a great job of helping us understand how to segment our customers. In fact, we may have various segments of customers – which makes marketing a lot easier and cheaper. Here are some questions to ask yourself, especially after speaking with your top 100 customers:
- Who is my customer? (Demographics, age, gender, income, education, etc.)
- What are their personality types and attitudes?
- Where do they live and work?
- What are my customers’ values, interests and hobbies?
- How do they behave? What is their lifestyle?
- Where do they spend their time? What communities are they part of?
Hopefully, at the end of this exercise you have a few “categories” that start to form which contain different types of customer sets. This data will help you immensely when running digital, social media or even traditional marketing campaigns. Once you know who your customers are – you know where to find them.
5. Get Involved in My Local Community
This is the fun part. This is when I go and make my roots in the communities that look like my target customers and, hopefully, already house some of my current customers. In the case of an automotive dealership, this could be societies and social groups in the surrounding area. Similarly, I can find specific groups of people on social media to promote this blog. As a business leader, I want to live, eat and breathe my business every day. I want to show these communities why they would prefer to do business with me and make myself accessible to them.
The leaders at the top of the organization have a duty to represent their company at all times. They aren’t just beholden to the employees below them, but should act like politicians to the communities around them. It is just as important to shake hands and kiss babies as it is to form a strong culture internally.
Laying the Foundation
As a new business leader, this is the foundation upon which I choose to build. I think it is a solid plan to grow internally and externally. Rarely in my industry do I see top management take these steps to formulate a plan for success. We constantly do the same thing as our predecessors and expect different results. By making these five things a priority every day, I have a much greater chance at success than those without a plan or priorities.
Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Do you agree? Disagree? What are your experiences and what would you change or support? Thank you for your time.