The Dealer Playbook
The Dealer Playbook

Episode · 5 months ago

Break-Free From Your Comfort Zone w/ David Spisak


It's easy to get stuck doing what you've always done to alleviate the discomfort of trying something new. 

The dealership community is no different. The previous generation had a way of doing business which gets passed on to the next generation. 

Developing a healthy dealership culture and fostering greater employee buy-in is no different and likely why the turnover rate in the industry is so high.

David Spisak shares his wisdom around developing a healthy culture. 

"People go to work for a company but quit their managers."


This episode is proudly sponsored by our friends at Fortellis. No two dealers operate the same way which is why Fortellis provides the tools to create unique apps that help your dealership meet the needs of the market while catering to your operations. 

Not only has Fortellis created an amazing technology platform that’s designed to make life easier for dealers, but they are also pouring back into the community with events like their dealer dev day. It’s a 3-day event that empowers attendees to network with each other to create smarter, faster, and better apps for the dealer community. 

Visit to browse their marketplace of apps and integrations that will allow you to run your business, your way.

Hey gang, there are fewer things Iregret more than not investing in zoom when I had the chance. How was Isupposed to know there's gonna be a pandemic and zoom stocks would explode.Looking back 20 years from now, I don't want to have the same sinking feelingsitting on the sidelines knowing I could have jumped on another bandwagonsooner. luckily we know what the next big boom and retail automotive is andthat's why companies like four telus have provided the tools to createunique apps that will help your dealership meet the demands of themarket. You see no to dealers operate. The same way the beauty about four tellus, is that you can pick and choose the apps and workflows that help you meetthe demands of the market while catering to your operations, not onlyis foretell has created an amazing technology platform that's designed tomake life easier for dealers. They are pouring back into the community withevents like their dealer DVD. It's a three day event that empowers attendeesto network with each other to create smarter faster and better apps for thedealer community. So my beloved DPB gang, the best thing that you can doright now is visit the four telus marketplace and browse through theirgrowing library of apps And integrations that will allow you to runyour business your way, visit four telus dot iO to learn more. That's four.Tell us dot I O Sure. Yeah. Mhm. What do you say to the dealer who'sbeen so caught up in? But I got to make ends meet by doing the things I'vealways done. How do I balance that? Because there is an immediate need withthe concept of seeing incremental gains through social currency and buildingout culture and all of those things. Like how do you because because we tendto be one or the other right? It's like, well, I can't go all in on culturebecause if I'm all in on culture, then how do I increase my bottom line? AndI've got O. E. M. S breathing down my neck saying I gotta how did younavigate that? What's your experience there? I was very fortunate. I mentionedearlier, Michael that somebody put deep into my head at some point in my youththat when you go interview for a job, make sure that it's not a one wayinterview. And so I interviewed the interviewer and I understood that it'sback washing the car business, which is notorious for turnover, that it wasincumbent on me. There was the accountability, really lied with me toreally ultimately put myself in a position where I didn't end up becominga nutrition statistics, right? So let me talk about that for a second. So, ifyou don't have ideology sinking up between you and your employer, you andyour boss, in fact, Marcus Buckingham, who wrote a great series of books, nowdiscover your strengths and a couple of others that were all three were bestsellers. You know, they did exhaustive, Nielsen did exhaustive studies on theemployer employee relationship, and what they learned after years ofresearch was that people go to work for companies, but they always quit theirmanager, right? I think about that for a second. Why is that? Well, typicallythere's an ideological divide that exist, or there's a cultural dividethat exists. So you have to make sure that you take the time to understandand really see what is the culture of the place that you're about to go towork for perspectively and and where is that culture coming from? And thenthat's coming from the ideology, you know, of the person who runs thatorganization, runs that department or founded that company. And we've allheard of companies that are just...

...absolutely famous for their culture andwhat it did for that organization. And yes, they turned out to be wildlyprofitable. Who? I wondered what, how did that happen? Well, so, so if youthink about that, if you say, okay, how did this happen? Well, in ourorganization, we were very blessed, you know, the original patriarch of that,Will Smite was just a one of a kind gentleman's gentleman. He was a guy,the guy that that you could not find a human being in the United States tofind anything that would say anything less than magnificent things. Not he'sa nice guy, magnificent like this guy, impacted my life and I was fortunateenough to have him as a mentor, his son, Michael, you know, got a lot of thoseattributes and really absorbed those attributes. I had a chance to work withMichael and care deeply about culture. Um, we were accompanied as a resultthat, that revalued culture above anything else, including yes, off it.Please understand anybody listening to this. I don't often times say thingsthat are profound. So I'm gonna warn you if I say something that's not true,That's not true. I've been listening, I've been listening, but but here's thething is that your profit, your results, that you're looking at on yourcomposite on your financial statement. They are not a byproduct of performance.They are a byproduct of culture. So please pay attention to that. Theyare a byproduct of culture. To show me anybody who is singularly focused onmoney and I will show you a high, high, high percentage of those people thatwill never, ever achieve a high level of success, Certainly not sustainablesuccess. So what we did is we valued culture above all, Bill Smite wouldnever pass by a piece of garbage on the ground without picking it up. He wouldnever ask anybody else do it himself. He would never walk by an associate,not say hello. He would never walk by a customer in the lounge and not offerthem coffee. Right? And he had more money than anybody would ever need inthe world. But he had a humanity to, on the level of humanity and humility thatreally is what made him truly wealthy and remarkable. And, and it's peoplelike that. You know how you're, you know, you're around something like that.If you go to a funeral and then the church is packed, there's peopleoutside, uh, that they're listening to this it on speakers, They can't get in.It's the ultimate measure of a man or a woman of how you impacted people inyour life. And he did that in real time. He did that before C. S. I. Was ever C.S. I. And so we had that as a foundation. We then took it. Now,here's the thing, even though that existed, the story didn't perform verywell at the end of the day. So what was missing was a connection between thatand performance. You know, my role was to be able to assist in connectingthose two dots. So one thing I hired people that are smarter than me. Inever ever let anybody in the store. Not I we you know why I say we becausewe never hired anybody unless three managers minimum, minimum threemanagers interviewed people and all three managers had to say absolutelyyes, this person should come in. And if none of us, if one out of the three orfour said no, we didn't bring that person in. You know why my whole,because of the lobby accumulation that says everything counts, everythingbrings you closer to or closer or further away, you bring somebody inthat's gonna, every time you hire somebody, they're either going to liftyour culture or diminish your culture stop focusing just on the numbers.There was a great jim Rohn said one...

...time, a really great thing. He was uh Iwas that one of his session. He happened to say to me, he said uh hewas driving through reno of all places, he sees a billboard for a hotel on thebillboard says, we don't train our people to be nice, we just hire nicepeople. You know what? You can't train people to be nice people. You've got tohire nice people. You've got to hire people that you respect and that youadmire. You gotta surround your people with people that they're going torespect and admire, right? So, so we were deeply embedded with that. So whatwe did As we change the paradigm from is terms of compensation. No two is we,we changed from just focusing on old school metrics like KPI is like oursborough. And you are. And how many users did you sell? What's the PBR,what's your product penetration, Michael, do you realize we're the onlyindustry that still using the same metrics today that we were using 30 4050 years ago. You realize that through all of this technology and innovationthat you still have most stores, the United States where the averagesalesperson sells how many cars a month? Michael 8 68 9, 10, 8 to 10. Right.What were they selling in 19 seventies and 19 eighties? 8 to 10 1998 to 10-K.At any point for all the conversation about disruption technology? Why don'twe disrupt that? Right. What at what point guys are we going to connect thistechnology and and that we think that every time we go to an N A. D. A.Convention, walk up and down the halls, I find it fascinating as a socialexperiment that dealers will walk up and down. The managers walk up and downthe convention hall looking for something to this day. That could be asilver bullet. Not all dealers that many dealers do. And then they bring itin and they tell me, we're just not getting the R. O. I. Why? Because the R.O. I doesn't live there, man. R. O. I. Lives in your people, invest in yourpeople. What percentage Michael would you say? What percentage of all dealerswould you say have a formalized training program in the year? 2021?Honestly, Be honest. Oh gosh. Formula. Every single day they're training and all the sounds. I don't know. TheNumber seven comes to my it's tiny, isn't, it doesn't Matter if it's fiveor seven or 12. It's terrible, terrible or terrible. And that's an indictment.We're not investing in our people. Right. Well, when's the last time yousaw a dealer do culture training, Michael? We spent Over $250,000 everyyear with a company called the Pacific Institute, which was culture training.And you know, what's really amazing about that? Not just that it elevatedour culture even beyond where it was, Not just that it taught us that.Oftentimes the leaders in an organization are not managers. Thereoftentimes frontline people that are your movers shakers. Not just that ittaught us that every employee should be a co architect of your culture. No, it was the fact that investing thatmoney actually could cause some of our great people to leave our organization.Why? Because it allowed them to seethemselves in a different light to realize they had more potential. So Ihad a technician after all that training said, you know, David, I needto go start my own repair shop and you know what we said, congratulations andwe meant we meant it. So you know, you do it with that authenticity, with thatlevel of honesty and with that level of true caring which came from the topdown. It started with that patriarch...

...and it worked its way down. I wasfortunate to be become the dealer and the president of that organization. Weended up selling it to Autonation. And by the way, I love autonation.Autonation's taught me a lot in eight years. Um, but just like my father whotaught me everything not to do as a father, he taught me everything not todo as a husband. He taught me everything not to do as a humanautonation Many times taught me things to do that. To this day. I leverage andI value greatly. It also taught me what not to do because you see when ourstore was acquired for that $25 million, I was fully expecting that the wholeleadership team was going to come in and say all right, before we doanything else, you guys have got to tell me, how did you achieve threeunemployment? Maybe three turnover. How did you do 25 million in that? How didyou achieve 2.3 million in fixed growth a month. Number one in the country.Higher than long go higher than anybody in the country. How did you do allthese things? Do you know how that meeting went, Michael and never went.It never happened. And the reality is, is what Autonation is a phenomenalcompany in so many ways. Five years later that that same dealership wentfrom making $25 million dollars a year to single digits again. Okay. And thereality is, I was told at that time we are not going to have any hall passesfor any storm. You guys are great book. Everybody is going to fall in line.Okay. And one of the things we we learned so many things in our life thatare of value, but some of the most valuable things that we, we learn needto have our participation. Let me explain brian Bienstock, my greatfriend and I think absolutely the thought later in the industry, um youknow, we were talking a couple months ago about a presentation he was doingfor google and one of the things he brought up was the rule of the river.For anybody who's gotten whitewater rafting during your instructions, theymay have told you the rule of the river, here's the rule of the river. If youever get thrown from the boat, you must participate in your rescue. We're notjust going to track you down. You have, you have to swim like you've never swambefore, You better participate. So a lot of times when it comes to growthand learning, I hope that everybody realizes when it comes to culture, youknow, you better participate in your learning. Oftentimes we were taughtthat hey you go to school and the teacher is going to provide useducation. That's what we got our learning. Okay, well that's partiallytrue, but you also have to participate in the learning process. Let me explainbecause sometimes you're taught things that are not completely true or takenout of context. So you know, which simply means that when you receivesomething, you have to choose the sanctions or not as fast and to you have to determine if ifthat's your truth right for you, is it congruent with you and what you standfor? Um and based on that, it might take the learning just a little bit. So,you know, we hear often times that you need to focus on K. P. S. You need tofocus on profitability, we need to focus on. In fact I'll never forget it.Autonation. One of the hardest things for me is a dollar per share, dollarper share, share. We need to get another dollar per share. And I would say back to them, you knowI've got support people who I've been on a two year freeze pay increase freeze and all they wantis a dollar per hour because they have four kids at home and they need to buyfood or diapers. They don't care about...

...a dollar per share. There's people thata dollar per share is going to make them $10 million dollars in one day.This cat just wants a dollar, can they just have a dollar? Right? And that wasthe most difficult thing because I'm a culture guy. I'm a data guy. I'm aperformance guy. But I was taught years ago that without the foundation ofpeople and culture, it's always been about people, it's always going to beabout people. Show me a top performing store in the country and I'll show youan impressive group. Show me a top performing store that stays on top mysaying is always, it's easier to climb out Everest than to live up there. Showme a story that learned to live up there, Michael and I will show youculture. Right? So, so some things it's important to learn other things. It'simportant to unlearn and Alvin Toffler and culture shot are yeah, was itfuture shock decades ago wrote the sign of literacy in the future is not goingto be somebody who learns how to read, but it's going to be somebody wholearns to learn unlearn and relearn and I have never seen a period of time inmy life where it's more important to unlearn things. My great friend humble,the poet who is a Canadian, he's in Toronto, I want you to interview humblea poet. His real name is Kanwar Singh, but he's fascinating, he's an amazinghuman being. He's probably got 400,000 followers on Instagram and two bestselling books, remarkable human with a remarkable story. His family came fromIndia and his dad was a very highly regarded professional who couldn't geta job as anything but a taxi driver in Canada right? And uh and and Kanwarbecame an elementary school teacher and now he does uh performance and he is anauthor and does other things. But the point is, you know, he's got a bookcalled Unlearn and it's and it's just about that. So we need to understandhow to value learning and unlearning. We need to value that. Oftentimes welearn from the people that work for us, not just the people we work for and weneed to value above all people right. We need to value our culture andprotect it with our life because we owe it to every person in our business. Andif we do that, if we do that, those people will rewardyou. They'll make you look like a genius. They'll make your culture go upevery year and through that. Yes, your performance now gets unlocked. I'm notsaying that you can improve, your used cars are fixed off, so your hours perot,even if your culture is not great, you can, but by elevating your culture, you'veunlocked two things that didn't exist before. Number one was sustainablegrowth and success And number two was levels of success that you neverthought was possible. You see Michael, The one thing I haven't told you aboutthis dealership to on top of the fact that it was 21 remarkable managers thatmade that happen. Not me. My only job was to enable them with better data,better insights. My only job was to hire them to do a job and let them dotheir job. Too many dealers today still hire somebody to do something and thenspend all our life telling him what to do. So. But we also did other thingsthat was fully remembered. We eliminated advertising. I went to a J.Abraham course three decades ago, 2.5 decades ago, came back with a lightbulb over my head and said, let's not spend any money on advertising. Whywould a car dealer do that? It's insane. Right. But what I figured out at thattime, thanks to jay is all I was doing often times at that time withadvertising. He was teaching my people to sell from twice and not from value.I was teaching them not to value the...

...relationship with the customer, right?And we were teaching our customers not to value our brand, our brand being ourmanufacturer, brand, being our own dealership. And you know what happened?We ended up outperforming the top 25 Mercedes store and profitability by 8X.I didn't say the bottom and then average the top 25%. We outperformedthem in that profit by eight X. We outgrew any story that Mercedes Benzhad and we did it without spending a dollar in new car advertising, not $1.You know, we did with the money, Michael, here's culture. We establishedsomething called the smart european empowerment drive. Okay. And seed forshort, we had nine zip codes that we served in our er and we located agrassroots nonprofit in each of those nine. And our goal was to take themoney we previously spent on advertising, figure it out on a cardbasis, right? Take a certain dollar amount for sale and give it to thatorganization. To qualify as an organization. You had to validate forus. You have to file a grant application just like anybody else. Youhad to go through an interview process by the way, guess who ran the grantboard? Our employees guests who interviewed the nonprofits areemployees, not managers, are employees guests who selected the non profit fromeach zip code. Our employees. Right. And what happened then is we ended upgiving back to our community instead of spending the money on the table on tvand radio state, Ari cable tv and radio station people out there. But it's thetruth and what happened was not that also elevated our culture.That sent the message of what mattered to us right. But the other thing it didis it triggered the law of reciprocity. Um, because every one of thoseorganizations in every communication, they did guess what you guys ought togo to Smite. You gotta back parts my view. It's my um see Mercedes bubble.You got to go see these guys. We we became a small in the small companycategory. We get an award every year for making more donations, having thegreatest level of philanthropy of any company in silicon. About, wow, okay.So and those are stories that I've never shared that before. Nobody,nobody knows that stuff. But, but those are the things that enable greatmanagers, phenomenal leaders who are dedicated to a culture,cultural ideal, a great patriarch that set the foundational elements ofculture that passed that along to me and I passed it along to the managers.I was fortunate to work with right who passed it along to the associates thatcreated this authentic carrying community, not for to the employeesbefore the customers. And then what we did is we did things our way and wecreated relationships with customers with the community that frankly didn'texist before. And in return, the community loved us back. That's reallywhat happened now. Once those transactional opportunities make nomistake, We also performed at incredibly high level, closed atincredibly high level. But what we're really triggered all of that was thatwas the culture side of things. So 20 I mean, I started there over 30 years agoAnd 30 years later. I'm still saying it for any dealer, any manager out thereis listening to this, as Michael said, I would implore you. Not just recommendtake a hard look last year, many...

...dealers had to take a hard look attheir dealership, their cost structure, their staffing structure, take a hardlook this year and your culture because what happened in 2020, hopefully for the sake of humanity, forthe sake of the health of our family and friends will never be replicatedfor this for our businesses. That convergence that conspired for helpcreate great success in the industry may never happen again, but it's okaybecause if you do a reset this year and take a hard look at your culture andfocus first and foremost on culture. You know, Liz Obor says, uh, just hassuch a phenomenal approach. You know, when it comes to culture as an example,um, Kristen Diller down in north Carolina is a phenomenal approach. Whenit comes to culture brian Bienstock, you know, is deeply committed toculture. It doesn't mean people, they do everything right every day. Itdoesn't mean you don't make a mistake, just means that you're relentlesslypursuing the best culture you can. I'm Michel Cirillo and you've beenlistening to the dealer playbook podcast. If you haven't yet, pleaseclick the subscribe button wherever you're listening right now, leave arating or review and share it with a colleague. If you're ready to make bigchanges in your life and career and want to connect with positive nurturingautomotive professionals, join my exclusive DPB pro community on facebook.That's where we share information, ideas and content that isn't sharedanywhere else. I can't wait to meet you there. Thanks for listening.

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