The Dealer Playbook
The Dealer Playbook

Episode · 1 year 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 I regret more than not investing in zoom when I had the chance. How was I supposed 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 feeling sitting on the sidelines knowing I could have jumped on another bandwagon sooner. luckily we know what the next big boom and retail automotive is and that's why companies like four telus have provided the tools to create unique apps that will help your dealership meet the demands of the market. You see no to dealers operate. The same way the beauty about four tell us, is that you can pick and choose the apps and workflows that help you meet the demands of the market while catering to your operations, not only is foretell has created an amazing technology platform that's designed to make life easier for dealers. They are pouring back into the community with events like their dealer DVD. It's a three day event that empowers attendees to network with each other to create smarter faster and better apps for the dealer community. So my beloved DPB gang, the best thing that you can do right now is visit the four telus marketplace and browse through their growing library of apps And integrations that will allow you to run your 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's been so caught up in? But I got to make ends meet by doing the things I've always done. How do I balance that? Because there is an immediate need with the concept of seeing incremental gains through social currency and building out culture and all of those things. Like how do you because because we tend to be one or the other right? It's like, well, I can't go all in on culture because if I'm all in on culture, then how do I increase my bottom line? And I've got O. E. M. S breathing down my neck saying I gotta how did you navigate that? What's your experience there? I was very fortunate. I mentioned earlier, Michael that somebody put deep into my head at some point in my youth that when you go interview for a job, make sure that it's not a one way interview. And so I interviewed the interviewer and I understood that it's back washing the car business, which is notorious for turnover, that it was incumbent on me. There was the accountability, really lied with me to really ultimately put myself in a position where I didn't end up becoming a nutrition statistics, right? So let me talk about that for a second. So, if you don't have ideology sinking up between you and your employer, you and your boss, in fact, Marcus Buckingham, who wrote a great series of books, now discover your strengths and a couple of others that were all three were best sellers. You know, they did exhaustive, Nielsen did exhaustive studies on the employer employee relationship, and what they learned after years of research was that people go to work for companies, but they always quit their manager, right? I think about that for a second. Why is that? Well, typically there's an ideological divide that exist, or there's a cultural divide that exists. So you have to make sure that you take the time to understand and really see what is the culture of the place that you're about to go to work for perspectively and and where is that culture coming from? And then that's coming from the ideology, you know, of the person who runs that organization, runs that department or founded that company. And we've all heard of companies that are just...

...absolutely famous for their culture and what it did for that organization. And yes, they turned out to be wildly profitable. Who? I wondered what, how did that happen? Well, so, so if you think about that, if you say, okay, how did this happen? Well, in our organization, 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 to find anything that would say anything less than magnificent things. Not he's a nice guy, magnificent like this guy, impacted my life and I was fortunate enough to have him as a mentor, his son, Michael, you know, got a lot of those attributes and really absorbed those attributes. I had a chance to work with Michael and care deeply about culture. Um, we were accompanied as a result that, that revalued culture above anything else, including yes, off it. Please understand anybody listening to this. I don't often times say things that 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 the thing is that your profit, your results, that you're looking at on your composite on your financial statement. They are not a byproduct of performance. They are a byproduct of culture. So please pay attention to that. They are a byproduct of culture. To show me anybody who is singularly focused on money and I will show you a high, high, high percentage of those people that will never, ever achieve a high level of success, Certainly not sustainable success. So what we did is we valued culture above all, Bill Smite would never pass by a piece of garbage on the ground without picking it up. He would never 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 offer them coffee. Right? And he had more money than anybody would ever need in the world. But he had a humanity to, on the level of humanity and humility that really is what made him truly wealthy and remarkable. And, and it's people like 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 people outside, 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 in your 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 very well at the end of the day. So what was missing was a connection between that and performance. You know, my role was to be able to assist in connecting those two dots. So one thing I hired people that are smarter than me. I never ever let anybody in the store. Not I we you know why I say we because we never hired anybody unless three managers minimum, minimum three managers interviewed people and all three managers had to say absolutely yes, this person should come in. And if none of us, if one out of the three or four said no, we didn't bring that person in. You know why my whole, because of the lobby accumulation that says everything counts, everything brings you closer to or closer or further away, you bring somebody in that's gonna, every time you hire somebody, they're either going to lift your 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 I was that one of his session. He happened to say to me, he said uh he was driving through reno of all places, he sees a billboard for a hotel on the billboard says, we don't train our people to be nice, we just hire nice people. You know what? You can't train people to be nice people. You've got to hire nice people. You've got to hire people that you respect and that you admire. You gotta surround your people with people that they're going to respect and admire, right? So, so we were deeply embedded with that. So what we 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 ours borough. 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 only industry that still using the same metrics today that we were using 30 40 50 years ago. You realize that through all of this technology and innovation that you still have most stores, the United States where the average salesperson 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't we disrupt that? Right. What at what point guys are we going to connect this technology 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 social experiment that dealers will walk up and down. The managers walk up and down the convention hall looking for something to this day. That could be a silver bullet. Not all dealers that many dealers do. And then they bring it in 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 your people. What percentage Michael would you say? What percentage of all dealers would 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. The Number seven comes to my it's tiny, isn't, it doesn't Matter if it's five or 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 you saw a dealer do culture training, Michael? We spent Over $250,000 every year with a company called the Pacific Institute, which was culture training. And you know, what's really amazing about that? Not just that it elevated our culture even beyond where it was, Not just that it taught us that. Oftentimes the leaders in an organization are not managers. There oftentimes frontline people that are your movers shakers. Not just that it taught us that every employee should be a co architect of your culture. No, it was the fact that investing that money actually could cause some of our great people to leave our organization. Why? Because it allowed them to see themselves in a different light to realize they had more potential. So I had a technician after all that training said, you know, David, I need to go start my own repair shop and you know what we said, congratulations and we meant we meant it. So you know, you do it with that authenticity, with that level of honesty and with that level of true caring which came from the top down. It started with that patriarch...

...and it worked its way down. I was fortunate to be become the dealer and the president of that organization. We ended 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 who taught me everything not to do as a father, he taught me everything not to do as a husband. He taught me everything not to do as a human autonation Many times taught me things to do that. To this day. I leverage and I value greatly. It also taught me what not to do because you see when our store was acquired for that $25 million, I was fully expecting that the whole leadership team was going to come in and say all right, before we do anything else, you guys have got to tell me, how did you achieve three unemployment? Maybe three turnover. How did you do 25 million in that? How did you 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 all these things? Do you know how that meeting went, Michael and never went. It never happened. And the reality is, is what Autonation is a phenomenal company in so many ways. Five years later that that same dealership went from making $25 million dollars a year to single digits again. Okay. And the reality is, I was told at that time we are not going to have any hall passes for 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 that are of value, but some of the most valuable things that we, we learn need to have our participation. Let me explain brian Bienstock, my great friend and I think absolutely the thought later in the industry, um you know, we were talking a couple months ago about a presentation he was doing for 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, they may have told you the rule of the river, here's the rule of the river. If you ever get thrown from the boat, you must participate in your rescue. We're not just going to track you down. You have, you have to swim like you've never swam before, You better participate. So a lot of times when it comes to growth and learning, I hope that everybody realizes when it comes to culture, you know, you better participate in your learning. Oftentimes we were taught that hey you go to school and the teacher is going to provide us education. That's what we got our learning. Okay, well that's partially true, but you also have to participate in the learning process. Let me explain because sometimes you're taught things that are not completely true or taken out of context. So you know, which simply means that when you receive something, you have to choose the sanctions or not as fast and to you have to determine if if that's your truth right for you, is it congruent with you and what you stand for? 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 to focus 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, dollar per share, share. We need to get another dollar per share. And I would say back to them, you know I've got support people who I've been on a two year freeze pay increase freeze and all they want is a dollar per hour because they have four kids at home and they need to buy food or diapers. They don't care about...

...a dollar per share. There's people that a 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 was the most difficult thing because I'm a culture guy. I'm a data guy. I'm a performance guy. But I was taught years ago that without the foundation of people and culture, it's always been about people, it's always going to be about people. Show me a top performing store in the country and I'll show you an impressive group. Show me a top performing store that stays on top my saying is always, it's easier to climb out Everest than to live up there. Show me a story that learned to live up there, Michael and I will show you culture. Right? So, so some things it's important to learn other things. It's important to unlearn and Alvin Toffler and culture shot are yeah, was it future shock decades ago wrote the sign of literacy in the future is not going to be somebody who learns how to read, but it's going to be somebody who learns to learn unlearn and relearn and I have never seen a period of time in my 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 humble a poet. His real name is Kanwar Singh, but he's fascinating, he's an amazing human being. He's probably got 400,000 followers on Instagram and two best selling books, remarkable human with a remarkable story. His family came from India and his dad was a very highly regarded professional who couldn't get a job as anything but a taxi driver in Canada right? And uh and and Kanwar became an elementary school teacher and now he does uh performance and he is an author and does other things. But the point is, you know, he's got a book called Unlearn and it's and it's just about that. So we need to understand how to value learning and unlearning. We need to value that. Oftentimes we learn from the people that work for us, not just the people we work for and we need to value above all people right. We need to value our culture and protect it with our life because we owe it to every person in our business. And if we do that, if we do that, those people will reward you. They'll make you look like a genius. They'll make your culture go up every year and through that. Yes, your performance now gets unlocked. I'm not saying 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've unlocked two things that didn't exist before. Number one was sustainable growth and success And number two was levels of success that you never thought was possible. You see Michael, The one thing I haven't told you about this dealership to on top of the fact that it was 21 remarkable managers that made 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 do their job. Too many dealers today still hire somebody to do something and then spend all our life telling him what to do. So. But we also did other things that was fully remembered. We eliminated advertising. I went to a J. Abraham course three decades ago, 2.5 decades ago, came back with a light bulb over my head and said, let's not spend any money on advertising. Why would a car dealer do that? It's insane. Right. But what I figured out at that time, thanks to jay is all I was doing often times at that time with advertising. 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 our manufacturer, 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 outperformed them in that profit by eight X. We outgrew any story that Mercedes Benz had 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 established something called the smart european empowerment drive. Okay. And seed for short, we had nine zip codes that we served in our er and we located a grassroots nonprofit in each of those nine. And our goal was to take the money we previously spent on advertising, figure it out on a card basis, right? Take a certain dollar amount for sale and give it to that organization. To qualify as an organization. You had to validate for us. You have to file a grant application just like anybody else. You had to go through an interview process by the way, guess who ran the grant board? Our employees guests who interviewed the nonprofits are employees, not managers, are employees guests who selected the non profit from each zip code. Our employees. Right. And what happened then is we ended up giving back to our community instead of spending the money on the table on tv and radio state, Ari cable tv and radio station people out there. But it's the truth 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 did is it triggered the law of reciprocity. Um, because every one of those organizations in every communication, they did guess what you guys ought to go 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 company category. We get an award every year for making more donations, having the greatest 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 great managers, phenomenal leaders who are dedicated to a culture, cultural ideal, a great patriarch that set the foundational elements of culture 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 that created this authentic carrying community, not for to the employees before the customers. And then what we did is we did things our way and we created relationships with customers with the community that frankly didn't exist before. And in return, the community loved us back. That's really what happened now. Once those transactional opportunities make no mistake, We also performed at incredibly high level, closed at incredibly high level. But what we're really triggered all of that was that was the culture side of things. So 20 I mean, I started there over 30 years ago And 30 years later. I'm still saying it for any dealer, any manager out there is listening to this, as Michael said, I would implore you. Not just recommend take a hard look last year, many...

...dealers had to take a hard look at their dealership, their cost structure, their staffing structure, take a hard look this year and your culture because what happened in 2020, hopefully for the sake of humanity, for the sake of the health of our family and friends will never be replicated for this for our businesses. That convergence that conspired for help create great success in the industry may never happen again, but it's okay because if you do a reset this year and take a hard look at your culture and focus first and foremost on culture. You know, Liz Obor says, uh, just has such a phenomenal approach. You know, when it comes to culture as an example, um, Kristen Diller down in north Carolina is a phenomenal approach. When it comes to culture brian Bienstock, you know, is deeply committed to culture. It doesn't mean people, they do everything right every day. It doesn't mean you don't make a mistake, just means that you're relentlessly pursuing the best culture you can. I'm Michel Cirillo and you've been listening to the dealer playbook podcast. If you haven't yet, please click the subscribe button wherever you're listening right now, leave a rating or review and share it with a colleague. If you're ready to make big changes in your life and career and want to connect with positive nurturing automotive professionals, join my exclusive DPB pro community on facebook. That's where we share information, ideas and content that isn't shared anywhere else. I can't wait to meet you there. Thanks for listening.

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