A simple analogy, if just a bit on the nose:
The business owner is the driver of the vehicle. Their next goal is the destination; the route is the current (though flexible) plan; their staff is the vehicle; what of the managers? Managers are the fuel-source to motivate the staff. They are the business owner’s interface for physical and vocal commands when adjustments to the plan or its implementation are necessary. Managers are the internal and external sensors – and the onboard computer – receiving, refining, evaluating, and providing suggested changes; they constantly gauge the market conditions against the business owner’s goals and available resources (labor-force and their expertise, inventory, multiple online department-management tools, marketing strategies, budgetary limits, etc.) And at all times, managers are the undefeatable – and sometimes genius – onboard mechanic.
The manager, as a mechanic, best serves the business owner by making sure that the staff they manage are producing at the highest volume and efficiency. A good thing, too; plans do fall apart, and so do people.
Parent, teacher, coach, mentor, confidant, counselor – you’ll rarely find those words in a job-description for managers. Successful, strong business owners prize and target these qualities in their managers above all else. Knowledge, skill, efficiency – these are secondary, and come with experience. Successful business owners first seek in their management staff the ability to inspire and energize others; that rare and extraordinary quality that creates in some and amplifies in others a constant desire to perform at the highest levels of personal pride, excellence, and a self-critical eye for improvement. These are the voices that a successful and growth-minded business owner wants speaking for them.
And so, when the manager must slip momentarily into the mechanic’s role, the humanity of it all can bring the tone down to more serious and personal levels. In most cases, even bringing up an area for improvement with a subordinate staff member can be met with fear and anxiety if not carefully considered and crafted for positive results. Even more emotionally impactful are these conversations when it is a more serious issue that needs immediate and firm corrective action. Nobody likes to do it. Nobody likes to receive it.
But do big and impactful actions from management always have to be negative? Of course not. Positive and negative are simply ways of framing a request. Managers find the issue, they investigate and collect relevant facts, develop a response plan, and implement that plan… which means having a discussion.
The best managers are always looking for different ways of providing their staff subtle course-corrections; creative ways to have their employees bring about change in themselves, rather than having a new demand and reprimand wrapped around their neck. Usually employees are grateful and appreciative of these efforts, as they understand that all these additional things are additional dollars being invested into them. And when they are actively appreciating your value in their professional life, they will also better appreciate any discussion you may need to have.
Activities and the like are available in many different ways and price-points. At the local level, these can include attending certain meetings or events with their Chambers of Commerce and local chapters of select Trade Associations; camaraderie and team-building fun and games at the local park; attending different seminars on communication, sales, finance, vehicle repairs, etc…. And, usually, a hyper-focus on the local community is the best answer. You serve your community best, when you fully understand what is happening within it.
COVID-19. Chip-shortages. Metal shortages. Production shut-downs. Cargo ships full of vehicles and production materials unable to dock and unload due to dock under-staffing… And so on. This is not the usual ‘goings-on’ that we generally hear and otherwise don’t pay much mind to. In this case, it actually makes a whole lot of sense to get out of the local level for a moment, and hear what businesses similarly involved and affected are doing. Learn what they are telling their employees, what they are telling their customers, and what they are telling you. Chances are, you’ll notice an overall trend — everyone is trying to migrate their customer base into an exclusively pre-ordering mindset. To accomplish this, details and priorities must be examined and redefined. It’s not

complicated, but it is something that can rattle business owners who are settled – or stuck – in a certain way of doing things. Hearing this message from everyone in your industry up and down the line allows you and your team to more effectively and efficiently communicate the realities of the work truck industry; redefining “realistic expectations” with your own customers can go smoothly when all the details that make up the big picture are laid out.
This is the kind of information that is available at the NTEA convention. While some people might scoff at such an extravagance, others do indeed view the expense of travel, attendance, food/lodging, etc. to be one of a series of ongoing investments in their amazing, deserving staff. Just another one of many. Why? Because managers are always looking for ways to improve before there’s a breakdown. When they are constantly treating their employees as valuable people, those people behave as valuable employees. High-engagement and industry interaction through events like the NTEA are rare. With a good understanding of what businesses and presentations most affect your dealership and community, your employees will come out with densely packed, powerful information and understanding. Understanding breeds in your staff genuine confidence, which then becomes calm and intelligent conversations with their buyers, which becomes a new or retained buyer with, now, the proper expectations.
All of this because the manager knew to continually build value and invest in their staff. Going to events like the NTEA isn’t for top-performers. It isn’t for any sort of elite class. These events are for people who want to know more, do more, get more, and go further. Managers, I encourage you to gain those extra funds and get your team over to the NTEA Convention. Dealership owners, I encourage you to say yes. Always invest in your staff. Use the NTEA Convention to underscore what they already knew, and expose them to ideas and questions and conversations they didn’t even know to consider. Get their mind on fire. Keep them wanting to be excellent, rather than wanting to cut corners. You know your managers have done well, when you see the staff actively wanting to – not just do well – but to, every time, do even better.

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