There are plenty of ways to succeed in the used-car business. But a close look at some of the best operators shows they share several habits.
One of these is coming up with a plan.
“All successful dealers have a business plan for the year,” said Joe Lescota, with the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association.
This plan must be realistic, which means including a projection of net profit along with gross and revenue.
Successful dealers review that plan on a weekly basis.
Dealers must know how each employee fits in this plan.
That means having a job description for everybody and training them on how to do those jobs.
One of the most important habits is consistency, said Anthony Underwood, the owner of Underwood Mo- tors in Bessemer, Ala.
Underwood said people often want to change the script just to maintain their own interest, regardless of how well a business operates.
“Success is boring,” he said.
Dealers need to remember to do what is best for all rather than themselves.
Consistency is different than not changing. In fact, another habit of successful dealers is accepting change, especially when it comes to technology.
Ken Shilson, founder of the National Alliance of Buy-
Here, Pay-Here Dealers, said it was enough a few years ago for a dealer to have a website and maybe use AutoTrader to attract customers.
It was a question of putting himself out there and having the customers come to him.
“What works today is proactively connecting with the customer before they go somewhere else,” Shilson said. “You have to take their hand and being them to your lot.”
Successful dealers embrace other technologies to solve their problems.
For example, the kind of inventory typical of buy-here, pay-here lots proves hard to find these days. Successful dealers use technology to broaden their search for the right units with which to stock their lots.
They also use tools such as GPS devices to control their costs and make their operations more efficient.
Another habit that helps dealers on several fronts is making their customers happy.
“Do whatever you can to keep the customer happy and that goes a long way,” said William Denius, an attorney who specializes in auto finance.
Denius said many disputes between dealers and their finance companies arise when a customer starts griping and as a result stops paying.
“Of course, there will be times when you do all you can and it’s not enough,” De- nius said.
“But trying is crucial.”
So successful dealers are in the habit of keeping their customers happy, keeping up with change, having a plan and being consistent.