Invest in Technology, Process, and People
I was talking with Mike Dunlap of Schomp Automotive recently about how working from home in response to COVID-19 was changing dealerships. When I asked his thoughts, he shared that “Those who invest in the right technology, process, and people will come out of this stronger.” I’ve thought about that one line repeatedly.
When I joined my dad at Weymouth Honda, he had the people and the processes. But even he will admit the technology was lacking. As we layered on more and more technology to assist our team perform their duties, the puzzle pieces fell into place. If there were technology gaps that still existed about working with trusted vendors already in the space, I created tools to empower the dealership. We saw 117% year-over-year growth in new car sales that first year and DealerScience was born from the tools we created to fill the technology gaps. It has been more than ten years since I first joined Weymouth Honda. And the original DealerScience tools have changed and grown tremendously over the years thanks to the hard work of our very dedicated team at DealerScience and now the greater team at TrueCar. As DealerScience grew its rooftop count and customers, we quickly realized that scaling a software startup was not just about creating good software. It was also about investing in the right technology, process, and people.
When we began hiring, we initially searched for the best people in automotive. After a few false starts, we realized that it was more important to find people who demonstrated the qualities that would enable them to become the best in automotive even if they didn’t have prior experience in the field. What do I mean by this? For DealerScience, we decided we would rather hire someone who could empathize with a customer and be accountable than someone who had sold products in dealerships or held an account management call. An eager but greener engineer was better than someone who knew everything about automotive platforms.
With this approach, it is vital to regularly train the team on both the automotive industry and our company’s processes. The more training we offered, the more empowered the DealerSquad became. Sometimes our training would involve the entire team learning about a specific automotive retail topic. Other times we would train a department on hard skills like problem solving, the cadence of running a good online meeting, or the steps in our implementation process. The point was to give the team some direction along with the hard skills they needed to navigate whatever came their way. Most importantly, we also wanted to create a safe place for them to come if they needed help beyond that.
So we had the people. We had figured out the process (and we constantly revisited it to make adjustments). Next we needed to optimize our team’s effort by taking advantage of technology to make DealerScience as efficient and successful as possible. For example, in the early days, we emailed PDF contracts as attachments to be printed, signed, scanned, and sent back to us. The shift to DocuSign was an elegant solution that saved us hours of follow up, difficult legal negotiations over terms of the agreement, and the headache of managing scanned, unsearchable agreements. Tools like Yesware revolutionized how we tracked our contact with prospects in our sales department. Communication tools like Slack and 15Five helped instantaneously communicate and share team goals regularly. Each tool was a small incremental improvement but the resulting environment meant more productivity from the same team.
And this relates to dealerships in today’s environment more than ever before since running a dealership looks more like running a software startup. It’s time to revisit your technology, processes, and people with an open mind to invest in the future of your business. Perhaps a new tool will enable your team to get the same work done faster. Maybe some positions are more productive remotely. I think you’ll start to see many adaptations to our changing conditions, and we’ll see more innovation in the next few months than our industry has seen in ten years. What new changes have you seen at your store?