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On Aug. 14, I checked into the Grand Hyatt Hotel Tampa Bay in Florida.
I was beyond excited as I got to my room, checked the clock and pulled out the materials for the Certified Master Dealer Program.
It was a momentous occasion – the re- launch of a program very near and dear to NIADA and its leadership.
When you are preparing to deliver a three-day program with content as detailed and in- depth as the CMD course, you certainly are anxious about pace and attendee engagement. That evening, I met with the hotel staff, went over the details and then had the room to myself to set up and prepare for the morning launch. I had a feeling it would be great.
The next morning I jumped up, found a cup of coffee and prepared my mind for Day 1. The first day of the Certified Master Dealer class is “everything general management.” In other words, it’s all about operating your business day-to-day. Depending on your dealership’s size and/ or model, your priorities can be different, so it’s important to review and understand many different aspects of general management and leadership to make sure all attendees are learning content that’s relevant to their business model back home.
One very small example of the type of material we covered in the CMD course is the scheduling and priorities of a dealer/general manager/operator.
From the very minute you find the courage to start up a dealership, it’s paramount to focus on spending your time productively. We study daily, weekly, monthly and annual time-management priorities during the course. Here’s a sample of daily activities an operator should consider incorporating in the daily routine.
First, dedicate time to walk through your dealership to begin each morning.
This is time for you to stop and visit with all of your team members. Take interest in the work they are performing for you, encourage feedback regarding internal and external processes. Find out what their motivations are, why they are on the team and how they feel about working for your organization. Pay special attention to those team members who will have customer or prospect contact throughout the day. Are they dressed appropriately? How is their attitude? Are they ready to deal with customers?
Also, this is your opportunity to look around your business and observe whether your inventory is properly displayed and check the cleanliness and organization of each department. To get a gold star, be prepared with the correct information to offer congratulations to team members celebrating a birthday or
anniversary. Time dedicated to walking the facility depends on number of team members, but it should never last more than an hour. After the walk through the facility, sit down and meet with your controller for 15-20 minutes each morning. The controller needs marching orders for the day, and as the daily operator you certainly need an update on any pressing items from accounting. Work off of a daily DOC you have put together (if you would like DOC examples, comment below and request, and I’ll forward you an example).
Expect your controller to be prepared for your morning meeting, having already reviewed the DOC and anticipating your questions and any abnormalities.
Next, meet with your general sales manager and fixed operations manager. Give them each 15-20 minutes of face time each morning.
Most CRM and/or DMS systems can produce a daily DOC that is automatically emailed early each morning. Use a daily DOC system tailored to each department to review information specific to that department.
Meeting with your key managers each morning should not take any longer than an hour. Next, either facilitate or participate in an inventory walk. It should be done at the same time each morning. The lot walk should review yesterday’s trade-ins as well as current inventory. Have the entire used vehicle department attend this walk. By being there, you ensure it takes place and the important tasks in a lot walk are performed.
All UVD managers, sales professionals, detailers and UVD lot porters should attend. Have the sales professional and manager who took each trade-in review the important facts about each trade to the rest of the team. Be sure to notify detail/lot porters of any items that need to be addressed with inventory during the walk – for example, a quick wash, re-sticker, add fuel, re- position, etc. The lot walk should last about 30 minutes each day.
Facilitate or participate in the save-a- deal meeting. Again, that should occur every day, with the same managers (sales managers and F&I managers) each morning at the same time.
In this meeting, observe and contribute to the sales manager reviewing yesterday’s activity logs, including the ups report, sales professional CRM activity logs, prospect counts by sources, pending finance approvals, today’s appointments, etc.
By keeping this meeting structured and daily, the sales management team is focused on the main thing, which is selling cars. This is also a 30 minute daily meeting. After completing those daily tasks, it’s time to close the door and get some work done.
Check email, review the sales department’s customer management reports like the sold report, sourcing and e-leads reports, etc. Review customer heat sheets and handle any complaints necessary.
Also, dig into the unsold prospect follow-up in your CRM, review internal and external surveys and feedback, return phone calls, etc. All that should typically require an hour to 90 minutes.
The dealers should open all of the mail each day, as an internal control. If you have a fixed operations department, be sure to be visible in the service department for a minimum of 30 minutes each day.
Doing all of the activities we’ve discussed here requires approximately five hours each day, depending on your dealership’s size and team member head count. For smaller dealers, the schedule should take approximately the same time, but some of the functions (or all of them) might have to be done by just you.
Most dealers I speak with spend 10- plus hours a day at the lot or working on their business. But think about how much leadership and management can be accomplished in half that time by having a structured schedule.A schedule is just the beginning of the many leadership and management topics we study in the Certified Master Dealer program.

Day 2, for example, is devoted to accounting management. The afternoon of that day is pretty awesome, as the CMD attendees walk through a complex organizational simulator.
The simulator allows dealers to key in their own numbers and change variables such as vehicle turn time or advertising expense percentages to evaluate potential net profit left on the table. That exercise reveals small, incremental changes that can be tweaked when the dealer goes home to make substantial differences in profitability.

On Day 3 – the final day – the class undertakes a deep dive into marketing and merchandising, focusing on inventory acquisition and marketing that inventory.
Again, one very small sample of the inventory advertising discussion from that first session had to do with the advantages and disadvantages of putting prices not only on your website, but also on windshields. The conversation then turned to placing payments on windshields with proper legal disclosures as applicable according to your own state’s laws.

We can all agree that no matter what model of the independent automotive business you employ (retail, Buy Here-Pay
Here, Lease Here-Pay Here), we all want to remain on a payment-focused sales process.
It’s good for buyers to understand the lower cost of ownership when offering down payments and shorter terms on their purchase. It’s good for the dealership as well, keeping customers in better equity positions, ensuring solid trade-in cycles, increasing customer satisfaction and improving opportunities to hold gross profit.
With the intention of remaining payment-focused, how does placing payments or payment ranges (again with proper disclosure) begin to disarm the customer, remove anxiety from a “first pencil” and steer customers to vehicles they can plainly see are within their preconceived budget range? If done properly and legally, all of those factors can support and align the customer’s goals with the dealer’s goals.
There’s so much more discussed during the Certified Master Dealer class sessions that it would certainly take days just to touch on the details.
The relaunch of this course – for years, the most acclaimed and respected training program in the independent dealer space – is important to NIADA and its leadership as an essential component of the association’s commitment to providing independent dealers the highest degree of quality education.We take that commitment very seriously.
I want to thank the newest Certified Master Dealers who attended the program in Tampa with me for their engagement and feedback, and for what each of them brought to the course.
We had stimulating discussions and were able to take topics to the next level because of the experience in the room. And we had a great time on top of all the work.
I am excited to announce the next Certified Master Dealer session for retail and BHPH dealers will be held Nov. 5-7 in the Dallas area.