Team Winnebagoland takes a collective approach

Publish Date: 
Jan 13, 2014
By Joe Delmont


Following along with the team theme are the twin emphases of training and processes. Take training. The dealership makes regular use of Sam Dantzler, a former executive at Lemco Associates, and it has been a member of a Spader Business Management 20 Group for 20 years.

Both Tom and Nick Van Zeeland are adamant about the benefits, and cite four in particular.

First, it’s about the numbers. “Spader taught us the importance of score keeping,” says Tom. “We are competitive SOBs, and if [we] don’t have a score to keep, we don’t know what to do.” In the Spader 20 Group, the Van Zeelands share their financials with similar dealerships and compete on quarterly performance. They also compete with themselves, month-on-month and year-on-year. “Numbers are the No. 1 reason to join,” says Tom.

Second are the relationships. “You feel like you can call them any day of the week and get honest feedback,” Nick explains. “We have questions, and [members] very much act as mentors. We share financials with these guys you can trust.”

The third benefit: new perspectives. “Sometimes, it’s just getting outside these four walls,” says Tom. “You get outside the business and hear other people’s ideas and thoughts. And sometimes I leave a meeting with lots of notes, and realize we don’t have any immediate problems.”

The fourth benefit: It requires the brothers to work on the business, not in the business.

“My Dad says it’s way better to do that,” says Nick. “In the business,” he continues, “you can’t focus on the big opportunity, [so] we let employees work in the business. If I’m working on deals, I can’t think about buying things the right way. Many dealers have the problem that they can only work in the business -- they don’t have a chance to step away.”


Processes are paramount. Take, for example, the store tour. An employee takes the every new vehicle buyer through the dealership in a very precise and scripted manner. In fact, there’s a path marked on the floor -- a Yellow Brick Road, if you will, although it’s not that obvious. There are specific stations where the tour stops – an accessories display, the parts counter or elsewhere -- and the customer learns about features and benefits of the dealership at that particular point. The comments aren’t casual or off the cuff; the presentation is tightly scripted. A specific process.

Tom’s favorite is the dealership’s sales process. Instead of having a sales rep command the entire job, start to finish, the sales process involves several specialists:  

  • The Product Specialist shows the product.
  • Accessories Specialists go over upgrades and options.
  • The Deskers go over the numbers and work the deal.
  • The F&I people coordinate the pickup, take care of the back-end, and process the lending and the paperwork.

“This process gives us defined roles,” Tom says, “and we now have been able to hire and train easier for strengths of each role.

“Before, it was as though we were playing football and just throwing the ball to someone who was open. Now, we call the play and we all know the routes to run and where to be,” Tom continues. “If someone goes down, we can plug in the next man up and move on as usual.”