When Hiring, You Get What You Pay For

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TAKING FULL ADVANTAGE of the Internet is not easy. It requires full-time staff who know how to do it. Unfortunately, a lot of dealers don't employ such people. One advantage of today's economy is the pool of unemployed people with Internet skills, many of whom would be eager to join your ranks.

But many of you who need to hire somebody may not realize it. What is this idiot talking about? you say. Has he not been made aware of the general malaise of the world economy? None of what's happening to my dealership has anything to do with my management or the caliber of people that I have working here. I'm only a victim of circumstance!

In my five years in this industry (after coming from the tech world) I've noticed a disturbing lack of higher education or even formal professional training among dealership staff — often including the principal or GM.

I believe this is driven by two main factors. First, some dealerships aren't paying their employees crap. I was appalled when I saw the results of Dealernews' Wages & Benefits Survey. Some dealerships pay less than Wal-Mart does for a night stock clerk. Secondly, there's a general lack of respect for the value of education within dealerships. Perhaps this has something to do with upper management not wanting to be surrounded by employees with more education than they have. Don't laugh; I've had dealer principals admit as much.

Consider this: According to an ABC News story, fewer than 20 percent of college grads can find a job in their desired fields. What does this say to you? It says to me that now is an excellent time to do some major replanting in your company.

You've got a pool of educated people out there who could bring significant improvements to your business. More than a few of these recent grads probably have a range of skills, education and experience that you can apply toward your Internet initiatives (e-commerce, Internet advertising, social media, etc.). I'm sure there are more than a few powersports enthusiasts among them who are dejectedly dropping off resumes at Starbucks and Home Depot. They could contribute positive things to your business if you made it worth their time. I'm not saying hire good people cheaply; I'm saying pay well for real value. There's a difference.

Sure, you may have been successful for the past few years. I'd bet that a few of the now-defunct dealerships were once "successful." But as times change and competition gets more fierce, how far are your old "successful" ways going to carry out?

But Todd, you're being ignorant and naive. We need to hire people with years of experience in the industry who know how things work. We don't have the money or time to recruit the best and brightest because we're dealing with workaday problems.

I suggest you have so many problems because you're doing it wrong. In general (notwithstanding factors outside your control), good results come from a good process that's done well, repeatedly. What is the one variable in your business, outside the products and services you sell, that's part of this process? The people.

As a manager, there are only three things you can really do to enable a successful outcome. They are recruit, hire or acquire the best people you can, educate and train them to be as good as possible, and create an environment where they can thrive.

Why spend time on the stuff you can't control? Consider how much your dealership's success depends on having the best people. Why hire just anybody who can answer a want ad?

When I manage people, I want them to provide at least one better way to do a task that I assign. I don't want employees who are only there to do a task I don't have time to do. I want them to do it better than me. If they can't, they should start looking for a new job.

Don't hire three people at $8 an hour who contribute X amount to your company when you can hire one well-educated, motivated person at $20 an hour who contributes five times that.

Change the way you think about hiring, and maybe the only big problem you'll have is learning how to manage and motivate high-functioning employees.

What if you're an employee on the other end of the hiring equation? Start making yourself invaluable. Get a degree in something like Internet marketing or e-commerce. Join organizations like the American Marketing Association and get training in social media marketing. Demand that your boss give you training with programs like Dealership University, or has you attend the educational seminars at Dealer Expo.

And if your boss is not reading this or following my suggestions, you may want to start looking for a new place to work, because one way or another, you're going to be doing that anyway in a year or two.