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Is Your Ego Limiting The Success Of Your Dealership?

Anyone who has been an active member of ADM knows that the pace of change in our industry over the past 10 years has been breathtaking.  


Dealers have more "balls to keep in the air" than ever before.  I'm not just talking about the changes that Google and Social Media have introduced. Regulatory, environmental, reinsurance, human resources, financing, mobile technology, and OEM franchise law is changing rapidly as well.  


I have been blessed to work with small and large dealership organizations in my relatively short career in the automotive industry. Short when I compare it to the years of experience represented by ADM leaders such as Ralph Paglia, Ken Beam, Tom Gorham, James Ziegler, or Phil Zelinger. 


When traveling around the country working with dealers, it is common for me to advise the dealers to send their team to educational conferences and advanced training sessions.  The next big conference is the Automotive Boot Camp, hosted by First Class Educators.  A number of ADM members will be presenting and attending Boot Camp this year along with two ADM Boot Camp Scholarship winners.  I'll be there lending my hand at a few workshops; here is a list of all 48 workshops offered


I encourage investments in education for one simple fact: Executives at dealerships need to have their team aware of the opportunities, tools, and strategies for modern day dealership operations.  Dealer principals can no longer "pull" their teams into compliance.  Dealerships need to share a common vision to achieve the outcomes they desire.


Do Large Dealer Groups Have An Advantage?


When I speak with larger dealer groups, defined as organizations with over 12 franchise stores, it is very common to see that their investment in dealership education is limited to a handful of employees.  What I mean is that it is two or three people to represent the entire group. 


When I ask executives at larger dealer groups why at least ONE employee from each store is not attending a conference, I get a number of interesting responses:


  1. Brian, there are only a few stores in our group that really "get it".
  2. Brian, we have a few stores that have not really embraced the Internet, so sending them to a conference would be a waste of time.
  3. Brian, if we send our GM or GSM to a conference, they will sign up for services that we don't want them to have.
  4. Brian, we manage the information and products that we want our dealers to see.
  5. We don't believe in sending them to conferences because it is not efficient.  Basically, it's a waste of time. We can not afford to take a day out of the dealership.

Will this arrogance be the breaking point for scaling successful dealership groups? No.   However, it will limit the  FULL potential  of each store in a large dealership group.  

This is the main point of this article.  Limiting education will be the achilles heel of dealers. 

Leaders Have Limited Reach


There are some very bright individuals leading the charge at large dealer groups without question.  However, these leaders still have to get EACH store to understand:

  • the influence on consumers of online reviews
  • the opportunities that social media offer
  • the "traffic now" results of paid search and display marketing
  • the annuity of traffic generated from SEO investments
  • the engagement power of video marketing


IF large dealer groups created a digital ambassador at each store, their work would actually be simplified. They would not be  "pulling" their dealers to the digital party. To their surprise, the stores would start demanding more of the corporate team because each store would understand the opportunities in their local marketplace. 


If I was managing over a group of 10,20, or 30 stores, I would know my limitations.  I could not FORCE my stores to:


  • Engage their customers to post online reviews
  • Invite customers to join their social media platform
  • Collaborate with customers to create a video testimonial
  • Log a majority of their phone ups into CRM
  • Properly follow phone scripts and CRM processes
  • Promote the long term value of the dealership brand
However, if I could light the fire at each location with a handful of "ambassadors", then potential is infinite.  Yet, few large dealer groups see that their current model is holding back the creative energy of their stores.  The "costs" from lost opportunities are staggering.

Is The Tail Wagging The Dog?

Let me be clear.  I understand the need for chain of command in a large organization.  I understand the need to approve and manage group contracts.  I understand the opportunity to leverage vendors for better prices when you have a large number of stores.
Larger dealership groups have to stop thinking that ALL their stores CAN NOT handle a new world order. Why limit success?  EMPOWERED dealerships can innovate and create customized marketing strategies for their local market.  Why would dealers settle for anything less??
Change and innovation will only happen if dealers send MORE, NOT LESS, of their staff to educational conferences.  Infuse NEW blood into aging dealerships!
From my experience, large dealer groups are behind smaller groups in this area of opportunity.  Their EGO is limiting their ability to dominate their markets through economies of scale AND empowered dealership employees.
It is time to unleash the power of your employees!
What say you?




Brian Pasch CEO of PCG


Brian Pasch, CEO

PCG Digital Marketing
Brian Pasch

Views: 787

Tags: conferences, dealership training


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Comment by John L Mecham on May 1, 2012 at 11:42am

I think it is more the fear of loss rather than the desire for gain that prevents most dealers from shedding any more light on their staff than they can personally control.  Insecure dealers do worry that their best people, if made any better, will get up and leave.  Fact is, they would be far better off really "taking care of" these best people by unleashing all the knowledge and skill available and allow those who are going to go, go.  The rest will fill the void immediately with the same knowledge and power to move the dealership forward.  I was once told by a dear dealer friend that he does not allow his people to grow because he hated the turnover.  Ego is an interesting thing.  Insecurity is ugly.

Comment by Stephen Murphy on May 1, 2012 at 11:14am

@Ralph - I chuckled when I saw your comment. I once had a boss that would not pay for any continuing education programs or certifications for me, because he feared I would just take my talents elsewhere after I completed the training. This seriously impeded my ability to innovate and help the company grow. Needless to say, his insecurities came true when I found a new job at PCG, and his failure to invest cost him a seasoned employee. 

Moral of the story: Trust your employees. Empower them to innovate and make change. They will reward you with increased effort, more accountability, and a mutual interest in growing your organization. 

Comment by Tarry Shebesta on May 1, 2012 at 8:50am

As George mentioned below, this is true for any business but especially for the vendors who sell to dealers. Vendor egos and the "I can do it all myself" mentality actually inhibits dealers from receiving the best products and services in the industry.

Comment by Bruce Polkes on April 30, 2012 at 9:55pm
Excellent points Brian. You either grow or die, and having an attitude about growing and empowering your people makes all the difference. Many world class organizations push people to hire those smarter than yourself and reward people for training and promoting others. But to do this, you have to let go of your ego and trust that the sum of the parts will be stronger than any individual. If you believe that people are your biggest asset, why not continue to educate them to make them your biggest innovators. Now that's a plan for growth!
Comment by Ralph Paglia on April 30, 2012 at 7:39pm

Brian, I had a distinct feeling of "Deja Vu" as I read your listing of dealer group responses to why they do not educate more people in their dealerships... Let me add one more relevant example - During the ADM Boot Camp Scholarship Video Contest i received a call from a dealer who planned on submitting an entry video, and he wanted to know how much he would need to "donate" in order to win.  I explained the rules of the contest and encouraged him to get as many of his 400 employees as possible to visit ADM, register and click "Promote" so their co-worker could win.  The dealer's response was something along the lines of "I don't mind my managers knowing about the ADM site, but I am afraid that if my sales people or other staff joined ADM they might learn enough to get higher paying jobs at other dealerships..."

To say the least... I was flabbergasted... He knows how disappointed I am with his "Give them the Mushroom Treatment" leadership style and lack of commitment to improving his employee's skills.  Obviously, I will not reveal who the dealer was!

Comment by Jae Chang on April 30, 2012 at 7:28pm

Great Share Brian. Thanks!

Comment by George Nenni on April 30, 2012 at 7:08pm

Great post Brian, lots of truths here.  I think this is true in many organizations, not just dealer groups.  Everyone has to immerse, or at least as many as you can muster.  Ideally, a leader has ideas coming from the field locations, pushing them to make changes and innovate.  Seldom does it work well the opposite way, top down directives have no buy-in from subordinates.  And what to say of succession planning?  Inspire and train at every level, and you'll be amazed at the flow of ideas, solid buy in, which lead to great execution, and a farm of future leaders to run our businesses.

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