This week's blog post is an article that I've recently read by George Angus.
Here it is:
At a recent training event, I had an aspiring F&I professional come up to me during one of the breaks telling me he was focused on making a career of the automobile business. His goal was to someday become a General Manager or even a dealer. He asked if there was a single, most important piece of advice I could give him to help him in his career. Whenever I get this type of question, I always share a piece of advice I got years ago from a top trainer.
Advice from my mentors.
When I was first starting out in the car business, I was fortunate to be exposed to and mentored by some of the top professionals in the industry. I was influenced by some of the legends, Joe Girard, Clint McGhee, Carl Sewell, etc.
Once, a wise and respected mentor told me,
“Just remember, there are only 10 people in this business and they all know each other”.
I didn’t fully understand what he meant by that at the time, but over the last thirty-plus years I have come “get” what he was saying. What he meant was that this is a smaller community than one might expect. And you will live with whatever you do and the impressions you leave for your entire career.
Character is important.
It's easy to assume that your value to a dealer is your ability to make money. But while that's certainly important, your reputation and ethics have become just as important to potential employers.
In today’s litigious society, the ability to make money is only a part of your value to an employer. Your ethics, honesty, and ability to operate in today’s complex legal environment are just as important.
A critical factor dealers are looking for today, and certainly will be in the future, is the honesty and character of their F&I staff. Years ago, I would have never thought these words would pass my lips about our business, but today I can say with confidence that it doesn’t matter how much money you make, if you don’t have top CSI scores and are not in legal and ethical compliance, you are soon to be extinct.
So, what is my advice?
1. Never compromise your ethics.
I often get calls from dealers asking about potential F&I candidates. Not too many years ago, the question I would be asked was “How much money can this person make me?” But more and more these days the question I get is “Will this person keep us out of trouble?” or “How were their CSI scores at the last place they worked?”
Joe Girard is, without question, the greatest car salesman in history. Yet, he has always understood this aspect of reputation building. He has made statements like “Ethics will make you or break you. Say only the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”. Or “If it's a lie, you don't need the sale. It's a dirty sale”. And finally, “If your boss is asking you to do something unethical, this is the one time I will tell you to quit”.
2. Manage your online presence.
In this day of the internet, it is easy to go online and post some kind of offhand remark that you might later regret or brag about how you “got over” on some customer. But remember, everything you post on the internet is permanent. It never gets erased. My suggestion is that you assume everything you post online will be printed on your resume, every time you apply for a job. If you wouldn’t say it in an employment interview, don’t post it.
While networking on sites like Ethical F&I Managers or Dealer Elite can provide valuable information, you will quickly be identified by what you post. Just a tip: Don’t go on line and brag about how much money you are making or how great you are. I know of one dealer who actually showed a competing F&I Manager’s posts to customers. And the dealer whose F&I Manager posted these things, (they thought on a “closed” forum) didn’t even know it.
It’s also just bad form and will send a message to hundreds of people that you are probably an arrogant jerk. Plus, do you really have any business sharing your dealer’s proprietary information on line?
3. Build your relationships
I heard someone say years ago “You can have lots of friends in business, but you should choose your enemies very carefully”. That certainly holds true in the auto industry. The relationships you build today will stay with you throughout your career, whether good or bad.
You should pay particular attention to your relationships with lenders. I work with bank and credit union personnel all the time and you might be surprised at how freely they discuss who the “good” dealers and F&I managers are as opposed to the ones they can’t trust. These people stay on the job for thirty years or more. And they talk to each other.
Also, develop your relations with factory personnel. Get to know the reps that visit the dealership. Attend factory sponsored events as often as possible. Your reputation with the manufacturer’s personnel is important to your long term success.
4. Become a student of the business.
Educate yourself. Attend every training event your dealer will pay for. Not only will you grow your knowledge base but these training events can be a place for you to network with your peers. In our case, the F&I personnel who we train, and our agents and product providers, communicate regularly and share tons of valuable ideas and information. You also want to become an expert on compliance issues.
5. Finally, be known as one of the “good” ones.
Remember, everybody knows everybody. And they talk. I get calls all the time asking about F&I managers, agents, dealers, and product reps. And since much our training and processes are delivered through General Agents and F&I product providers, I get to hear some pretty frank opinions about F&I professionals from their representatives in the field. You see, these people talk to each other. As a result, everything you do and say will be recorded in the “big book” of the industry and you will live with it forever.
Paying attention to your reputation in the industry may be the most important element in building a successful automotive career.
As always if you have any questions simply ask :)
Have a great week!