Is the role of the general manager changing?

I spoke with Lisa Warner Pickrum last week about the expansion effort she is heading at RLJ-McLarty-Landers Automotive. The group has grown from 10 stores to 24 in just three years, and more acquisitions are on the way.

With that growth, the group has built a more robust IT platform to help the stores with better financial controls and analysis, Pickrum says. A huge benefit to the more centralized approach is that it lifts some of the burden off RLJ’s store general managers.

It helps “to make sure we’re not taking the GMs away from the business of selling cars and helping people,” Pickrum told me.

She’s not the only one. Channeling the general manager’s energy toward sales, service and managing store staff is a motivation I’ve heard mentioned by other large groups -- AutoNation, for one -- as they work to centralize the IT and back-office functions of their dealerships.

Individual stores will continue to be a different animal. But I’m interested in hearing about the changes in the role of the general manager that those on the front lines are seeing. How can technology help -- or hurt?