With F&I, 'You can't hire from your gut'
"The hiring practices at some dealerships are just horrible," dealership trainer Becky Chernek says. "They hire from their gut. You can't hire from your gut."
Dealers often complain about high turnover in the F&I department and elsewhere. But some dealers can be their own worst enemies in that regard, dealership trainer Becky Chernek says.
Chernek grew up around the dealership business. Her father owned John D'Amico Pontiac-Cadillac in Havre De Grace, Md. She started selling cars in the mid-1980s at a Lincoln-Mercury dealership in Baltimore, and within a few years she moved to finance and insurance.
She also was a district manager for JM&A Group before starting her own business, Chernek Consulting in Cumming, Ga.
Chernek spoke with Automotive News Special Correspondent Jim Henry.
Where do dealerships get F&I managers — especially female F&I managers? Reportedly, F&I managers mostly start out in sales and then move to F&I. But there aren't that many female salespeople.
I went in that direction as well. I started selling cars in '87. In the auto industry back then, it was practically taboo for any woman to sell cars. They've gotten over that a little bit.
More dealers certainly want more females. If they could get more women they would, selling cars and in F&I.
Do F&I managers have to sell cars first?
Ideally, I think you should know how to sell cars. I think you should know what the salesperson goes through — the walkaround, the cleaning off the cars when it rains or snows, everything. In F&I, you have to have empathy in working with that salesperson.
However, that's not always the case, so sometimes we have to hire from without, from outside the dealership.
Where do future F&I managers come from when they come from the outside?
You have a tremendous amount of ladies out there who are dying to go to work, but the dealer says they don't have any experience. It could be somebody in retail, at Macy's selling clothes or in restaurants. They're used to working. You want someone who's detail-oriented and with math aptitude.
You've got to do a little thinking outside the box. I would like to see a dealer put a kiosk in a mall: "There's a career in auto sales. Find out more."
So again, before someone goes into F&I, they should do some sales first?
They should get into the dealership first, and then move into F&I. If they don't have any experience on the floor, I would want to make sure we're not positioning someone who doesn't have the experience to do that F&I position.
Does that sometimes happen?
The hiring practices at some dealerships are just horrible. They hire from their gut. You can't hire from your gut. You have to go through an interview process, and not with only one person handling the interview. Candidates have to meet with other people from other parts of the dealership. It's got to be more than just this one guy or gal judging whether this person is going to make the deal in F&I.
You can't bring somebody in, stuff them in the box [the F&I office] and say, "Have at it, see ya later." There's no one in there to help them work with the system.
The turnover in these stores in unbelievable — but it's their money, I guess.
I see it a lot. Can you imagine? Say the customer's credit isn't all that great. You've got to work the banks, but you don't know the banks. It just blows me away.
My boss wasn't like that. I've been very fortunate. When I got back from school I had a trainer for a week. My boss checked over every contract before I let the customer leave, for at least a month. I'm thankful for that.
You can reach Jim Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org.