F&I departments need a farm team

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The term “succession planning” is usually applied to dealer principals, but it can apply to F&I managers, too, two dealership execs say.

“Do you have a bench?” Dustin Walters, general manager of two Hyundai dealerships in Tennessee, asked attendees of an Automotive News webinar last week on right-sizing the F&I office.

Walters and another speaker, John Malishenko, COO of Germain Motor Co. in Columbus, Ohio, said dealerships should nurture their own talent pool, so they have a ready replacement if a top F&I producer quits.

Malishenko said dealerships should train future F&I managers as apprentices, who can take some of the paperwork burden off the “producers” in the F&I department. When they’re ready, he said, apprentices can step into the role as necessary, maybe first as a fill-in if an F&I manager takes a few hours off.

He said his dealership group doesn’t want to find itself “at the mercy of the marketplace” to replace a top F&I producer by hiring from the outside. Germain Motor has a total of 12 dealerships in Ohio, Florida and Michigan.

“Finance producers are like technicians; there’s not enough of them,” Malishenko said. “The really good ones want to get paid a lot” and sometimes they’re not loyal, he said.

“That really isn’t sustainable, and it really doesn’t suit our culture,” he said. “So at some point, we started to define the need for us to grow our own.”

Walters agreed it’s hard to hire from outside.

He is general manager for two dealerships named Friendship Hyundai, one in Johnson City and one in Bristol, Tenn. The Friendship Family of Dealerships has a total of 14 dealerships in Tennessee and North Carolina.

It could be “slim pickings out there” in terms of finding talented F&I producers, Walters said. “Luckily, I think we’re doing a little bit better job at training internally to find that next replacement.”

For a free replay of the Automotive News webinar, “Staffing: How to Get Your F&I Office Sized Right,” go to www.autonews.com/accessfiaugust2014.

You can reach Jim Henry at autonews@crain.com.

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