What is the biggest personnel issue at your dealership?
Alan McLaren, senior vice president of customer care at AutoNation: "The challenge is training our sales force to create great customer experiences and memories, whereas it used to be about the transaction."
Collin Sewell, chairman of the Ford National Dealer Council and owner of Sewell Ford-Lincoln in Odessa, Texas, and Sewell Chevrolet-Buick-GMC in Andrews, Texas: "There are two positions that are key and in short supply: salespeople and technicians. We have to be proactive in recruiting and training new technicians, especially. They are retiring from the field at a faster rate than those who are entering the business."
Jim Graham, owner of Santa Margarita Ford in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.: "As business gets better, how do we avoid adding more personnel expenses? We've done a pretty good job of that so far. We laid off one-quarter of our employees in 2009 and tried not to add any since then. Our new business model is to do more business with fewer people and we've done well so far. The other thing is just finding good people, smart people. The pool of talent, as you grow back, you see there's less to pick from."
Steve Bussjaeger, owner of Star Ford-Lincoln and Star Mazda in Glendale, Calif.: "Finding the time to train these people. Finding the time for me to teach the people what they want to learn. I have guys who are really eager to learn, but it takes time. I'd rather hire somebody with potential and then teach them how to do it. And I'm getting pulled in a lot of different directions these days, more than it used to be."
Greg Cole, owner of Cole Chevrolet in Pocatello, Idaho, and Athens Chevrolet in Athens, Ga.: "Hiring and maintaining quality salespeople. There are plenty of people out there. It's just getting them on board, getting them trained and then keeping them. As business continues to ramp up, we will need more qualified people."
Steve Landers, partner, RLJ McLarty Landers Automotive in Little Rock, Ark.: "Quality car guys -- there are not a lot of old guys anymore. Old car guys are guys like me that can go out and stop the traffic and appraise cars without a Black Book. Young guys are great and do a great job, but they haven't been through the battles. But they've got great ideas."