F&I managers at Soerens Ford of Brookfield in Brookfield, Wis., no longer fret about working inordinately long days.
That’s because they have developed a system that has almost eliminated time-sapping schedule crunches.
Anne Fredrickson had the idea when she agreed to work temporarily at Soerens after the full-time F&I manager left. Fredrickson enjoyed returning to the dealership where she had worked for years but could not commit to the full-time demands required of a solo F&I manager. When she became aware that another former Soerens’ F&I manager was eager to continue her career on a half-time basis, she wondered whether dealer Stephanie Soerens would agree to let them job-share.
“We approached Stephanie about it, and she thought it sounded kind of strange but she thought it was fine to give it a try,” Fredrickson said. “That was seven years ago.”
Many dealerships rely solely on one F&I manager and count on temporary help during absences, which was done at Soerens. The downside is that the temporary staff may struggle to adapt to a dealership in which they don’t have histories or connections.
“It has really worked out so well for us,” Soerens said. “I leave it up to them to work out the schedules, and they often work them out two to three months in advance. I would say 99.9 percent of the time there is no problem.”
Soerens holds the job-sharing managers to the same accountability as she does the full-time F&I manager, who was hired when the dealership’s sales volume swelled. She also pays the duo base salaries, provides them with health insurance and allows them to compete for contest bonuses.
“If I kept everything they worked hard to win, they would have no motivation to participate,” Soerens said. “Let’s say I win $400 [from Ford]. I will give them each $100. That isn’t huge, but it’s a reward for their hard work and a tangible benefit.”
Barbara Nobile, who job-shares with Fredrickson, took the gig when she returned to Wisconsin after working at a major Iowa dealership. The job suited her desire to work for her past employer while allowing her flexibility she would not have had as a full-time F&I manager.
“I didn’t know Anne before I came back, but I knew she had a similar background to mine,” Nobile said. “After being [in F&I] for so many years, I knew all the paperwork, how to offer products and that sort of thing. This is ideal because of the income, the increased freedom and the face-to-face interaction with the customers.”
Ella Golovina joined Soerens last year as a full-time F&I manager when sales volume swelled. As a 15-year veteran of F&I, she said her colleagues’ job-sharing creates one of the most fluid and relaxed atmospheres she has ever worked in.
“That type of job-sharing position is very hard to find because dealers always look for a full-time F&I person. That’s understandable, but this makes the work flow so much better,” Golovina said.
“When things get busy or someone has an emergency, you don’t have to rely on someone who
doesn’t know the store or the customers to come in for a few days or a few weeks.
“When you work here permanently, this becomes your store, these become your customers, and that makes a big difference.”
Permanent F&I employees are “much more effective,” she added. “Thanks to our employer, we have that.”
Golvina believes many experienced financial managers would like to find such a job-sharing situation. Soerens, too, was stumped when pressed to find any minuses to the store’s F&I arrangement, noting that she hopes to convince those in sales and other departments to consider job-sharing.
“There just isn’t a downside,” Soerens said. “The work is satisfying to them, and the flexibility allows them to come to work refreshed and clear minded,” she said, adding that it would be an ideal position for working parents.
“The key is to find [two people] who communicate, have the same goals and work well together. You must have that, or it wouldn’t work.”