2021 has no doubt been a challenging year for your car dealership in our SA automotive industry. But, we can all agree that it was better than 2020. We’ve proven that no matter what gets thrown at us and the SA automotive industry, we will soldier on together. 

The question we ask ourselves now is how we can use learnings from 2021 to prepare us for the year ahead.

To discuss these questions, I was joined by Bobby Petkoff from MitMak motors. To give us some insights into his learnings from 2021. And how he plans to use this knowledge to carve and build MitMak and the automotive industry to success. 

5 key learnings for car dealerships from 2021: 

1- How to develop your employees’ skills willingly

MitMak Motors is one of the only dealers that I know of that has a large training centre within his independent car dealership. He uses this training centre to develop the skills of his staff, in person and virtually. 

One of the things MitMak has done to create a compelling working environment is to take one employee that has a great work ethic to shadow Bobby for roughly six months, giving this one individual an opportunity to grow and develop. 

As Bobby would say he does this to see “if there’s a little spark that just bursts into flames”

Once the training program has been completed, there are a couple of other employees that are envious of the one Bobby picked. Because they also want to be given the same type of opportunity.

The employees that strive to have the same opportunity will be taken into a boardroom every morning for an hour to build a culture of people that want to learn. People are willing to grow. By doing this it has created a cycle where more and more employees are joining the training program by choice and not by force. 

Creating a working environment that employees want to work in and develop in is the perfect way to start 2022. 

2 – How many people can one person manage?

In my 15 years of leading AutoTrader SA, I have learned that everyone is motivated differently and by different things. Money is not a motivator, but the lack of money is a demotivator. I would therefore argue that money is a hygiene factor rather than a management tool. Therefore identifying what motivates your employees is key to success. One can’t do this by managing too many people.

By managing a lot of people you miss the opportunity to identify where your team’s motivators and strong suits are. 

Bobby has similar thinking in that he admits that he is not superman and can only manage between seven and nine people in a day. Funny enough my magic number is dead centre, I’ve always tried to keep AutoTrader’s line report ratio under 8. Eight is the number of people I manage within my senior management team at AutoTrader SA. I try not allow any manager within the business to have more than eight people reporting to them. 

The reason behind this is that it becomes extremely difficult to lead a lot of people effectively without this kind of structure. You don’t give them the value and support that is needed for the team to get the job done successfully.

The key point is to minimise the number of people that report to you so that you can manage and connect with your team on a daily/weekly basis.

3 – Focus on building your companies brand

I am a big advocate for brand building and building your businesses brand presence in the mind of your customer. 

While speaking to Bobby from MitMak he mentioned an interesting fact that is one of the ways that he has been building MitMak’s brand. Is by looking at exactly what customers are saying about his brand externally, online and offline. 

Asking himself questions like:

  • How does MitMak Motors “appear” to the world? Perception is reality even if you know it may not be the truth, your customer may perceive it differently.
  • What are customers saying on Google? 
  • How are customers rating us on HelloPeter? 
  • What does a customer say about us on Social Media?
  • How do customers express themselves when they’re unhappy.
  • How do we handle unhappy complaints?

If you haven’t started asking yourself these types of questions. I would suggest that you start so that you identify the leaks within your brand.  And start looking at where your car dealership appears organically on Google.

It’s important that you appear on top of search results for your brand. 

4 – Happy customers don’t teach you anything!

The best way to learn and grow your business is by learning from your UNHAPPY customer. You are unable to learn much from a happy customer. Seek out unhappy customers, don’t shy away from them.

When you shift your focus to what is not working and identify what needs to be changed. It will start changing the perspective of the customer.

MitMak encourages their customers to write about them online whether happy or unhappy. So that they can identify what the business needs to work on and ensure that it doesn’t happen again to a different customer. 

This resonates with me a lot because you can learn very little out of success. You’re only as successful as the thing you’re working on right now. You can go and read a lot about other people’s success and that’s where you should learn about success externally. But when it comes to yourself and your business, learn from your mistakes. 

5 – We should not fixate on a competing car dealership

“Focusing on another car dealership doesn’t solve the problems that your dealership has, focus on your own car dealership.” – Bobby Petkoff

Bobby spent his 2021 year focusing solely on his car dealership because focusing all your attention on what the next car dealership is doing doesn’t benefit your car dealership. 

The general outlook is that you CAN be concerned about what other dealerships are doing because this will create action and movement in what you want for your dealership. However, worrying creates stress and unnecessary problems that shouldn’t be created in the business. Don’t fixate on another car dealership, rather learn from their successes. Try not to be envious.

Again this resonates with me in terms of what MitMak is doing, you’ve got to be cognizant of your competition and you’ve got to know where you rank in your “world” and where you are in relation to them.

But I always say whatever you focus on, you’re going to smash into with dire consequences from the head-on collision!

Because you’re going to go in the direction, like a deer in the headlights. You’re going to have an accident with that thing that you’re focused on. 

Autotrader SA doesn’t focus on the competition but rather we focus on being the best at what we do.

Follow these 5 steps and you are destined for success in 2022!