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Gregory Smith Takes Helm at ADP Lightspeed

September 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

ADP Lightspeed, a premier provider of Dealer Management Systems (DMS), has announced that Gregory Smith, previously the head of the ADP Dealer Services Business Intelligence unit, has stepped in to direct its operations.

Smith replaces Laurn Rice who will now direct sales operations within ADP Lightspeed, according to a news release.

In his 30-year business career, Smith has held executive positions in operations, marketing, sales, strategy, parts and service, training and supply chain management for automotive manufacturer and technology companies. Since joining ADP Dealer Services, he has led strategic development and marketing, and formed a new Business Intelligence business unit to help dealer and manufacturer clients improve performance and profitability.

“It is a pivotal time in the RV industry, and dealers need comprehensive solutions to maximize every opportunity,” said Smith. “ADP Lightspeed provides technology tools and industry information that have helped dealers maximize profitability. I hope to add my years of experience to the expert team at ADP Lightspeed to continue to create industry-leading systems focused on improving dealer performance.”

As the vice president/general manager, Smith leads a team of over 150 associates who develop, install, train and support a wide range of dealership solutions — which in addition to the dealership management system — include websites, CRM, finance products and integrated network phones.

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A Well-Run Shop: Get Control of Your Store

July 20, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Hal Ethington

Hal Ethington

Editor’s Note: This is another in a series of management papers about using resources correctly. It was written by Hal Ethington and distributed by ADP Lightspeed.

I knew he was the owner. Not because I had seen his face a thousand times on ads. Not because the name on his shirt matched the sign out front, and not because he had a half-dozen important-looking papers in his hands.

No, it wasn’t any of that. It was more the look on his face when he realized that he was caught. It came in the instant he saw me on his appliance sales floor, when, in a split second he figured out three things. First, he had a live customer in the showroom. Second, his salespeople were nowhere in sight, and third, there was no one but him to handle the traffic.

And he was not happy about these last two items. But he knew I had seen him, so he set the papers on the counter, and walked toward me.

But the body-language was all wrong. First, there was the quick look left and right to see if there wasn’t somebody who could handle this customer. And then the resigned shoulder-set when he knew he would have to do it. There was no smile, no out-stretched hand, no eager sales greeting. He was obviously still worried about those papers, now lying on the counter, face down.

We talked a few moments. I needed a new dishwasher for the kitchen, and he made a good effort to get into it, but all the while, his eyes were darting to the office, to the phones, and to the front door. The sales people were still nowhere to be found and we both quickly concluded our conversation. I felt like an intruder. He felt imposed upon.

So I left. But with a complete understanding how he felt. And the memories flooded back: The constant battle between the business, and the public; The customer, and the paperwork; The money, and the time; The interruptions — the constant interruptions.

And if you feel the same way, maybe you need to look closer at your operation. If you are called, time and time again, to cover, to resolve, to fix, to figure out, to find and explain — maybe you’re not running your business. Maybe, it’s running you.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There can be calm in the retail environment. And that calm can easily promote the current of excitement and action that is a RV store.

It’s systems. It’s preparation, and it’s management. With it you’re a well oiled machine. Without it, well, let’s just say, you look bad. Real bad.

And your customers notice. Lack of a proper greeting, perceived sleights, prolonged waiting, poor service, promises forgotten or not kept—they notice all of this. They vote with their feet. And you are left wondering why your sales floor is empty.

In the coming weeks, we will be talking about getting control of your store. We will look at each department and each of your business systems, to see what makes a well run shop, and to see what ends up in public disaster.

I don’t personally know that fellow Dan, at that appliance store. But I do know that he has been in business, at the same location, with his name on the sign, for about 30 years. And I’m guessing that my poor experience there was a rare occurrence, and that he was just caught in a bad moment. I’ll be going back there when I am ready to buy, and we’ll give it another shot.

You may not be so lucky.

Stay tuned.

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ADP Lightspeed to Help Dealers Grow Business

July 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

ADP Lightspeed ADP Lightspeed has announced its new white paper and webinar series titled “Find More.”

Following the success of the “Find Hidden Cash” series, which targeted missed cash opportunities in dealer  operations, the “Find More” series will focus on ways to profitably grow business.

“These past few months have started a trend,” said Hal Ethington, senior analyst for ADP Lightspeed. “Customers are coming back, inventories are turning and some dealers are taking advantage. It feels as though everyone has been keeping their heads down while daily opening the doors, but now is the time to profitably build your business. It is time to start growing again.”

The “Find More” series will include monthly white papers, webinars and industry studies like the “Find Hidden Cash” series. Information collected through ADP Lightspeed Data Services and its partners will be utilized to demonstrate opportunities from growth in revenue, efficiencies and profitability.ADP Lightspeed cash in drawer graphic

“This year’s theme will be ‘smart growth,’” Ethington continued. “Everyone wants to see growth return, but want to avoid pitfalls that plagued our industry previously due to focusing on revenue instead of profit. This time dealers want to grow their business in a way that will improve their bottom line instead of just being busier and the “Find More” series shows ways to do it.”

Monthly alerts for the white papers, webinars and other data-focused information are available by request. To sign up for the alerts visit www.adplightspeed.com.

ADP Lightspeed, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, is a part of ADP Dealer Services, which provides integrated computing solutions to over 25,000 auto, truck, motorcycle, powersports and recreational vehicle dealers throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. ADP, with approximately $8 billion in revenues and 550,000 clients, is one of the largest providers of a broad range of premier mission–critical, cost effective transaction processing and information-based business solutions in selected markets on a global basis.

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RVBusiness Launches 3rd Top 50 Dealer Awards

June 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

RVBTop50Logo-smallRVBusiness magazine is launching the Third Annual RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards — a quality-focused program that sets the bar for best business practices in the RV industry. A gala reception and dinner at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas will announce the winners Oct. 6 during the annual RV Dealers International Convention/Expo.

This year, RVBusiness expanded the awards to include recreational park model manufacturers, reflecting how significant their contributions have become in a rapidly changing marketplace. The awards name 10 Blue Ribbon retailers, and one organization receives the Dave Altman Award, the equivalent of RVBusiness’ “Lifetime Achievement Award.”

RV manufacturers nominate the best and most professional dealers for aftermarket parts stores, sales lots, service work, F&I departments and personnel matters in addition to civic and charitable contributions. Affinity Group Inc. (AGI), the parent company of RVBusiness and the nation’s largest provider of outdoor clubs, services, media and events to the North American RV and outdoor enthusiast market, then invites nominated dealers to submit applications. Applications are independently reviewed by a panel of industry experts, none of whom are directly associated with RVBusiness or Affinity.

RVBusiness recognizes the Top 50 award winners in the October edition, on RVBUSINESS.com, and in dealers’ local and regional newspapers. Winners also receive RVBT50 window decals, rights to use the RVBT50 logo in their advertising, plus exposure to millions of active RV enthusiasts in the pages — and on the websites — of Affinity’s RV-focused consumer magazines, including Trailer Life, MotorHome, Highways, Coast to Coast and Camping Life.

Supporting the RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards this year are the following “Leadership Alliance” sponsors: ADP Lightspeed, Bank of the West, Blue Ox, Cummins Onan RV Generators, Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., RV America Insurance, RV Trader Online and Protective.

“We felt that the pursuit of professionalism and top-notch consumer care finds an even more receptive ear this year than it did during the dregs of the recession, and the Dealer Awards sets the bar for best business practices,” said RVBusiness magazine Publisher Sherman Goldenberg. “Looking around at the state of the industry, we realize just how much we have to be thankful for. The current upbeat atmosphere within the commercial sector beats the heck out of where we all were at this time last year.”

RVBusiness previously announced special celebrity guest, conservative Republican columnist and bestselling author, Ann Coulter, as the keynote speaker during the award ceremony. Coulter will talk about a variety of hot political topics including the “Tea Party” movement and related conservative themes.

The Con/Expo is sponsored by the U.S. Recreation Vehicle Dealer Association (RVDA) and the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association of Canada (RVDA Canada). Tickets for the dinner are $139 ($119 for RVDA members, Con/Expo exhibitors and Top 50 dealer guests), and are available at the convention or at RVBusiness.com.

About the Top 50 RV Dealers Program:

The program’s purpose is to showcase credible role models and establish best business practices benchmarks at the retail level of the RV industry in terms of staff training, performing warranty and service work, managing aftermarket stores, superior consumer care and being good citizens of their respective communities. The dealerships were selected among those nominated as the best by the nation’s RV manufacturers. The program was founded and coordinated by RVBusiness magazine with additional support provided by the Leadership Alliance.

About Affinity:

Affinity, www.affinitygroup.com, is the nation’s largest provider of outdoor clubs, services, media and events that service the safety, security, comfort and convenience needs of the North American recreational vehicle (RV) and outdoor enthusiast market. By providing information, insights, and resources, the company champions the fun, freedom, and adventure of recreation in motion. The company works to enhance its customers’ recreational experiences and build the communities that share and promote their fun and adventurous lifestyles.

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Coulter Headlines Annual RVB Dealer Awards

May 19, 2010 by · 21 Comments 

Ann Coulter

Ann Coulter

On the premise that the pursuit of professionalism and top-notch consumer care may find an even more receptive ear as the recession lifts, RVBusiness magazine is moving ahead with its 3rd Annual RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards — a quality-focused program culminating Oct. 6 at an upbeat reception and dinner at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas during the annual RV Dealers International Convention/Expo.

“While we realize that recognizing 50 U.S. and Canadian recreational vehicle dealerships above all the rest is a tough and highly subjective matter,” says RVBusiness Publisher Sherman Goldenberg, “we feel that the process of nominating, selecting, honoring and promoting those who generally do the best they can throughout North America is in itself a worthy exercise that brings to the forefront the quality themes outlined by the Go RVing Coalition’s Committee on Excellence.”

North American RV manufacturers have already completed their nominations for this year’s awards by forwarding the names of their best and most professional dealers with regard to aftermarket parts stores, sales lots, service work, F&I departments and personnel matters in addition to civic and charitable aspects.

“One key change for 2010,” said Goldenberg, “is that RVBusiness is expanding its program to include recreational park model manufacturers, realizing just how significant their contributions have become in a rapidly changing marketplace. Although their businesses haven’t fully recovered from the recession yet, the accommodations sector of the RV park and campground arena has been shifting somewhat to more destination-style cabins and lodges at parks throughout the U.S. and Canada. So, we thought it was time to include them.”

Nominated dealers are invited to submit applications by mid-July to BJ Thompson Associates, a northern Indiana agency that oversees an independent review of those applications by a panel of industry “experts,” none of whom are directly associated with RV Business or its parent company, Affinity Group Inc. (AGI).

Multi-store operations are again limited to one award, regardless of how many outlets they have, and the Top 50 dealers will not be ranked, although ten Blue Ribbon retailers will be named and one individual will be singled out for the Dave Altman Award, the equivalent of RVB’s “Lifetime Achievement Award.”

In addition to the recognition offered at the October dinner during this year’s RV Dealers International Con/Expo, sponsored by the U.S. Recreation Vehicle Dealer Association (RVDA) and the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association of Canada (RVDA Canada), those selections ultimately will be announced in the pages of RVBusiness and on RVBUSINESS.com, both of which are owned by Affinity Group Inc.

Again this year, RVBusiness has invited a special celebrity guest to dinner to provide some thought-provoking table talk: Conservative Republican columnist Ann Coulter. An author of seven New York Times bestsellers, including “Guilty: Liberal Victims and Their Assault on America” (January 2009) and “If Democrats Had Any Brains, They’d Be Republicans” (October, 2007), Coulter more than likely will focus in her remarks on the nation’s anticipated, off-year electoral shift to the political right, including the “Tea Party” movement and related conservative themes.

A lawyer and frequent guest on ”Hannity” and ”The O’Reilly Factor” on the Fox News cable channel, Coulter will field audience questions after her remarks. Meanwhile, her appearance, along with that of former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, keynote speaker at RVDA’s Tuesday (Oct. 5) general session, should lend a crowd-inducing national spotlight to this year’s Con/Expo.

RVBTop50Logo-small“We chose Ann Coulter not because we endorse any one political viewpoint, “ said Mike Schneider, AGI president and CEO, “but because we wanted to bring a thought-provoking speaker to the podium in Las Vegas who might give us all – left, center or right – a chance to think and an opportunity again this year to enjoy a dinner with friends and industry peers along with a high-profile national celebrity.”

After the Con/Expo, RVB will promote the Top 50 award winners within the industry and in dealers’ local and regional newspapers. They’ll get RVBT50 window decals, rights to use the RVBT50 logo in their advertising plus exposure to millions of active RV enthusiasts in the pages – and on the websites – of AGI’s RV-related consumer magazines – Trailer Life, MotorHome, Highways, Coast to Coast and Camping Life.“

Supporting the RV Business Top 50 Dealer Awards this year are the following “Leadership Alliance” sponsors:

ADP Lightspeed : With ADP Lightspeed, dealers can steer their businesses with more precision than ever before. The integrated modules in the Salt Lake City, Utah, company’s LightspeedEVO RV dealer management system include comprehensive sales and F&I tools, real-time accounting functions, service tracking, automated parts inventory management and rental unit management. For more information, visit http://www.adplighspeed.com/rv/index.phpwww.adplighspeed.com/rv/index.php.

Bank of the West: Bank of the West, with more than $60 billion in assets and community bank roots dating back more than 135 years, has more than 700 commercial and retail banking locations throughout 19 Western and Midwestern states. Headquartered in San Francisco, Bank of the West originates commercial, small business and consumer loans and leases and provides a range of other individual and commercial deposit, cash management, trust, and investment products. For more information contact a Bank of the West account manager or look on the web at www.bankofthewest.com.

Blue Ox: Blue Ox, a leading manufacturer of towing and hitching products, attributes its success to its dealer partners and the vital interest this Nebraska company takes in their success by providing education, innovative new products and support that’s invested in serving dealers’ needs long after the sale. This approach has been paramount in developing the strong partnerships that have made the company’s dealers “True Blue.” For more information, visit www.blueox.us.

Cummins Onan RV Generators: Cummins Onan RV Generators are built by Cummins Power Generation, Minneapolis, Minn., the global leader in generator design and construction. For nearly 80 years, Onan generators have been providing reliable stationary and portable power for cities, hospitals, shopping centers, military vehicles and fire engines around the world, as well as for the U.S. RV industry. For more information, visit www.cumminsonan.com.

Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp.: Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (FCCC) manufactures diesel chassis for walk-in vans, motorhomes, school buses, and commercial buses and enjoys market share leadership in all addressable industries. Established in 1995 in Gaffney, S.C., FCCC chassis provide customers with exceptional performance and reliability. More than 400 dealers in the U.S. and Canada provide sales and service, and FCCC offers 24/7 customer support at 800-FTL-HELP.

RV America Insurance: RV America, headquartered in Simi Valley, Calif., has provided some of the lowest rates for specialized recreational vehicle insurance for more than two decades, and each of its companies is rated “A, Excellent” or higher by A.M. Best Company. The company works hard to find clients the best rate and coverage for their travel trailer and motorhome insurance needs. For more information, visit www.RVAinsurance.com.

RV Trader Online: Available at RVTraderOnline.com is an extensive selection of classified ads, with more than 60,000 recreational vehicles to choose from and more than 800 dealership listings. More than 640,000 serious buyers visit RVTraderOnline.com — more than any other source – each month, company officials state. RVTraderOnline.com, Norfolk, Va., also offers video advertising, web services, lead management, mobile search and several new tools and lead-generating opportunities. Whether you are looking to buy, sell or research recreational vehicles, RVTraderOnline.com is the No. 1 resource for all RV enthusiasts, manufacturers and dealers.

Protective: Chesterfield, Mo.-based Protective offers XtraRide RV extended protection programs exclusively endorsed by RVDA and designed to meet recreational vehicle dealership needs. Building customer loyalty, increasing repeat business and generating customer referrals are among the added benefits XtraRide brings to its dealership partners. For more information, visit www.protective.com.

For more information, contact BJ Thompson Associates Account Executive Barb Riley by phone at (574) 674-6300 or by email at briley@bjta.com. Goldenberg can be reached at (574) 457-3370 or at goldenberg@kconline.com.

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Firm Debuts Automatic Unit Info Web Feed

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

ADP LightspeedADP Lightspeed, a premier provider of Dealer Management Systems (DMS), has announced its new automatic unit inventory web feed.

Unit information inside the LightspeedEVO DMS can be fed to dealership websites eliminating double entry and improving customer web experience. The flexible data feed allows any website provider to map to the information, according to a news release.

Websites have become business requirements with the majority of customers visiting a dealer’s website before visiting physical stores. More consumers are looking to the web to research products, check locations, contact dealers and make purchases. Consumers rely on dealer websites to have up-to-date and reliable information on their site.

“Dealers can’t let information on their websites get stale,” comments Chris Hauck, product manager for Salt Lake City, Utah-based ADP Lightspeed. “Yet most dealers lack the resources to dedicate someone to update inventory information from their DMS to their website. This data feed allows them to do the updates automatically, saving time and giving dealers the ability to capitalize on internet opportunities.”

This innovative web tool gives dealers the ability to integrate unit information, stocking levels and a full list of features found inside the DMS. ADP Lightspeed’s dealer management system will push inventory information from the dealer’s database directly to a FTP site on nightly basis. The information then updates inventory information to the web automatically. The information will display in the dealer’s customized web layout.

For more information visit: http://adplightspeed.com/rv/rv_webint.php.

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ADP: Tips on Finding Cash at Your RV Dealership

December 21, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

cash-in-cabinetEditor’s Note: This is the latest installment in a series of “Find Hidden Cash” white papers written by Hal Ethington and provided by ADP Lightspeed Inc. This article focuses on office management.

$12,000. That’s the amount of cash I found in my first two days on the job as the replacement accountant in a dealership. Yes, found, as in looking in drawers, under desk blotters, in filing cabinets and in the unlocked safe. Currency, coin, contracts. You name it, I found it. All because the fellow who preceded me – the same one that was walking out the door as I walked in – that guy, was totally mystified about how to handle money.

So he filed $100 bills with deals in the filing cabinet. He piled credit card receipts in stacks under the desk blotter. Signed contracts were carefully settled in an in-box, and five days of receipts were still securely in the floor safe. And that is why the owner had called me. He wanted to know where his cash was, because it surely wasn’t in the bank.

So I whipped everything into shape, got the money to the bank, gave the owner a good bank balance and thus started my career in the dealership business. It has now lasted some 37 years, and in that time I have come across a few other office practices that are almost as disastrous as the simple mishandling of coin, contracts and currency. Try these on for size, and I hope they don’t fit.

  • Dealership was taking parts special order deposits, literally stapling the cash to the invoice, and putting it in a big plastic garbage bag-money and all, waiting for the parts to come in. Money in a bag. What a concept. I’m sure those customers were impressed with this one, to say nothing of how much money was lost in the process. Not smart. Not smart at all.
  • Or how about those dealerships that pay their bills twice? Or, pay bills they don’t even owe? Happens all the time. As a test, one dealer I know mailed a small bogus bill to his 20-group friends. Sixteen of them paid. Promptly. He walked around the table at their next meeting and handed back the 16 checks, ribbing them all the while about their sloppy internal controls. Audit what you pay. Demand explanations. Match invoices and check invoice numbers. And if you are still sometimes getting an embarrassing refund check, you’re not there yet. Keep working.
  • Payroll: Watch to see that all 940s and 941s are first, filed on time, and second, paid on time. There is a penalty for simply not filing (or filing late), and there is a second penalty for not paying on time. The consequences of not performing these two small tasks are enormous. Take care of this one. Always file, no matter if you can’t pay. Avoid the compounded error.
  • And speaking of payroll, constantly audit your worker’s comp and your unemployment taxes. These numbers change as your work force changes, and as your claim history builds. Get the instructions on what is firing for cause (no benefits), and what is reduction of force (you pay). Document all departures, and make sure the employees who quit are not doing so because of job conditions. If they quit because the workplace is unsafe, you may pay. If they quit to move closer to home, you don’t pay. Watch your back here. Document everything. It can be a free-for-all (literally) when the unemployment folks start making their calls.
  • More: Do your pay plans create debilitating contention, or healthy co-operation? Are you filing for all your advertising co-op? Are you aware of state and local programs for training of your employees ($5,000 per year last place I was at)? Have you tried interns from your local college who may come with payroll help for certain jobs?

And the list goes on. There is much you can do to minimize costs and maximize value received. It may not be as easy as searching one room and finding $12,000 as I did so many years ago, but you will be surprised at the money you will find if you, or a good controller, start looking into every corner of your business. My friend, Sandi Jerome, long-time controller for multiple auto dealerships, said this about her job:

It didn’t take me long to understand that nobody cared much about my beautiful schedules that reconciled perfectly to my balance sheet. No. That wasn’t what impressed my GMs, partners and owners. They couldn’t have cared less. It wasn’t until I started finding money in the operation that they began to take notice. Operational inefficiencies, dead inventory, pay-plan math errors, penalties and interest due to missed deadlines-all of this. Finding it, and fixing it. This is what got their attention. Sure, you still have to have the perfect schedules, but that is just for starters. Find cash in the operation, and you quickly become the most valued member of the team. - Sandi Jerome

Money no longer flowing, money stranded in the backwaters, money you can’t use, is found and recovered by people who have time to think, who have auditing skills and who know how to ask hard questions. I can’t guarantee $12,000, but I can guarantee peace of mind if you know these things are constantly under scrutiny.

Start finding hidden cash in your operation. It is there. The only question is, how much?

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ADP Lightspeed to Expand ‘Hidden Cash’ Series

November 30, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

ADP LightspeedADP Lightspeed, a provider of dealer management solutions, today (Nov. 30) released information on its series of dealer performance studies called “Find Hidden Cash” and announced its plans to present two additional studies.

Since launching the program in July, thousands of dealers have attended web seminars and read the associated white papers available to the entire industry, according to a news release.

ADP Lightspeed used its data collection and the knowledge of 30-year industry expert Hal Ethington to provide industry statistics to help dealers capitalize on commonly missed cash flow opportunities. The four studies, which focused on parts, service, sales and marketing, were made available to the entire industry, to help dealers overcome economic obstacles. (Excerpts also appeared on the RVBUSINESS.COM website.)

“We saw that the information we had accumulated was valuable for the entire industry no matter what dealer management solutions provider they were using,” said Ethington. “This is an important time in our industry. We wanted to help make dealers stronger and saw this as one way we could.”

Due to the popularity of the studies, ADP Lightspeed has decided to add two more areas for the Find Hidden Cash series. The topics are “accounting” and “how dealers are succeeding.” Information on these upcoming studies will be posted, along with the four previous studies, to the Find Hidden Cash dedicated section of the company’s website found at www.adplightspeed.com.

ADP Lightspeed, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, is a part of ADP Dealer Services, which provides integrated computing solutions to over 25,000 auto, truck, motorcycle, powersports and recreational vehicle dealers throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.

ADP, with approximately $8 billion in revenues and 550,000 clients, is one of the largest providers of a broad range of premier mission–critical, cost effective transaction processing and information-based business solutions in selected markets on a global basis.

Please note: The company will hold a free public seminar reviewng the highlights of its first four white papers starting at 2 p.m. Wednesday in the South Wind Lobby Corridor Conference Room 109 of the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky., during the 47th Annual National RV Trade Show.

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ADP Lightspeed Advice on Building Customer Base

October 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Following is a white paper written by James Vaughn, a partner of ADP Lightspeed and published by ADP  Lightspeeds, Salt Lake City, Utah.

I headed to the dealership looking for my first wake boarding boat. I made the job easy for the sales person. I had my family with me, so no “thinking about it” or “asking my wife for permission” excuses. It took about 2 hours to buy the boat and get the financing completed. The sales person provided a short tutorial on the operation and loading of the boat and that was the last I heard from anyone at the dealership.

We were all very excited to get out on the lake and start having fun. This was my first boat, so I really didn’t know what else I needed. Turned out I was completely unprepared. I learned more from people I met on the lake than from the dealership. You would think he would sell me some boards, ropes, tubes, etc.

Over the years I have spent thousands of dollars on my boat from accessories to repairs, but I never returned to the original dealership I bought it from. They did not really seem to take an interest in me coming back so I didn’t.

I did however get some newsletters about events from another dealer. I took the boat in for service after and they began sending me event notices, which I greatly appreciated and attended. After a few visits this dealer became MY dealer. Now I find myself running to my dealer when I need something before I hit the lake or if I need a repair.

I’m sure the first dealer doesn’t miss me or ask why I don’t visit. They would probably appreciate my business, but besides the sale they did not show any concern about who I was or how I was doing. Guess where I’ll be buying my next boat from.

It’s time to stop letting customers slip through your fingers. Get to know them. Ask for their contact information. Follow up. Give them opportunities to get involved and reasons to come back to your store.

One of the best ideas I saw was a dealership that sent a “Thank you for considering us” letter. If the dealer found out, through following up, that a potential customer had purchased somewhere else they sent out a letter thanking them for considering them. The letter included a 10% coupon on accessories for the type of unit they purchased. How much do you want to bet that the competitor didn’t even do that?

Collecting customer information is the key to successful marketing. The most important information to collect (besides their name) is their email. This isn’t a new concept. The whole marketing world is obsessed with email. It’s low cost and high return have made companies millions of dollars. So why not yours? Do you think it’s too hard to collect emails? Divert some of your direct mail budget to incentivize employees to collect emails. They’ll start pouring in.

So once you have customer information what do you do with it? Most people view marketing as spewing out endless stacks of postcards focused on discounts. This approach does two things: First, your customers stop reading your marketing, because it’s boring, second, it trains your customers to focus on price, and more specifically discounts.

Instead of promoting price, use marketing to reinforce yourself as an expert. Your customers want to have fun, show them how. With the right marketing approach you can become their resource for both equipment and experiences. The more you tie your store to the fun of owning a RV the more loyal your customers will be.

Some ideas on how to do this: Assign one employee per month to write about their favorite camping spot or hike and send it out. If you are sending emails, add a link to Google Maps to show the route (make sure that every route starts or ends at your dealership). Have a technician write important service tips based on the season. Partner with local campgrounds and highlight one a month. Share Dutch Oven recipes or tips on how to make the perfect s’more.

Encourage habitual shopping. The more your customers come in for the little routine things the more likely they are to buy the big things from you. Track preventive maintenance intervals and send service reminders. Make sure they feel welcome and have a positive experience when they come in. If you can get 5 more customers a month to come in and just buy parts or accessories you will add $4,800 in revenue per year.

Good marketing takes effort. Your dealership has lots of things to focus on so find tools that make marketing less time consuming. CRM systems designed specifically for the Marine Industry can be vital tools. Whether the customer visits your website, calls on the phone, walks into the dealership or is a lead from the manufacture, CRM systems track the consumer and help turn them into a lifetime customer. E-mails, phone calls, letters, postcards and event newsletters are common automated tasks for CRM systems. These little reminders keep the customer informed and make them feel like part of an exclusive group.

Your customers want to be part of the excitement, they want to have fun, and they are looking to you to help them. Keep them involved, and keep more customers.

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ADP Lightspeed: How Retailers ‘Find Hidden Cash’

September 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: This is the latest in a series of stories on the topic Find Hidden Cash written by Hal Ethington and contributed by ADP Lightspeed. Along with the articles, the company is sponsoring “webinars” which cover the information in the articles and show how they can be implemented in your systems. Here is a link to the next one: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/897031531

We’re not talking about Every Deal For Every Dollar here. We are talking about the things we do that waste money during and after the sales process, things that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars every year for dealers. Think about the following:

A dealer asked me for a new report that would calculate a salesman’s commissions. I sat with the office manager to learn the method used and was shown a report that had been in use for years, but was hard to read and run.

I looked carefully at the old report and found that it was based on Gross Margin in the deal, multiplied by a certain percentage. I didn’t think too much about it until I looked carefully at the way Gross Margin was calculated. It was simply Selling Price less simple Cost of the unit. I asked the office manager how over-allowances were handled. When he responded with a blank stare and, “What is an over-allowance?” I knew we were in trouble.

A little work soon revealed the extent of the problem. The trades were being booked at the proper values, because Lightspeed did that automatically, but the report that the office manager created had ignored this adjusting entry, paying salesmen instead on the inflated sales price of many units. Total cost to the dealership? About $60,000 in excess pay per year. And this had been in effect for many years. Not only was the sales team overpaid, but the employer had paid payroll taxes and benefits based on the incorrect amounts. Cost over the past several years was easily a half million dollars.

Lesson? Make sure that your pay plans are accurate.

In this same line, you must make sure that all costs are in the deal before you calculate commissions. I see cost of sales for sublet coming in as a guess (usually understated), rather than documented with the actual expense paid to the vendor. I see deals finalized before all service work is processed and booked against the unit. Again, cost is understated, margins are overstated, and commissions are overpaid. Repair orders may be properly booked, but parts or labor may be added to them after the deal has been finalized, again resulting in an understated cost of sales. And what about parts that are added to the deal, and never booked? Happens all the time.

Other areas of hidden cash in the sales department on the cost side:

  • Trade lien payoffs payable must be watched carefully. Any payoff deadline passed results in additional interest expense which must be paid in order to obtain the title to the unit. But there is a cost here that goes far beyond the simple interest dollars wastefully expended. That missed deadline for payoff may trigger a notice to the original owner that his or her normal monthly payment has been missed, and a demand made for payment. This is obviously disconcerting to the owner, and will be some of the worst publicity you will ever receive. The cost here is incalculable.
  • And speaking of payoffs, don’t ignore those flooring payoffs. Yes, I know. It is the easiest float you ever had. It is also the most dangerous. SAU, OT, call it what you may, it is the first sign to your flooring company that you are in trouble. And once you are in the pit, it is almost impossible to get out. You will think that you can work your way out of it, but that is almost impossible. You will end up covering those flooring payments with a loan of some sort. Get it before you write the checks, and keep your most important source of funding safe and happy.

Just a couple of additional thoughts, you already know these things, but here they are to remind you:

  • Birthday units are not funny. Sell oldest units first. Control your list of available units so that the oldest of each color is always next up. Use every source available (Internet, post on the Major Unit Locator) to make sure your inventory keeps moving.
  • Stop the flooring interest. Move from free flooring to your best source (sometimes local), and do it on the day the free flooring stops. Floor your used inventory if you must. That is a legitimate source of funds. Some one person must be responsible for this. Make sure you have that person, and you track their performance. Also, some one person must be responsible for program dollars-knowing what they are, and getting them submitted and paid. Again, big money here.
  • I have not said one word about the front end of deals. You certainly know that you should be selling F&I. You know that you must work each deal and each customer with respect, with humor and with good will, but knowing what the customer can afford by pulling a Credit Check report early in the sales process which is a good idea in today’s financing environment. You know that you must move the stock, freshen the floor, keep public and employee interest high and motivate your sales team. That’s just for starters.

Ignore the back end – the things we talked about before – and all of your hard work in selling can be dissipated in an instant. Don’t let that happen.

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