Advancing the Auto Industry in a Time of Crisis

August 12, 2020

Each day that passes brings new challenges for automotive retail and requires strategic planning to take advantage of new opportunities. Laurie Foster has built Foster Strategies as a way to offer highly focused insights and strategies that allow today’s progressive dealerships and vendors new, profitable paths to success. We were able to sit down with Laurie and get her take on the current marketplace during COVID-19 and where she sees the future of our industry heading.

“I think the most important thing right now is stabilizing people and helping people to actually breathe and take a look at what's going on around them. What's happening and what isn't. I think fear and bad decisions creep in when we start making assumptions too far ahead of what we know,” said Laurie. She continued by acknowledging that in the current situation keeping the planning frame short and flexible instead of trying to predict an entirely different future is paramount. “Things are a little different. There are just some varying factors in play. Dealers have learned some things and so have vendors. This situation isn’t simply something that will go away and we come back to the way things were.”

Dealers are learning a lot of lessons in this time of crisis. Many are adapting well and the industry has proven itself to be more resilient than ever before. The last quarter has been a great learning opportunity, which is evidenced by incredible bounce backs after severe dips on the sales side. But what exactly have dealers learned over this period of change?

“First of all, resiliency has shown up beautifully in some places. We've seen teams that literally coalesced into something new and far beyond what it ever was collectively before,” Laurie stated. ”I don't want to use the words new normal, but this environment that we have found ourselves in puts us up against a mindset shift. However, without the mindset shifts, you get action. But that action is like a rubber band effect. As soon as we let go of the rubber band, we're right back where we were before. It has to become ingrained and sometimes that means picking up a tool and using it ten times or more.”

With these changes comes a shift in the way we work. For many industries, going remote was an easy transition. But what about dealerships that traditionally operate in an industry with no remote options? Transitioning to a digital workforce means changing patterns and rewiring a traditional mindset. This is no easy task and takes patience and understanding. Are dealers willing to and able to accomplish this transition?

“I think we're an industry that's very comfortable with our current work patterns. They are so ingrained in us that to not show up at work has negative connotations. And so that's another one of those mindset shifts that hopefully with a little time and more data, we'll take a look at it differently,” Laurie added. “Dealers are beginning to do things a different way. But operationally inside the four walls, it's still the same people on-site scrambling to put the thing together that then they ship off-site.”

In order to overcome this, it is critical that dealerships think outside of the box to find new employees that maybe didn't want to join the industry before, or may help retain employees that may be looking to get into a different industry. In terms of employee retention, does rethinking the way the automotive industry recruits a workforce increase the likelihood of keeping people around and growing them into long term assets?

“Right now we have held ourselves back as an industry from reaching our peak performance by having rigid expectations and rigid profiles on what our performance will look like and what the personas and the dealership should look like. And every bit of the data has told us a very different story,” Laurie said.

As the automotive sector ebbs and flows alongside uncertain times, there will be more and more pivotal moments to adapt processes and be flexible with the way we work. Laurie will continue to examine trending topics such as resilience and retention to uncover ways to maximize dealer output.

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