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Mad Marv

A Newbie’s Guide to F&I

When His Madness asked his F&I friends to provide some words of wisdom to F&I newbies, he found a few nuggets of advice for grizzled vets as well.

February 5, 2013

I’ll never forget that late-spring day when I got my “first chair” — dealership jargon for my first F&I gig. I had been gunning for the position for some time, but I was passed over in favor of an outsider. But opportunity came knocking a few weeks later and, well, I answered the door.

It didn’t take long for the newness to wear off and for me to discover that the job required a lot more skill and talent than I had imagined. Man, what I would have done to have someone mentor me during those earlier years. I could have skipped over a lot of bad habits. That’s why I decided to collect some words of advice from some of my F&I buddies to help you avoid the costly mistakes I made.

1. “Don’t take the job for granted.” Great advice from Chris Cochran, a dealer development specialist with Resources Management Group. In 2011, Cochran’s F&I team at Massachusetts-based Haddad Dealerships was named an F&I Pacesetter, an honor the magazine issues annually.

2. “You’re either going to be compliant or you’re not.” Great words from my friend Randy Hartis, an F&I pro from Greensboro, N.C.

3. “F&I can be a lifetime career with massive benefits and a very rewarding future, but they have to learn and master the basics.” Great words from Tom Wilson, who served as F&I director for Michigan’s Riverside Auto Group when it was named the magazine’s F&I Dealer of the Year in 2010. He now serves as a dealership development manager for American Financial & Automotive Services Inc.

4. “F&I is the most important chair in the selling process. Any great dealer principal, general manager or general sales manager has sat in that chair at one time in their career.” That message came from Wendell Hardy, a general sales manager at a Mercedes-Benz store in Florida. Hardy also is a former dealer.

5. “Don’t rely on the ‘We’ve always done it this way’ mentality.” That great advice comes from Jim Radogna, president of California-based Dealer Compliance Consultants. Old-timers offering old-school advice to newbies is like a rite of passage in some stores. The good news is there are plenty of resources online to help you verify those lessons, including the F&I Forum and my Ethical F&I Managers page on Facebook.

6. “Lead by example. Don’t lie, cheat or steal.” This great advice comes from Daniel Kennedy, an F&I pro from Florida. He also recommended that newbies befriend their bankers to learn what niches they serve and how to rehash a deal.

7. “Never let someone push you into doing something you don’t feel comfortable with.” Great words from my friend Heidi William, an F&I pro from Montana. Listen, your role as an F&I manager is to protect the dealership — either from bad deals or legal troubles. That means you have to stand up for what’s right.

8. “Don’t worry about the PVR the first month. Concentrate on your paperwork.” I got these words of wisdom from Walt Dobrowski, a California-based trainer. He also suggested that newbies constantly read and reread all of their contracts and brochures until they fully grasp the information contained in them. Hey, you can’t sell what you don’t know, right?

9. “Treat sales staff like you treated your customer when you were out on the lot, no matter how ridiculous and, yes, stupid they act.” Sound advice from my friend Klay Kelso, a sales trainer with The Plateau Group. Remember, your salespeople will be the ones sending you the business, so treat them accordingly.

10. “Paperwork first. Learn how to sell the products and present the menu and the PRU will come.” Those words were uttered by Dina Wilson, an F&I director from Cumberland, Md., and the 2012 F&Idol winner. Wilson is a big believer in training. Her motto is: “Amateurs practice to get it right. Professionals practice so they don’t get it wrong.”

11. “Don’t overcomplicate things. Stick to the process.” Great words from my friend Steve Sipes, an F&I pro from Florida. Like Wilson, Sipes is a big believer in constant practice. He said the goal should be to practice until the pitch becomes second nature. When that happens, you’ll be able to add your own spin.

12. “Learn the paperwork, master the products, understand your role, and don’t stop practicing.” Leave it to my friend Herb Ray to sum it all up. Ray has only been in the box for a little over a year, but it’s clear he’s picking things up quickly.

There is plenty to learn and absorb when you’re a newbie, so stay green, be honest and keep learning.

Marv Eleazer is a finance manager at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. E-mail him at


  1. 1. Bubba B [ February 15, 2013 @ 01:35PM ]

    My .02 is that every once in a while, more often than not, you're gonna get a few missing signatures. Learn how to copy signatures, becuase you'll be doing it all the time. You don't want to bother the customer to come back in and fill in the missing signatures. Without using the word "forgery," learn how to sign documents on behalf of the customer - that's my advice.

  2. 2. Mad Marv [ February 15, 2013 @ 06:19PM ]

    Bubba B-I'm certain your advice is purely comical entertainment for surely you're not in the habit of following those words. Now, I once walked in on an F&I Manager signing a RISC using the customer's "signature". I freaked!!!! "Awww Marv, we do it all the time for this customer and then deliver the vehicle to their place of business."

  3. 3. b1b3tt3r [ February 15, 2013 @ 07:36PM ]

    Marv, we have a shop using ADP lightspeed but we are considering Dealerbuild, has there been any unbiased feature comparisons we can use to help us along the way to a decision.

  4. 4. F&I Newbie [ February 16, 2013 @ 07:26AM ]

    Great advice, Marv! Of course, I tracked you down via cyberstalking o the Ethical F&I group on Facebook, and it's fantastic! The forum here is an amazing source of information, great advice, and motivation!!! if I were to add to fantastic list you have here, it would be to SLOW DOWN! Make sure you're communicating to your customers, both internal and external, at a pace and level they clearly understand. Slow down on your paperwork, too! I developed a checklist that I'm still adding to that I add in every deal, and I check it off as I go along, in front of my customers. That way they can see the process as it unfolds clearly. Happy Selling!

  5. 5. Deb Camargo [ February 17, 2013 @ 11:59AM ]

    From those of us who've lived to teach(preach?) these sage words of advice you've shared here...we now say 'Amen!'. Thanks for the back up Marv!

  6. 6. Alex R [ February 17, 2013 @ 06:32PM ]

    Marv, this was a great article. One thing missing is to build a relationship with the office, title clerk, and finance assistant. How everyone likes the paperwork separated, forms that might not print right, things that bother them, ect.
    Also would be a great article to discuss rehashes and what gives you the ammo to get a better calland how much money that can make you in the long run.

  7. 7. Mad Marv [ February 18, 2013 @ 06:37PM ]

    b1b3tt3r-I am unfamiliar with both so I quizzed some folks but was unsuccessful in gaining a clear picture either way. My suggestion would be to do an even comparison of both (which I'm sure you already have) to determine the long term benefits. Look at where you would be in five years using both as a guide then make a judgement call. Hope this helps.

  8. 8. Alfred Heller [ February 19, 2013 @ 02:06PM ]

    Marv great job as always, one thing I would suggest is to go to an F & I school. Get the dealer to pay for it, in a short period of time they will make their money back. I highly recommend the Reahard school, Ron is the best instructor there is. I went to his school last year and my dealership made an additional $150,000 in F & I profit and no I don't work for Ron.

  9. 9. Mad Marv [ February 19, 2013 @ 02:56PM ]

    F&I Newbie, Alex and Alfred-All great adds to the article and thanks for citing them. Unfortunately, we could only cram so much in a one pager and it's people like you all giving of yourselves that make these pieces so much better. I'll be using some of your suggestions in future stuff so if you have any ideas, please share them with me here or at my email box

  10. 10. Bubba B [ February 19, 2013 @ 02:58PM ]

    Marv - yeah, you got me... it was just a joke. Great article, BTW... I'll stop posting nonsense on your column.

  11. 11. Mad Marv [ February 19, 2013 @ 05:40PM ]

    No problem Bubba B. You're more than welcome to join us over on Ethical F&I Managers FaceBook group where we drill down to the bone marrow. No need to reveal your "Bubba B" personna there either. Be certain and check out the F&I Forum this magazine supports as well.

  12. 12. Tiago [ March 02, 2013 @ 04:28AM ]

    Just curious I am a group F&I manager in Australia. What is the average PVR in the states for a large new and used dealership?

  13. 13. Mad Marv [ March 02, 2013 @ 09:47PM ]

    Hi, Tiago. Here is a link to the 2010 <a ref ="">statistics<a/> compiled by this magazine from respondents to a survey. This is the most recent update as subsequent years have yet to be released.

    Markets, makes and dealership protocol all have an effect on the numbers. Plus, our Retail Instalment Sales Contracts are based on monthly repayment rather than weekly as is the case in your country.

  14. 14. Mad Marv [ March 02, 2013 @ 09:48PM ]

  15. 15. MIKE T [ March 06, 2013 @ 10:43AM ]

    Read your article and have a comment for the Newbie. #12 stated that "Ray has been in the B O X (?) a year. First thing he should do is not refer to the Business office as "THE BOX". Been in finance 18 yrs, car business 37 yrs. I never allow this term to be used. Just my opinion.

  16. 16. Mad Marv [ March 06, 2013 @ 12:17PM ]

    Great catch, Mike! You're absolutely right. For all the legal terminology we use daily to be certain not to mislabel our products/services/processess, occasionally one slips through.

  17. 17. Adam Tarabay [ March 06, 2013 @ 08:18PM ]

    Great aritcle Marv thank you for sharing this great advice, looking forward to read more...

  18. 18. joshua barbosa [ March 07, 2013 @ 05:01PM ]

    Interview 100% master this step first as newbie, this step alone will avoid lots of mistakes, and you will get the feedback from the customer that will help you to customize your menu presentation

  19. 19. Bubba C [ March 19, 2013 @ 02:11PM ]

    Everyone one this site has "signed" for the customer. That includes the author, trust me.

  20. 20. Mad Marv [ March 19, 2013 @ 07:17PM ]

    I won't speak for anyone else Bubba C and neither should you unless you've actually witnessed said behavior however I will admit there is little I haven't done when I was younger. Took me years to unlearn those bad habits.

  21. 21. Bender B [ March 22, 2013 @ 01:12PM ]

    It's nice to see you can admit fault Marv. Too many professionals just simply refuse to do just that in fear of losing a following. I think you just gained a follower here my man!

  22. 22. Mad Marv [ March 22, 2013 @ 02:00PM ]

    I'm just as human and carnal as the next guy. Because of all the missteps I've made is one of the top reasons I keep doing my little bit every month. Not for some superficial redemption but because there is a kid in a dealership somewhere right now without any ethical leadership and he's under pressure to do things the wrong way.

    I'm hoping something I write along with all the comments by people like yourself will encourage and embolden him to do the right thing before it becomes habitual. Thanks so much for your support.

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Author Bio

Marv Eleazer

Finance Director

Marv is no insider. He’s an actual F&I manager with more than 20 years of experience. Get his from-the-trenches take on the industry every month at

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