Dawson Grimsley started out in sales at Davis-Moore Auto Group in Wichita, Kan., in 1976. It was back then that he caught the vision for prioritizing ethical behavior in the dealership.
“My old boss used to say, ‘If it’s not right, don’t do it,’” Grimsley said. That boss was Grant Davis, who joined the dealership in 1955 and helped build it into Kansas’ largest automotive group.
After working his way up in the dealership as the used-car manager, general used-car manager and general manager, Grimsley became co-owner and president of the auto group in 2001 when Grant Davis passed away. He continued the existing practices that leveraged the company’s high standard of ethics and compliance, as well as starting new ones. These practices have enabled Davis-Moore to establish a reputation of integrity in the community.
“I have found through word-of-mouth from repeat customers, as well as through casual conversations with individuals in local restaurants to their competitors in the Wichita area, that the Davis-Moore name is synonymous with high-quality, high-ethical standards and a positive car-buying and financing experience,” said Adam Barocio, an account executive with EFG Companies, which provides F&I support to the Davis-Moore group.
If It Ain’t Broke
Davis-Moore has promoted from within for more than 30 years, and Grimsley credits the company’s ethical consistency and success partly to this policy.
“They learn to do business the way you want them to and they see that we have a very high standard for ethics,” Grimsley said. “Once you have people who understand the processes and the reputation you have to uphold, it is so much easier when they start getting into different parts of the dealership.”
The employees learn early on that management has a very low tolerance for dishonesty. “If someone does something dishonestly, I won’t put up with it, no matter who they are,” Grimsley said. They also gain a general grasp of the business before entering positions with greater responsibility. Management benefits by being able to evaluate employees’ performance and character before entrusting them with more.
“Based on their work experience within the dealership, management is able to properly judge the ethical standards and commitment of these individuals prior to offering a promotion to F&I,” Barocio observed. “This practice ensures that the proper individuals are given this opportunity. It also reduces turnover in the department, leading to improved compliance with ethical standards and higher customer satisfaction.”
Because of this careful promotion policy, Davis-Moore has enjoyed a strong and enduring relationship with many of its employees. The director of finance, Faron Cassity, has been with the group for 16 years. Since the F&I managers are required to start in sales and work there for a couple of years, all 15 of the company’s F&I managers are seasoned staffers.
“I think one of the reasons we’re successful and I don’t have any headaches is because of the longevity of the people that are working here,” Grimsley said. “They understand that this is how we do business.”
As compliance and ethics go hand in hand, Grimsley has put in place several new practices since taking over the dealership to ensure that it stays compliant.
First, all F&I personnel are required to become AFIP-certified. The dealership made this mandatory about two years ago and has seen a marked difference in employees.
“Once they’re certified they are a lot prouder of their profession,” said Cassity. “They are a lot more knowledgeable about the F&I process and the rules and regulations that govern F&I, both federal and state.”
Along with going through the AFIP-certification course and taking the exam, the F&I staff receives ongoing training, both in-store and from EFG Companies. Many impromptu training sessions will also occur, particularly as a result of Cassity’s daily reviews of the F&I numbers.
“Faron monitors numbers daily, and when somebody starts slipping, we’re in there working with them, talking with them and finding what the problem is,” Grimsley said. “Most of the time it gets the numbers right back up to where they need to be.”
Videotaping all transactions became another policy in F&I about a year ago. Along with holding managers to a consistent presentation and proper disclosure, the recordings have been an indispensable tool in training. In each of the stores, the F&I managers will sit down twice a week and watch each other’s videos, critiquing them and pointing out the good and bad. EFG will also review the transactions regularly to make sure the deals are compliant.
The videos have been an effective means of targeting and improving certain aspects of an F&I manager’s performance.
“When you have an F&I manager whose production is down a bit, sometimes you watch their video and they don’t have any excitement; they’re kind of robotic when working with the customer,” Grimsley said. “You can bring up the way they’re addressing the customer, when they’re not being friendly or smiling, or not thanking the customer for their business. They can instantly see that, and it makes a huge difference.”
Davis-Moore also has a full-time compliance officer who monitors the transactions daily, conducts monthly continuing education meetings and keeps F&I abreast of new or changing policies and regulations. The officer also performs random safeguard audits each month.