It was Alan Cohen, the author of “Why Your Life Sucks,” who once said, “There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.” I’d like to follow his advice and break from the normal focus on improving our skill sets and moving performance forward.
“But wait a minute,” you say. “We can’t do that! We have quotas to meet, goals to crush, and an expected income level that doesn’t facilitate time for breaks. I have contracts to get funded, deals to close out and get into the office, and a salesman just brought me a deal with incomplete paperwork. Breaks are for those who are less motivated, focused and determined, not for me!”
So are the words of someone on the edge of reaching the infamous destination called “burnout.” You can find the same folks working 10- to 12-hour days. They feel perpetually exhausted and find it difficult to fully engage with their family after work hours, leaving them feeling guilty and dissatisfied. They sleep poorly, make no time to exercise, and seldom eat healthy meals, instead grabbing a bite to eat on the run or while working at their desk. Working with F&I professionals from coast to coast, I have witnessed this scenario way too often. Luckily for all of us, there is a solution.
Give Me a Break
Most people that make their way into the F&I office are overachievers, and most have a well-developed work ethic. Hats off to the multitudes of hardworking F&I professionals who carry the load of providing an enjoyable process to our customers, while assuring a good profit level that is achieved with 100% compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. I’m feeling tired just describing what they do every day.
See, while the demands are high in the F&I office, it is also a great opportunity to interact and genuinely help customers. Most of all, we should be having fun. When F&I stops being fun, it stops being effective.
“Give me a break!” you say. “Are you supposing that we take several breaks during the day and an intentionally planned vacation a couple of times each year to assure that we stay focused and rested to produce our best?”
Absolutely! While we can’t make a demanding job any easier, F&I professionals need to plan to take a break and reboot regularly to keep the energy, focus, and fun levels high in the process. You can reset your focus and successfully power up. It starts with increased awareness and some action steps in the right direction. Here are two ways to make sure my plan works for you:
1. Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time
You don’t need a 10- or 15-minute break at the same time every day. You need it when your energy level starts dipping. When energy levels dip, it’s time to push away from the computer screen, leave the office, walk outside and breathe in some fresh air. Problem is, many of us have become smartphone and social media addicts. And, unfortunately, surfing the net, checking Facebook and returning personal emails is not a “break,” because it does very little to relieve the pressure building up in your mind.
The only way to effectively keep energy levels high is to take an actual break and truly reboot your mind. Think about it. Techie troubleshooters almost always ask that you reboot your device before they spend time diagnosing the problem. The reason is that 80% to 90% of all issues can be fixed with a simple reboot. That’s because there really isn’t a deep-rooted problem; it’s just that parts of the device have had their communication interrupted. Break away from the phone, the computer, and the demands of the day and take a walk outside. If your energy dips in late afternoon, it may be because of what you are eating for lunch or because you are regularly skipping lunch. It’s more than a health issue. It’s an energy, focus, and productivity issue.
2. Manage Emotions, Not Numbers
We know that emotions drive most, if not all, of the buying decisions we make. We have become experts at utilizing emotions in the effort to build urgency for the products we offer. Emotions can be our most valuable asset or the largest hindrance to our success. When the first half of the month starts out with really low sales volume, we can begin to think that, no matter how well we perform, we will never be able to produce a good paycheck for the month. If that emotion is allowed to rule the day, we are less prepared for the opportunities that do show up because we have convinced ourselves that our efforts will not affect the outcome for that month.
Negative emotions create a distorted focus and that affects our numbers. Look, our most precious resource is not our time, it’s our focused attention. Time merely passes, while focused attention makes things happen.
I once saw an interesting sign in someone’s home. It said, “No one acts big. No one acts little. Everybody acts medium.” That’s great advice! Whether you’re having a good month or a bad month, acting with a medium, levelheaded focus will guard against overconfidence during good times and a lack of confidence when times are challenging. You may be frustrated by internal conflicts with other team members. If that negative emotion finds a resting place in your mind, it will negatively affect your numbers.
We must focus like a laser beam and manage our emotions at all times to produce at top levels. Our F&I offices are filled with extremely talented men and women, so the ability to produce is there. One of the most important contributing factors to consistent production is our ability to manage our emotions effectively. Those who do are able to maximize their abilities and income.
Five-time NBA champion and two-time league MVP Tim Duncan recently retired after 19 seasons, all of which were spent with the San Antonio Spurs. One of the things that caught my attention in his announcement was when he explained why he was retiring. He simply said that playing “wasn’t fun anymore.” He’s a throwback to a bygone era, when players put team ahead of self, and were mainly interested in quietly being great at their vocation through an incredible work ethic, with none of the fanfare or narcissistic behavior we see in so many athletes today.
That’s a great attitude for an athlete and a great attitude for an F&I professional. So take a break, reboot and manage your energy and emotions more effectively in the days ahead — and make sure you’re having fun!
Well, I have enjoyed my break from the normal focus on skill sets and performance-based discussions. It was a breath of fresh air. It was time for a reboot and a re-focus on some thoughts that affect us more than we are willing to admit at times.
Rick McCormick is the national account development manager for Reahard & Associates Inc., an F&I training company providing classes, workshops, in-dealership and online training. Email him at [email protected].