One day an old mule fell into the well. He brayed and brayed until the farmer found him. But the farmer decided that neither the well nor the old mule was worth saving, so he started shoveling dirt into the well.
At first, the old mule was terrified. Then he realized that every time a shovel of dirt landed on his back, he could shake it off and climb onto the growing pile. Excited that he’d discovered a solution, the old mule started repeating these words to himself over and over: “Shake it off and step up. Shake it off and step up!”
Soon enough, the well was filled and the mule stepped over the wall to freedom. Although exhausted, he survived and saved his own life. He decided to face his adversity positively and not give up, and thus he overcame all the dirt being thrown down upon him. The very thing that threatened to bury him actually saved him.
In a recent online discussion, an F&I pro asked, “What is the largest obstacle to profit in the F&I department?” It didn’t take long for a host of people to chime in. They offered a long and often surprising list of factors that undermine success in F&I. The list included everything from incompetent salespeople to weak lenders and all points in between.
I know what these people are talking about because I’ve been in the F&I chair for more than 25 years. Just when I think I’ve seen it all, another farmer comes along to throw a shovelful of dirt down my well.
Now, I don’t mean to imply that there aren’t problems swirling around the showroom that create issues for F&I, because there certainly are. However, I believe that every challenge is an opportunity to showcase our problem-solving skills. Sometimes it’s a matter of training the staff so they’ll get it right the next time. Sometimes it means getting out of your office to find out what’s happening. It’s always better to head off a problem than wait for it to happen. Hey, we don’t need another reason to complain because there are plenty already.
Bottom line, it’s pointless to blame outside forces as the primary obstacle. We do the best we can with what we get, but at the end of the day, we’re still responsible for our department.
Listen, with a determined mind, any obstacle can be overcome or worked around. But an F&I manager who suffers from “stinking thinking” and refuses to internalize their issues will never rise to the challenge. That’s why I look at the guy in the mirror when my numbers tank. Hey, I know it’s easy to deflect and blame others, but that’s the slacker’s way out.
A good example came up just a few weeks ago. It was a cash deal. The customer’s check was already made out and the salesperson wanted to get them delivered in 30 seconds. I pulled out a cash menu and the customer agreed to a service contract and prepaid maintenance — but there were no checks left in her checkbook. After trying four credit cards, I finally got one to take for most of the cost, and she ended up going home to get a check for the balance.
Nobody gave me a high-five for my efforts, and I sure didn’t give one to the salesperson. But I did get production where none was offered.
Listen, nobody else is going to focus on F&I nor the issues you have to deal with. Besides, the salespeople have their own challenges. They’re competing against other dealers for Internet shoppers who are upside down on their trade by thousands of dollars. So they’re saving their high-fives for the next closed deal, not for the next F&I manager who turns a 500 credit score into lemonade.
I’ve said before that F&I isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes a special breed to put up with the demands. Face it, you’re going to get dumped on and mistreated at times, just like that old mule. So you have two choices: Get covered up and die or shake it off and rise above the problems.
The greatest obstacle you have to face is the person sitting in your chair. The sooner you start owning that chair and all the problems that go along with it, the faster you’re going to raise your success rate and climb out of the well. Good luck and keep closing!
Marv Eleazer is the F&I director at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. Email him at [email protected]