The post drew an avalanche of responses from members of a social media group for F&I managers. “I love my industry and I love this business, but I hate my job!” the disgruntled finance manager wrote. “That being said, I know it’s a necessary step to get where I want to be (GSM, GM and eventually owning my own dealership). Any words of wisdom?”
Asked why he hated his job, the finance manager responded, “My department is handcuffed by the desk. My sales floor is poorly trained and they don’t accept direction or coaching. I’m really fighting to stay positive, but I’m not seeing a lot of light here.”
"You can show up, go through the motions and maybe even put up some decent numbers, but you will never excel at F&I until you develop a passion for it. And when I say “passion,” I’m talking about a love for what you do — to the point where you spend your downtime absorbing all you can about your craft."
I quickly realized he was looking for more than advice on how to deal with the daily grind of the job. What this producer really needed was process training. Apparently, after getting a crash course from his coworker that lasted all of 20 minutes, it was off to the races. So it was pretty easy to see why he was struggling, which brings me to this month’s topic.
You can show up, go through the motions and maybe even put up some decent numbers, but you will never excel at F&I until you develop a passion for it. And when I say “passion,” I’m talking about a love for what you do — to the point where you spend your downtime absorbing all you can about your craft.
Last month, I wrote about the importance of cruising the sales floor to get involved in deals early and assisting the sales team however you can. But there’s more to this practice than simply getting deals done and heading off potential problems. See, being involved and active keeps you sharp and prevents those dark thoughts about the job from creeping into your mind. Here are some other ideas to keep you and the sales staff focused and ready:
1. Training sales staff about customer management: I’m not talking about word-tracks for a better “turnover” to F&I. I’m talking about salespeople learning how to manage customers when you’re busy and can’t go out to their desk to meet and greet the customer — which I’m a big believer in, because it resets the customer’s clock.
So when I’m too busy to do a meet-and-greet, I instruct my salespeople to handle administrative duties like pairing the customer’s smartphone with the vehicle’s Bluetooth-enabled entertainment system. Getting the vehicle ready for delivery or taking the customer on a service tour also helps stop customers from clockwatching.
2. Hop onto Dealertrack or RouteOne to print each lender’s programs: Hey, no two are alike, so pull up all the various guidelines and review things like vendor single interest (VSI) fees and how each finance source calculates advances.
Also learn which finance sources will finance units titled in business names and what their guidelines are. There are also finance companies that will do incomplete trucks, such as chassis and cabs, and allow an officer to sign the contract without obligating himself personally as a cosigner.
3. Learn all you can about the legal side of this business: This can include courses offered by the Association of Finance & Insurance Professionals (AFIP) and Automotive Compliance Education (ACE). Both programs offer certifications that will further your career.
You should also pick up a copy of “Carlaw” from the attorneys of Hudson Cook LLP, compliance expert James Ganther’s “Compliance for Green Peas,” and the AFIP’s “Encyclopedia of Finance and Insurance Management.” These are terrific resources designed to help you navigate those legal landmines.
Your end goal of becoming a GM, managing partner or dealer wouldn’t be complete without this knowledge. Hey, no department inside the dealership can cause bigger headaches than F&I. Even the slightest mishap can result in your dealer writing a large check. And as an owner, how would you know what to look for or what to prevent if you haven’t spent the necessary time doing the job?
F&I isn’t for everyone. And if you hate F&I, you’ll never take that extra step. Because regardless of the volume your store does, F&I demands the best from anyone sitting in the chair. And as a future owner, how can you expect your F&I staff not to have passion for the job if you can’t muster it yourself?
I know it’s tough sitting in that chair some days. Having spent many years doing it, I can tell you I’ve had my share of forgettable moments. Yes, I’ve spun tires out of the parking lot and said things to co-workers and customers that I had to apologize for, so I get the frustration. But as the old saying goes, knowledge is power. In F&I, that means having the power to make the right decision in every situation.
Good luck and keep closing!
Marv Eleazer is the F&I director at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. Email him at [email protected].