In “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win” (2015), former SEAL Team Three members Jocko Willink and Leif Babin explain how true leaders put their egos aside and take responsibility for their own actions and those of their teams. It is a great read for any leader and anyone who aspires to be one.
What does extreme ownership mean to an F&I professional? There are three areas of ownership you can focus on to take your entire team’s performance to the next level, whatever that level might be.
1. Own Your Process.
Your F&I process is shaped and defined by habits and attitudes — good and bad. But the opposite is true as well: A great process has the power to create good habits and promote positive attitudes.
Take a hard look at your process. Identify its pitfalls and areas of opportunity. What can be refined? Is every team member committed to each step, and if not, why not?
Your analysis should include salespeople and sales managers. Asking for their ideas on how to improve things increases the odds they will take ownership of and enforce your new process. Don’t be afraid to ask what their expectations of F&I are, whether they feel they should have a more active role, and where they see opportunities to make any part of the process more efficient.
Once you have walked through it on paper as a team, discuss your findings, make adjustments if needed, and then get everyone’s commitment to execute consistently. Remember, F&I is a team sport. Complaining about the way sales delivers deals won’t change anything.
2. Own Your Communication.
A failure to communicate is at the root of every negative or inconsistent customer experience and employee dissatisfaction. Lack of engagement with customers breeds distrust and resentment. Broken lines between sales, F&I, and management leads to poor attitudes and bad habits.
In a fast-paced environment, your sense of urgency is key. F&I customers expect fast, accurate answers. Finance sources expect you to return their calls. Consistent communication generates trust and creates a comfort level that will provide goodwill and much needed attention and reciprocity from your customers.
Finally, stop playing the blame game. No one wants to hear it. When bad communication causes a problem, take ownership, follow up, and follow through.
3. Own Your Results.
As Larry “the pit bull of personal development” Winget once said, “Your success is your own fault.” Whatever level of production and profitability your department might have achieved, guess what? You know there is more to be had.
I recently met with one of my F&I teams in a high-volume store. They had finished February with a 56% service contract penetration rate. For the month ahead, I challenged them to ask themselves what it would take to get to the next level. They took ownership of this challenge and, throughout March, they focused on every opportunity. They worked harder to keep each other accountable, they strategized, conducted extra training sessions, and met one-on-one with salespeople. By the end of the month, VSC penetration had soared to 74%.
It is easy to get comfortable and complacent with good results. Own your results, no matter whether they are good, bad, or indifferent, and challenge yourself to do better.
You don’t have to be a dealer principal or general manager to be a leader. You just have to put ego aside and take responsibility. By taking ownership of your process, communication, and results, you will generate more personal income and your entire team will perform at a higher level.
Tony Troussov CSP is a 20-year F&I industry veteran and principal of Mezen Dealership Services. Contact him at [email protected].