I don’t think I stopped smiling as I drove home from Tampa International Airport! I’ve just returned from Denver and Innovative Dealer Summit. “Summit” is the perfect name for this intimate and amazing conference put on by the Colorado Auto Dealers Association. Dictionary.com offers “The highest state or degree” (here) as one definition and IDS certainly lived up to THAT! With Eliana Raggio as Master of Ceremonies andkeynote speakers like Evelyn Chatel, Tracy Myers, Dale Pollak, Kelly McNearney, Kerri Wise, and Brian Benstock (just to name a few)—this event was simply amazing and I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to be there.
IDS19 was kind of a big deal for me as it was also the venue where I delivered my very first conference session. In mid-2017 I ventured out as an entrepreneur and HR Consultant after just about 20 years working in dealerships. I have a deep passion for protecting profits and elevating our industry’s culture through compliance, training, and coaching. In 2017, I decided to bring my special brand of sparkly, fun, and compliant HR to the auto industry at large. I’ve been having an amazing time, stretching myself, learning and growing. As I began to attend conferences and meet some truly wonderful people, I came to realize that I needed to dip my toe in the water and start delivering some sessions. There was just one thing holding me back. Fear. It’s always fear isn’t it? Well, it often is for me. The thing about fear is this: It is False Evidence AppearingReal. It’s that niggling voice telling me that I can’t or I’m not enough or some other such nonsense.
What a journey!
My journey over the last couple of years has led me to meet some people in our industry that have quite simply changed me. From the beginning, my path has led me to some people that I now call friends as well as colleagues. Katie Mares, Steven Warner, Stephen Sweeney, Fleming Ford…the list goes on. And some people that I greatly admire, aspire to be like, and hope to one day call friend and mentor. I follow them to learn, and go to them for advice which they generously give: Frank Lopes, Nicole Ashe, Chris Saraceno…another list that goes on. I have been encouraged to be brave by people on both lists and I am grateful.
A few months ago, I called Frank Lopes for some advice on how and where I should jump in to session/speaking delivery. What a fun and laughter filled conversation that was! Frank said, “You need to be at IDS” and so I took a deep breath and applied. When I received that e-mail confirming that my application had been accepted, I forwarded the email to Frank – after doing a happy dance of course! I was so excited! Then I think I got the deer in the headlights look…..because I was really going to Denver to deliver a session! Insert wide eyed emoji here! I’m smiling now just thinking about it.
And then there I was…totally prepared (or so I thought) as I landed in Denver, excited for the pre-event Speakers Dinner. I get a little thrill just typing those words! I arrived at the dinner and immediately met Erika Simms with Dealer Authority, and Ryan Gerardi with AutoConversion. Along with Owen Moon, we became fast foodie friends, something made super easy by the AMAZING food trucks. (Yes, I’m still thinking about the brussel sprouts Ryan). It was a lovely and special evening, hosted by CADA and Arnold Tijerina.
And then...it happened!
I spent the next day, the first day of the conference alternately nervous—(when I thought about my session) and elated—(as I listened to the amazing keynotes and attended sessions). There were so many people I’ve connected with briefly at other events that I was able to really have great conversations with like Eliana Raggio & Evelyn Chatel. This intimate and special event is the perfect venue for deeper connections and meaningful conversations.
I took some time on the first day during the lunch hour to check all my equipment and slides and breathed a sigh of relief that everything worked perfectly. The IT guys/girls thanked me for coming early (lesson 1—make friends with the IT guys/girls) and gave me a couple of tips (lesson 2—come to session with computer already up and ready). After that I relaxed a bit about my session. I reminded myself that I know my content and I am an expert in automotive HR. It’s who I am and what I do.
The day arrived and I felt ready, excited, and still a little nervous. Tabitha, also of Dealer Authority and just a ball of intelligent, fun energy came along and very kindly took some pictures for me. Since I was the first round of sessions, I had time to set up and ran through once and made SURE everything was working. All good! Or so I thought.
I was having fun greeting people as they came in and at 10am sharp I started my very first session—Woo Hooooooo!
My slides wouldn’t advance.
Nothing worked. Not the clicker. Not the arrows on the computer. Nothing.
I kinda wish I had a picture of my face at that moment.
So, I took a breath and said: “Well, someone told me once to be flexible because then I won’t get bent out of shape” and I delivered my session without slides. I was able to connect with some of those who attended my session and there was some great interaction and questions. Miraculously I had clairvoyantly printed the important slides—so was able to offer the takeaway slides and actionable items—and everyone wanted them!
Immediately afterward I couldn’t think anything but—OMG, MY SLIDES DIDN’T WORK! Of course my friends Katie Mares and Owen Moon hugged me and listened. My new friends Tabitha and Erika also gave me kind and wonderful feedback. It wasn’t until I ran into Polly, who was in my session and I asked her opinion that I was able to “get over it”. She said that she was disappointed that the slides didn’t work BUT thought I was a fantastic presenter! When I told her it was my first time, she was genuinely shocked. I really can’t explain the relief I felt at her words and reaction. Later on, I was offered some more amazing feedback from Tim Jackson of CADA that he heard from some who were in my session! Happy Happy Joy Joy! It truly made my day!
Someone asked me what my biggest take-away from my first session delivery was. And in retrospect that take-away is this: Always, always prepare as IF all the technology is not going to work. Be ready for anything. Go with the flow & connect with people. And forget FEAR—because it’s false.
I am so happy and grateful that Innovative Dealer Summit was my first experience delivering a session. I couldn’t have been in a more gorgeous place (Denver is breathtaking) nor at a more wonderful event and I am already looking forward to IDS20!
What is your dealership doing to attract and retain talent?
This is the big question isn’t it? Dealers all over are looking for talent across all departments. While there does seem to be a huge deficiency in qualified tech candidates, no department is exempt from the talent shortage. Sales, F&I, Service Advisors, Accounting staff, Technicians, Lube Techs, even car wash and detail—it is becoming more and more difficult to fill these positions with talented, motivated, and qualified candidates.
There really is a talent shortage.
As of February according to the Department of Labor, there are more job openings than job seekers for 10th month in a row. Say what!? Yes, it’s true. HR professionals have known this was coming, but who really listens to us anyway?
Nationwide, we are in an interesting employment environment and the proverbial ball is in the job seekers court. A large part of what is happening is demographic (this is the part that we knew was coming). The Boomer Generation is really and finally retiring—and they are retiring in droves—leaving big gaping holes in the workforce. And while we are trying to fill these positions with the best talent we seem to forget that candidates have OPTIONS today. A lot of options actually. They don’t need your job—not when they can go across the street to the next dealership.
What are you doing to bring them to YOUR dealership?
Frankly, if you are doing nothing and just waiting for the old days to return well—good luck with that. The days of a Rockstar walking into your dealership are over. Posting job openings on job boards and praying for qualified and exceptional candidates to apply—yep, over too. Today’s candidate need a reason to want to choose your organization over the others.
Brand your dealership as an employer of distinction
Do you know what is being said about your company on social media? What about reviews on glassdoor? Believe that candidates are doing research on your company. They want to know what is in it for THEM—other than a pay check. Does your website have an employment page that explains why your dealership is a great place to work? We are an industry of innovative creative thinkers—it’s time to put our immense skills to work to acquire talent.
Employee Value Proposition
Yes, it’s a thing. Today’s candidates are looking for the value they will receive in return for working for you. And if they don’t think it’s worth their time, they will move on to the next dealership. Remember those Boomers who are retiring? Well, the workforce is also filling with Millennials and Generation Z…think what you want about these generations (I happen to think they are pretty awesome) but we MUST learn to adapt to them and their wants and needs for employment. And they want very different things. They want a career path. They want to know how you, as their new employer are going to help them achieve their career goals. They want security and work life balance. Do some research into your new workforce and see what you can do to make your organization more attractive to this workforce.
Once you get them—KEEP THEM
It’s no secret that as an industry, we suck at retaining our employees. Even though we’ve all been talking about retention for years, turnover rates, according the NADA workforce study has actually gone up! I’m convinced that the place to start is with your onboarding process. First of all, get one. And not just for sales—remember that your organization is more than just sales although sales seems to get most of the attention and resources. Create an onboarding process that will:
Do this for every new employee and you will be taking the first steps toward retention. If you don’t, and it’s “business as usual”—you are risking that your newly hired employee will be on their phone looking for their next gig even before they have all their passwords.