Shortly after we started our expansions, our owner, Derek Zeck, started negotiations to purchase another dealership in Oklahoma. On March 15th, we signed all of the papers and opened up our first Chevrolet dealer. Unfortunately for me, I went into the dealership believing that key elements of operations would be the same as Zeck Ford. However, when I got to the dealership and started running reports, I was amazed at what they were not doing and the fact that there was no one at the dealership that knew what should be done daily, monthly, or yearly to track business and plan for the future.
About a month before we closed on the dealership, my parts manager, Robert, and I went to the dealership to do an inventory to verify their books. When we ran our initial report, we found that the dealership had not inventoried their parts for over three years and almost 25 percent of their inventory had been there for more than three years. What was even more eye opening was that all of the old parts were obsolete and unreturnable—basically useless to us. Doesn’t everyone know that parts are money?! Before we could even start our inventory, we had to remove all the useless parts and set them aside. Then the fun started.
We spent the better part of two days locating parts and putting them in bins to make our next inventory easier. Unfortunately, we did not own the store yet so we could not make major adjustments to their books. But, we were able to identify another 15 percent of the inventory that could still be returned after we took the store over.
Then I wanted to run some simple reports to give me an idea of the kind of business the service department was currently doing. Again, what I found amazed me. They had not performed month-end reports and closing each month, so when I ran an operation code usage report, it reported everything for the past three years, as well. Again, the information was basically useless to me. So, I decided to run some technician flag reports and I found that the technicians were still hand flagging their repairs with the old stick-on flag sheets, even though they were paying for a computer system that would allow them to clock in and out on each repair. I had no choice but to decide that when we took over, we would just have to start from scratch.
Now, many may say that the responsibility of performing normal business operations would belong to the employees and managers of each department. But, after being there for the better part of three weeks and spending most of my first week there just fixing how their DMS accounts for and tracks repairs orders, I came to the conclusion that you cannot blame people for not knowing what they don’t know. Every employee in their parts and service departments were self-taught, which makes the fact they were operating at all pretty amazing to me. The dealership started failing several years before we got involved and, as most owners would, they started cutting cost, to the point where they did not have anyone that knew what needed to be done. My biggest worry was where to start.
On the day we opened, we had scheduled with our DMS to have trainers for parts, service and finance. We also hired an expert with our DMS to help me and our controller fix all of the account issue we found before we took over and several that arose as we started processing our own business. It was a struggle for the technicians and the service manager to start using the tech terminal on the computer, so I decided that I would slowly bring them up to where we are. They are currently learning and using the system we had several years ago to get comfortable with the computers. As they continue to improve, I will start to filter in some of the new technology that we use at the Ford store. I did not think it was in my best interest to take them from the Flintstones to the Jetsons in one move.