Education+Training

How to Keep Training Classes Cost-effective

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How to fund for valuable continuing training courses without breaking your budget

Pat Arnotte can tolerate inexperienced employees. He’ll even put up with staffers who aren’t especially tech savvy.

There’s one main trait, however, that Arnotte can’t accept, and that’s a lack of ambition.

“You’ve got to surround yourself with people that want to be better,” says Arnotte, who serves as the fixed operations director for the Delaware-based Porter Automotive Group.

“And if you’re not surrounding yourself with those types of people—if they push back to you [regarding taking] training—then they’re not the right people for you to be working with.”

Yes, Arnotte, currently in his 35th year in the auto industry, is a big advocate of having employees participate in continuing training classes. Because he knows that unsure employees aren’t likely to excel at selling wholesale auto parts, or vehicle accessories, for example.

And, Arnotte has seen training classes produce proven results. Recently, for instance, he had a pair of Porter Automotive Group employees take dealer-specific training with an expert in Baltimore; those employees returned to Delaware with a stunning increase in confidence.

“They came back and they were amazed,” Arnotte says of the two employees. “And, their numbers [improved], because of a two-day class. It’s crazy.”

Arnotte, who oversees stores rated as highly as 4.85 stars out of five, explains how a

dealership can fund valuable continuing training classes while staying within its budget.

Track Down Deals.

Arnotte searches high and low for the best training classes for veteran employees, be they public-speaking courses, Excel spreadsheet workshops, or phone training. In order to find the best courses for dealership employees, he’ll consult with his manufacturer, his 20 Group, or even aftermarket companies.

In doing so, he’ll often unearth a deal; in the past, for instance, Arnotte has had employees take college software courses that only cost around $200. And, of course, many classes offered by a dealership’s manufacturer are free.

“I won’t send somebody to a $2,000 [course], but if I can get a good deal on it, my owner’s really good with stuff like that,” Arnotte explains. “I say, ‘Cory, I’ve got a good deal: I can send two guys, and it’s [only] going to cost me this much money…’”

Don’t Dismiss Online Training.

While Arnotte is sometimes hesitant to have staffers take online courses due to their impersonal nature, he also knows that such classes are typically cost-effective and efficient. And, when a virtual training class features a live speaking option, it’s a decent substitute for in-person training. One dealership-related course that’s often available online is HAZMAT certification, which can help employees ship materials like fluids and batteries without restrictions.

Similarly, Arnotte notes that there are some valuable phone skills training programs that are available on DVD, for just “a few hundred dollars.”

Stretch Your Training Dollars.

Attending informative professional courses is one thing. But, by networking while attending training classes, and by later sharing your new knowledge with your colleagues, you can make your dealership’s investment in training truly pay dividends.

“A lot of what you learn at these things is during the breaks, when you talk to” peers, Arnotte says. “I go for networking—to hear how other guys are doing things, and to steal ideas.”

Then, on a quarterly basis, the Porter Automotive Group hosts a dinner, where employees from all five of its stores spend a couple hours hearing about new lessons that dealership leaders like Arnotte have gleaned from recent training sessions. Eventually, the automotive group implements a few of those newly learned tricks into its procedures.

Approach Your Owner Carefully.

Before the Porter Automotive Group has parts managers take tutorials on building spreadsheets, or has advisors take public-speaking courses, Arnotte often must clear the expenditure with dealership leaders. And this is a sales pitch that must be handled delicately.

Dealership leaders are most receptive to investing in training if they feel like they’re benefiting from a rare opportunity.

“The more employees you can send there, the better deal you get,”  Arnotte says of most training workshops. “You’ve got to catch the deals. … Because, if not, you’ll spend a fortune.”

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