Team Building General Fixed Operations Operations

Three Tips to Develop Synergy Among Fixed Ops Managers

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Jordan Hadwin grew up in her family’s dealership business, Hadwin-White Buick GMC Subaru in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and eventually took over as dealer manager seven years ago. Throughout that time, Hadwin has worked to instill a new culture within the fixed operations department, one built on providing accountability, communication and producing results.

With over 70 employees and a recent considerable increase in fixed ops profitability and overall sales, Hadwin says that developing a strong management team that communicates well and gets along is key to producing the best results possible. Here, she outlines three ways to do just that:

1) Trust your managers.

Ultimately, you can’t be everywhere at once, Hadwin says, which is why you need to be able to trust your fixed operations managers.

“I have such respect for my managers,” she says. “They are the frontlines for me; they are an extension of myself. We’ve all got to be as strong as we can be.”

Becoming a strong, trusted team, however, sometimes involves making difficult decisions. Hadwin isn’t afraid to make management changes if a manager doesn’t fit in with the culture or isn’t producing intended results. Too often, she says, it’s easy to let issues slide because a manager is well meaning, but ultimately, that’s only hurting the entire organization.

“Making those changes with the greater goal of saying: There are 70 people who count on us to succeed. If I’m kind of stringing someone along that’s not the right fit, not only does it hurt the store, it hurts the technician, the service advisor, etc.,” Hadwin says.

2) Hold frequent meetings.

Communication is of utmost importance to Hadwin and the best way to do that is hold frequent check-in meetings that span departments. She holds a fixed ops meeting every Monday and a general manager's’ meeting every Wednesday morning.

“They don’t take a ton of time, and it’s a great opportunity for us to sit there and, as a dealership, find ways to work together; there needs to be that synergy,” she says. “I try to stay really close to those managers. I don’t want to micromanage but I trust in their abilities and it’s nice to have those check-ins.”

The other benefit of these meetings, she says, is that it ensures departments don’t get too segregated, which frequently leads to problems. The more you put managers in a room together, the more it enforces that everyone must work together and develop solutions that benefit all departments.

3.) Maintain an open door policy.

While you need to trust the managers to handle issues independently, Hadwin says creating an open door policy has been hugely helpful in preventing problems from getting out of hand. For example, she says a previous manager subscribed to the “old way of thinking” of only bothering the general manager or fixed operations director when a large problem occurred. This only resulted in the problem escalating, she says.

“It’s also about respect and it’s about when there are problems, let’s say between service and the body shop, you need to explore that. You need to manage those expectations and say, ‘Let’s get together and talk about where our problems come from,’” Hadwin says. “Sometimes it’s a riff between two individual employees that needs to be squashed, sometimes it’s broader and it’s snowballed a little.”

Hadwin says she emphasizes to all employees, not just managers, that respectful, calm discussions—even disagreements—are more than welcomed.

“The more you get people to feel comfortable and having these discussions, the more they do it amongst themselves, independently,” she says. “That helps quell a lot of problems before they become bigger problems. There can be some walls between different department managers and all that’s doing is hurting your overall store, no doubt.”

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