Identifying Your Next Great Parts Manager
Of all the elements that appeal to Scott Petrie about his role as a parts manager—like his love of numbers, for example—he’s especially drawn to his requirement to train the next generation. Petrie, who has worked in parts departments for nearly 25 years, likes mentoring young employees and providing them with the necessary skills for an evolving industry.
“At this point, I like actually training people, developing people,” says Petrie, the parts manager at Nissan Infiniti of San Francisco. “These young guys coming up, trying to help them not only be better workers, but better people—that’s something I really enjoy.”
For most dealerships, parts inventory represents a massive investment by ownership. And, if that inventory is overseen by an ill-prepared parts manager, issues like obsolescence can run rampant. Thus, willing tutors, like Petrie, can be valuable.
On that note, Petrie recently provided Fixed Ops Business with extensive thoughts on how the next generation of parts managers can be identified and mentored by dealerships.
You need somebody with some empathy. A good attitude is not something that you can really learn. You have to be able to get along with the other department heads. My assistant manager now, Brandon, is a character; he’s always laughing. But, when it comes to work, he’s the first one to volunteer for a project and pretty much can read my mind as to what I want done. Most parts managers I have known have a very good memory.
I think of primary importance is that attention to detail. You have to be very detail oriented. You can’t let things go by you.
You have to recognize everybody’s strengths. You have to recognize everybody’s weaknesses. You have to be able to empower people.
Most of the parts managers that I had early on, they clung really tightly to their knowledge. They didn’t share much, because they felt that was their power. And I always felt like, if I could teach everybody how to do everything that I do, not only would they understand why I’m asking them to do it, but they could also be a great help to me.
I train my people to do everything. If the parts department relies on me so heavily that I have to be here every minute of the day, then I’m not doing my job properly.
I try to get my people to think: How many of these parts have we actually sold? Go into the computer and then track how many we’ve ever sold. Where’s the demand coming from? Then they get a feel for exactly what that inventory control process is all about.
I don’t know if dealership experience is that necessary anymore. You know, I have people working for me that have worked at O’Reilly, NAPA, and AutoZone, and all those companies have very good training programs. A lot of times, we get stuck in a rut, thinking, “I’m looking for a Ford guy, so I absolutely want a guy with Ford experience.” I don’t think that’s really relevant anymore.
But most of the really good parts managers that I’ve known have worked their way up through the ranks. They started off delivering parts—maybe washing cars or driving customers home—and then they became counterpeople and worked their way up.
Look at dealerships where you know parts departments are performing well. Nine times out of 10, you have somebody, maybe a couple somebodies, below the parts manager in those parts departments that’s very well trained, very well motivated, and is ready to make that step. I think there’s a lot of people just waiting for that opportunity.