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Efficient retailing No16: Business basics

In the latest of our series of insights into running an efficient dealership, Thurlby Motors managing director Chris Roberts looks at business basics and first impressions

Over the years I have been involved with many businesses in crisis, both as a consultant and also while working for manufacturers.

Generally, these involvements were driven either directly by the businesses or by the banks who were concerned about the security of their investment.

Sometimes issues would be basic, such as poor return on used vehicle investment, other times the business would be near to bankruptcy and in need of urgent surgery to ensure survival.

Whatever the reason for my involvement, I always took the same approach to my initial visit – almost a ground-up, customer’s eye view of the operation, which would almost always illustrate some of the reasons the business was in difficulty. 

Here I’d like to briefly explain my approach which, with a little creativity, can be adapted by you to assess your own business.

When making my first appointment, I would always avoid asking for directions to the business.

I would instead, on arrival in the dealer’s town, ask half a dozen people if they knew the location of the business.

This would give me an early indication of the prominence of both the brand and dealer’s name.

From this, I could ascertain if local awareness existed around the business.

Give it a try around your local area; you may be surprised at the result.

I would then drive to the site and see how easily I could park.

Many businesses have superb car parks, but due to poor controls they are often full or have limited available spaces.

As a customer, this can be severely annoying and will potentially put people off return visits.

Try counting your available spaces when you’ve read this article.

Also check if the spaces are near to the relevant entrances.

Once parked, I would sit and watch customers arrive for approximately 10 minutes. It might sound silly, but often dealerships fail to use adequate directional signage and some newer sites don’t have easily recognisable doors due to the amount of glass.

Often I would see customers walking backwards and forwards trying to find the right entrance and sometimes even any entrance!

Inside, I would judge how welcoming the business made people feel. Was reception staffed?

Did they offer a warm greeting with a smile? Did
they make customers feel comfortable and that they were important to the business?

Finally, housekeeping – were the customer areas clean and tidy?

This would always include tidy desks, no empty cups, no coats on the backs of chairs and waste bins not overflowing with rubbish.

Was paintwork fresh and background music at a reasonable level?

The above might sound basic, but often, especially when working in the same location every day, we all miss the obvious.

Go and do a few sanity checks of your own to make sure your site is ticking the boxes.

Next time we’ll have a look at the operational element of my initial visit and review a few basic health checks on key areas of the business.


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