It’s a Bad Day- When Your World Is Turned Upside Down by Your Controller
You woke up this morning feeling pretty good about life. The dealership is profitable, and you have minimal headaches compared to where you were several years ago. You arrive at the store feeling like the biggest issue you have to deal with today is the used car manager who wants to keep buying when you want to keep a tight turn on inventory.
Then your world is turned upside down very quickly. Your controller has handed you their resignation. Your brain is scrambling to keep up with this announcement. We all know that the controller’s seat is one that doesn’t turn over much in the dealership. So why now, why me?
Maybe that day didn’t start off quite that bad instead your controller announced that they need to have a significant surgery with long recovery time. Or heaven forbid they have been diagnosed with another illness that will require significant time away from the store? Do you have a plan?
Both of these scenarios could seriously disrupt your business. You and your team have come to count on this person for much more than creating your monthly financial statement. An outstanding controller often becomes the eyes and ears of the store. The person who notices the small details that can and would become big issues if they weren’t brought to light and addressed as soon as they are spotted.
They are often a deadline, task-driven machine who can juggle 16 plates in the air and still keep your store in trust with your floorplan company and protect your store from other often unseen risks. To top all of this off your controller has an enormous amount of information about your operation that isn’t easy to hand off in a short amount of time. This leaves your operation very vulnerable, especially since many dealerships operate with as few clerical personnel as possible.
How do you prepare to survive this major ripple in your business?
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure would be an appropriate viewpoint. What can you do to prevent the resignation, or minimize the disruptions of an extended absence? Start with taking a look at your compensation package for the person in that seat. Is it comparable to other similar positions in the market? When the market is as tight as it is, and other dealers want experienced personnel they will look to their competitors to poach employees. It would be a tough thing to swallow to find that your controller is leaving to go to your competitor because you haven’t provided a positive change in wages or benefits in the last five years.
What is the work-life balance of your controller?
If your controller is working 60 hours a week and hasn’t had a vacation in the last three years, you probably need to be asking some questions about how work can be allocated differently or hiring some additional help.
There is little you can do to directly prevent health issues of your employees. I’m pretty sure genetics and lifestyle are controlling that piece, but there is something you can do so that your business isn’t at risk. Cross train!
Work with your controller to put a plan in place to cross train your staff so that 70 percent of your controllers’ daily duties could be completed by someone else on the clerical staff. The higher that percentage is, the lower your risk will be. If you have three other people on your clerical team and between them, they can do 70 percent of your controllers’ daily duties on a short-term basis you should be able to weather a short-term health issue easily. I’m not going to lie to you, cross-training staff can be challenging for many controllers. I can say this because I was one for years and still work with many of them. They are called “controllers” for a reason. Things you might hear when you suggest it are “I don’t have time to train,” “It’s just faster to do it myself,” “if I show them how but they never do it they won’t retain it.” So let me arm you for those conversations.
“I don’t have time to train.”
As a leader in your department part of your job is to train your team, and training them to be able to cover duties for you will free you to take time away without distraction, and work on other higher value projects. Training will also build additional confidence and skill sets in your team. It doesn’t have to all happen overnight; it just has to be an ongoing process of training.
“It’s faster to do it myself.”
It probably is. However, is it the best use of your time? Would taking the extra time to train a team member to execute the task properly cause us to fail to meet a major deadline if we plan for the extra time from the onset? If it takes a clerk making half your salary twice as long to do the same job the dealership is still ahead because it frees you up to focus on more important tasks that only you can do.
“If I show them how, but they never do it they won’t retain it.”
Retention is impacted significantly by execution shortly after training. Therefore, it is important for you to show them how to do a task, then allow them to do it on a semi-regular basis to retain how. In addition, ask this person you are training to document how they do the task. Documenting how to, especially in their own words will allow them to go for months without doing the task but still be able to pick up their instructions and work through it with minimal issues when they need to.
It’s unlikely that you will have anyone on staff who can truly do the entire job of your controller and their own job for any length of time. In those cases, you may need to look for an outside source, like DealerStrong, to help fill in the gap until your controller can get back to work, or until you can hire another one. But hopefully, with a bit of planning, you can minimize the effects of a really bad day.See how we can minimize the effects of a really bad day