Fixed ops director injects some pep in old dealership’s step

Butler says his makeover formula centers on three basic actions: Assess the situation, prioritize what needs to be done and then execute the plan.

The first step was talking to individual employees and generally observing operations. Butler says he looked at myriad things: How do customers and personnel interact? How do advisers greet customers? What’s the overall atmosphere like? Do customers seem happy to be at the store? How is employee morale? How well does the parts department work with technicians? What are the technicians’ skill levels? And so forth.

“I also study the numbers,” says Butler, who has quarterbacked fixed ops makeovers at two other stores, located in Virginia and Tennessee. “The numbers don’t lie.”

Butler determined he had two big advantages on the plus side of the ledger: solid and skilled technicians who’ve been good long-term employees.

“We have a really good core staff,” he says.

On the negative side, there’d been no training or process updates for the last four or five years.

“Over the course of time, if you’re not investing and evolving, things start going backward,” Butler observes. “You start underperforming and not living up to your potential.”

Furthermore, technicians were underpaid, which largely stemmed from a low effective labor rate, he says.

“If your ELR is too low, you can’t afford things like paying techs more or upgrading equipment and facilities,” Butler explains. “It affects gross income and ultimately your bottom line. A higher ELR allows you to hire more personnel and afford extras like porters and greeters.”