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Top Dealership Management Skills

When friends unfamiliar with the complexity of the retail automotive field question just how smart or clever auto dealers and their management teams need to be… they often find my answer a bit unreal. To convince them of the need for top-flight management talents, I describe auto dealerships as an “Atypical” small business.

Small in overall size… but far more complex… evidenced by the complexity of management required. Car dealerships have a complex array of systems, processes and reporting protocols that far surpass those in other typically small retail businesses. They may qualify as a “small business,” but require management systems that are more typically found in much larger companies.

Dealerships sometimes have 8 (or more) distinct profit centers operating under the same roof. The management science of getting all those profit centers in sync so that the enterprise is sufficiently profitable can be daunting.

What Management Talents and Skills are Needed by Dealership Profit Center Managers?

I came across an article in the Harvard Business Review that helps answer this question.

So how complex is today’s world in general? The article points out that noted philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries went on record as being frustrated and overwhelmed by the vast body of knowledge contained in books of the day. In the 1600s and 1700s the thinkers of the day where overwhelmed with what they needed to learn. With the information explosion set off by the Internet, I wonder how they would react today.

The car business has become more complex over the last couple of decades. The consumer that dealers enticed into the showroom with the newest models, balloons, pennants and soaped over windows, is not nearly as sophisticated and knowledgeable as today’s car shopper.

Here too, the Internet has served to level the information playing field. Reacting to consumers as if they were ignorant is probably not going to work for you.

Sources of revenue have multiplied in number if not in volume. It’s more complex and difficult to engineer and manage a successful dealership in today’s retail environment.

So as the complexity of life and your business grows, how do you evaluate the skill and talent needed for each of your profit centers to operate at full bore?

The author of the article, Tomas Chamorro-Prenuzic… (a professor of business psychology at University College London and at Columbia University)… has come to the conclusion that “Curiosity Is as Important as Intelligence,” when it comes to tackling complex business environments. Clearly some managers are better equipped to manage complexity.

Chamorro-Prenuzic goes on to suggest there are three psychological qualities that will help managers of complex tasks:

First is IQ or Intellectual Quotient.

IQ refers to a person’s mental ability. The author also points out that IQ is not a great predictor of success, especially in the business world. However a higher level of IQ gives a person the mental tools to better understand and solve complex business situations and problems. A higher IQ enables the person to grasp concepts, problems and solutions more quickly. He compares this to computer processing speed.

He also cautions not to equate IQ with a good memory; indicating that research has demonstrated no correlation between a good memory and the ability to solve complex problems.

Second is EQ – or the Emotional Quotient.

EQ is a person’s ability to understand, manage and express their emotions. A person with a High EQ will be…

  • Less prone to, or suffer from, stress and anxiety. Highly complex situations are likely to induce stress and/or anxiety for most; but persons with High EQ are less likely to fall prey.

  • Provide the High EQ person with above average interpersonal skills. They will be able to deal successfully with “office politics.” They know how to “get along” with peers and superiors.

  • High EQ persons are likely be more proactive with opportunities and risk taking. They will be better than average in seeing the opportunity and then converting creative ideas into successful action. They see a complex environment as an opportunity and welcome challenge.

The Third Quality is a Person’s CQ – or Curiosity Quotient.

The CQ has to do with how a person seeks understanding and knowledge about the challenges faced. They are hungry for know-how, facts, experiences of others and a variety of other items of knowledge that will help them vocationally.

The High CQ person will show some frustration with routine processes… and seek out the new, creative and illuminating solution to common business problems and opportunities.

High CQ individuals are information sponges… constantly curating the facts, information and case studies of how others have approached business challenges and succeeded.

CQ in should not be confused with IQ. IQ is the raw ability to process information quickly and completely. The High IQ person does not actually do so… but owns the ability.

For the High CQ individual, they look for knowledge, experts and the experiences of others to successfully navigate complex business situations. Their goal is to take the complex problem and make the solution simple.


The author goes on to point out that IQ is hard to coach or learn. However EQ and CQ can be enhanced with coaching and encouragement. 

Albert Einstein: “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”

Short Video on how to advance your automotive career…

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