In my opinion, one of the toughest things that we all have to go through at some point in our lives is our own personal "self evaluation". As Parts Managers, or any dealer manager for that matter, our own "style" of management brings us to where we are.
Before we even get started, I do not profess to be a psychological analyst by any means, but after being in this business for over 40 years, I have seen so many management styles that I have admired and many that I thought were not so admirable.
In my opinion, the Parts Manager's "Management Style" includes many variables as the parts department is the only department within the dealership that operates in a "wait and see what happens" atmosphere.
In most other departments such as Service and Sales, there is a plan for the day, whether it be a certain number of appointments, a planned sales event or calling customers back for follow up, there always seems to be a basic plan.
In the Parts Department though, we have to "wait and see what happens" for the most part, as in most cases, the other departments are the ones that will eventually dictate how our day will go. Much of what happens is directly and indirectly out of the control of the Parts Manager.
Even though we can be proactive in some respects by looking at how many Service Appointments there are, how many recall customers are coming in, etc., in general, the Parts Department operates in a "reactive" manner. Much of the duties and responsibilities of the Parts Department is to provide and to serve.
To me, the Parts Department reminds me of the movie "Groundhog Day", starring Bill Murray, where every day repeats itself to a point of frustration and with the same outcome. Over and over, the routine stays the same including the same results.
So how does this all play out when we refer to the Parts Manager's "Management Style"?
First of all, we have to go back to the beginning where the Parts Manager has to possess the right skills, abilities and knowledge just to be in the Parts Manager position in the first place. The duties and responsibilities of the Parts Manager has to come in first and foremost.
After that, the Parts Manager's "Management Style" takes over as to how far and how successful they become. Even though most successful Parts Managers, including myself, seem to have a similar personality profile which would include an analytical, logical mindset and an intrinsic, or introverted behavior pattern.
Much like the dealer's Office Manager, the Parts Manager deals with numbers, specifics and a high level of transactions each day which requires a "deep thinking, calculating" mind just to keep up with daily parts operations. Much different than a Service Manager or Sales Manager where "thinking on the fly" is a normal attribute.
In my opinion, the Parts Manager's "Management Style" not only has to be consistent, it has to be goal oriented with the leadership capabilities, even through this "Groundhog Day" affect. Each day can be so repetitive in nature as the same movie plays over and over.
It is not unusual to see everyone in the Parts Department fall into a "Comfort Zone" that can impair the overall vision and eventual goals of the Parts Department. Keeping everyone in the department focused and chasing the same goal can be quite a challenge.
Think about it for a minute, in many Parts Departments, we see the same technicians each day, we may answer phones from the same customers from the same body shops and service garages over and over. Other than a few customers showing up at our retail counters, or calling in to get a price on a part, every day replicates itself.
Not only that, each day has its own specific time to perform specific duties such as placing stock orders by the proper cut off times, special orders, checking in and receipting orders, stocking shelves, managing core returns, etc....the list goes on and on.
This is why to me, the Parts Manager has the most difficult job in staying on track with the right "Management Style" that will keep their staff motivated and striving to achieve the objectives and goals set before them.
Let's look at a few "pros and cons" that may affect the Parts Manager's "Management Style"...
One of the benefits of the "Groundhog Day" effect is that through repetition, the Parts Manager can expect consistent performance from the Parts Department Staff. Each staff member has specific duties and responsibilities that can easily be managed.
Whether through performance expectations in the counter staff, or by observation of drivers, inventory clerks, shipper/receivers, etc., it's pretty much an everyday expectation for a Parts Manager to maintain.
Another "pro" is that most Parts Departments are profitable so dealer expectations are often met or exceeded, thus reducing pressure on the Parts Manager. It's less likely that the Parts Manager is the topic of "heated discussions or meetings" with the owner and other dealership managers.
The expected "consistency" of the parts operation is expected to be just that...consistent and profitable. This is also why, in my opinion, the Parts Department is pretty much excluded and often times forgotten when it comes to the importance in their role in overall Service Absorption.
Lastly, one other "pro" is that the Parts Manager usually has the longest tenure in the dealership as far as their management staff. The trust that dealership owners ranks almost as high as the Office Manager as the dealer has to trust their Parts Manager with their second highest asset next to the Used Vehicle Inventory.
Sadly though, most Parts Managers rank at the bottom as far as dealers investing in their overall training budget, whether it be in Inventory Management Systems, (I.M.S.) Training, Dealer Management Systems, (D.M.S.) Training, or most importantly, training in basic Dealership Accounting.
Based on the previous, this is where the "cons" of the Parts Manager's "Management Style" can take a turn for the worse. Without the proper training and leadership capabilities, the Parts Manager may not possess the right skills, abilities and knowledge necessary to be successful.
Many Parts Managers that I have met tell me that they got the job as Parts Manager just because they were the "next in line", or maybe through tenure they "inherited" the position. This to me is crazy, when you think about that this person in this position is controlling my number two asset and can sink my business.
Without the proper training, and throwing in the "Groundhog Day" affect, parts setups and controls don't get managed properly, low "First Time Off Shelf Fill Rates" appear and obsolescence starts freezing up valuable assets.
Service Productivity also takes a dive due to low "First Time Off Shelf Fill Rates" as things just start to "trickle down" and missed opportunities rise. I've even seen technicians leave for other dealerships because they lose so much waiting for parts each day.
If I were to pole a number of Parts Managers with these few questions, I would believe the results would be staggering in a negative way.....
1.) "When was the last time you looked at, or modified your Phase-In/Phase-Out Criteria?"
2.) "When was the last time you looked at, or adjusted your Low Days and High Days Supply, (Best Reorder Point, BRP and Best Stocking Levels, BSL)
3.) "When was the last time you looked at, or adjusted your Parts Escalation Matrix?"
4.) "Does your Parts Obsolescence, (over 12 months, no sales) represent at least 20% of your parts inventory?"
5.) "Are you reporting at least 5% - 10%, (Cost of Sales) as Lost Sales, or what I refer to as Potential Missed Opportunities?"
6.) "Last, and most important....do you know HOW to manage or modify all the above?"
Unfortunately, in many dealerships, Parts Managers are pretty sharp individuals, but their dealer has never given them the chance to even learn the basics of what I call "Parts 101". It's not their fault and when I do get a chance to train Parts Managers on the basics, I choose to refer to this training as the "sharing of information"
We can't know what we don't know and the beginning to a successful Parts Manager "Management Style" begins with leadership capabilities, skills and knowledge along with the proper training and the "sharing of information".
They also need to be able to motivate their staff to expected goals while managing the "Groundhog Day" affect each day. Comfort Zones are comforting, but in the long run....comfort is short lived as change is inevitable.
Dave Piecuch is the Vice President of Automotive Consultants Group Inc. and is the Head Coach for Smart PartsTM. The only "Results Based" High Return Training, Coaching, and Consulting company in the world! Dave can be reached at Cell 786-521-1720 or E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org Vist our Website at www.smartpartstraining.com