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Exit Strategy: Recruiting the Right People Helps Your Business Run on its Own

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I meet a lot of tire dealers who want more time for family, friends, hobbies, etc. Even though thousands of U.S. business owners have already discovered how to be absent and still make money, most can’t pull it off. It requires finding good, honest employees, keeping them happy and training them to be as good as you.

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Is it difficult? You bet! But it is not impossible. Here’s how we get it done.

First, you have to deal with “separation anxiety.” I have found that, when owners move away from the front counter, gross profit usually goes up. Why? Because they are no longer giving so much away. New cash flow is a welcome result, of course, but these owners often express the nagging doubt: “No one can do it like I can.”

The goal is to find someone as good as or better than you. Then, get out of the way.

When I went on a vacation last year, I was constantly checking in to make sure our business was still in business. I thought my wife would kill me. After a few restless days, I was able to go fishing and only checked in once a day. In my absence, we had a record month. Most importantly, I learned that, like most owners, I am not impossible to replace.

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Where to Start

To find the right person to run your business, start by asking for referrals from your associates and other owners. Good people usually associate with and recommend other good people. If you want to run an ad, I’d suggest offering a $3,000 signing bonus payable at $100 a week for as long as they stay.

Don’t try to sell a candidate over the phone. Rather, schedule an interview to determine their competence. Asking why the applicant left their last three jobs will give you valuable insight. You’re looking for honesty, integrity and the ability to build and maintain client relationships. If your gut tells you that customers will not like an applicant, don’t hire that person. Also, ask your associates to hang out with the applicant and give their opinions.

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After weeding out candidates, invite those still in the running to a recruiting dinner with significant others. When you and your significant other take them to their favorite restaurant and build a relationship over dinner, there is a 95% chance they will join your dealership.

If you make an offer over dinner, ask for a decision by morning. Tell the candidate you are going out to dinner with another applicant the following night. If this makes you uncomfortable…good! Recruiting key associates is not a passive sport; you must be aggressive.

Getting Up to Speed

Once hired, introduce your new associate to clients as they arrive for service. As client relationships are being built, invest in a relationship-based sales training course. Since tires and vehicles are much more reliable than they used to be, you need a salesperson who can sell maintenance to customers whose cars are not broken.

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Once your new associate can sell, it’s time to begin building a leader. The primary reason most owners don’t have more free time is their service manager’s inability to lead the team. You need a manager that your technicians and other associates will follow. Personality traits like honesty and integrity are necessary, but getting people to follow a leader is an acquired skill. You have to invest in your replacement’s leadership education, and then tune up that skill every year.

As your key associate masters both relationship-based selling and leadership, you have to manage the changeover process. There are more than 30 key performance indicators you should measure. As part of this, I suggest a compensation plan for that manager based on sales, gross profit and customer satisfaction – a weekly variable pay plan based on a shop goal of 54% gross profit (sales minus people and parts), along with a quarterly bonus of $1,000 to $2,000 upon achievement of a 95% customer satisfaction index score.

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The manager is responsible for gross profit; you are responsible for expenses. When your key manager produces 54% gross profit, and you hold expenses to 25% of sales, you will net 29% cash profits. Some key managers working under this compensation system earn $100,000 or more. Would you be willing to pay your manager $100,000 to earn you $250,000 and give you a life? Let your compensation package manage this, or you will never be able to leave.

All told, it might take six months to a year before you can leave the business in the hands of your key manager. But, you will finally have a business that gives you a life instead of takes it away.

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Many are doing it. Why not you?

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