Straight through the curves

Engineers know the shortest distance through a curve is a straight line. If the old road is a series of “S” curves, then the new one will chop through those curves, straight as an arrow (shortest distance). 

Granted, it may not always be the least expensive option; In the beginning, more planning and construction costs are decidedly more. However, in the long run, when maintenance is done and length of service is factored in, the straight line (road) WILL be the most cost-effective and move MORE traffic in a quicker, safer manner!

The “curves” we experience are the Feast & Famine cycles this industry is notorious for. YOUR straight line through the curves is very simple. Just like the analogy above though, it too will incur a substantially higher initial investment of both capital and TIME

Policies & Procedures is the name of the line to follow! – Through WRITTEN policies and procedures, we “short-cut” our way across both the famine and feast cycles (curves) this business has. 

By now, most of you are rolling your eyes and saying, “Yeah right”. 

Well my friends, after sitting in council with over 1700 dealers across this state in the last 13 years – here are the FACTS

  • Dealers that consecutively sell 25+ units per month ALL have policies and procedure manuals in place. 
  • It is all spelled out step-by-step from the time the unit is purchased at auction to when the final paperwork is signed and vehicle delivered (including follow up emails/call – referral program). 
  • If the owner is not available – major decisions are already made on paper, should the need arise (like – every day) SIMPLY LOOK IN THE BOOK

Many days a dealer is busy putting out “fires” of their own creating, wasting precious time/effort/energy and money on situations that could have easily been avoided. Let’s start with the very basic and FIRST place policies and procedures should be implemented. 


Every unit purchased, either from auction or individual, is to be put through a “standard checklist.”  Most mechanics will charge between $75 – $100, depending on the extent of your checklist. By using a standard checklist on every unit – mistakes go down dramatically.

Let me share an example

I purchase a 110,000-mile Chrysler with a 2.4L 4 cyl engine. This is not my 1st rodeo, so I know they tend to overheat. I send it to the shop telling them to flush the radiator and replace the thermostat.  

1 week later, on a test drive, the customer gets stuck in traffic and the unit overheats –STRANDING a potential client.  

If standard checklist been used –it would have been discovered the water pump was “iffy” when the mechanic removed the cover to check the condition of the timing belt and front main seal.  

Now two fronts have been lost – that potential customer is now telling everyone about what happened on social media and they no longer trust the inventory! LESSON learned – We do not know it all and remember, no two used cars are the same. 

A dealer purchases two white 2015 Silverado’s, both with 100,000 miles.

  • Truck A was owned by a Dr. (good news; maybe) – that drove it 100,000 miles on 3 oil changes and only used it to pull his RV. 
  • Truck B was a company driver for the owner of a plumbing company (bad news; maybe)  

Which truck was better cared for: The one used as a toy with minimal maintenance or the one used as a money-making tool with proper maintenance? That my friends is what makes our business so much fun. 

Policies and Procedures

A checklist for recon is a very wise R.O.I. (return-on-investment) which falls under Procedures. For the sake of ease in defining Policies, these are YOUR safeguards and standards – written down. 

Policy example 1: Test drives will ALWAYS have an employee on board in the rear seat behind the passenger where it easy to observe driver. – NO deviation allowed. Remember YOU are the boss and you decide how these things will happen!

Policy example 2: In the Summer months, all prospective clients must either be “in-the-office & out-of-the-heat” in 15 min OR salesperson WILL  go into the office (appraise the mgr of progress in the process of the sale) & bring water for hydration back out to the prospects! – The rationale is simple. The needs of your customers and employees are met while giving your employee an opportunity to update the sales manager or get assistance on closing the sale. 

Again, I will repeat myself, (rather famous for that) – A POLICY means No Exceptions.  

OK, so you’re a “Mom & Pop” with no salespeople and you’re the mechanic – how does this apply? Like jam on toast. – would be my reply. 

Think about it… most people like toast. Some only want butter, some want butter & jam, and some just eat it dry! Any way you go, toast is being served. The “butter & jam” crowd like a little “treat” on their toast. 

Policies and Procedures (butter & jam) can be a real “treat” for a harried dealer. If I am the one “buying-reconing-detailing-advertising-selling-contracting-delivering and following up” every single unit that crosses my lot, you bet I want a few no brainer steps to help me get this process done QUICKER and EASIER! 

Policies and Procedures – such as standard maintenance checklists and coming in out of the heat to “regroup” – can and WILL nourish profitable growth of any Dealership. The trick is to establish and implement them EARLY in the life of a Dealership! 

The point of all this? I implore you to MAKE the investment in yourself and your business. You are a PROFESSIONAL dealer. Carve out the time and start this TODAY! 

My tag line for the last 14 years has been, CREATE-A-GREAT-DAY. We chart our course through the roadblocks of our business. Make sure you have your destination set and let your Policies & Procedures be your map.  

Get your Free Standard Auto Checklist here!


Tom Hampton 

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