When I was an F&I professional, I heard three simple words from our GM that resonated with me all year long: “We are starting a new year, with new opportunities. You have learned a lot in the past year. So, use what you have learned and make it count this year!” Before every training session, class or workshop, I always remind myself of the opportunity before me and repeat those words to myself: “Make it count!”
The basic question we all must answer is, “What are we going to do different in 2019?” In business, we are all surrounded by competitors that are also asking themselves that question. If you choose to just repeat what you did last year, you will get left behind!
I encourage every individual and agency to use the SWOT method to evaluate the competitive landscape ahead and develop a game plan for success in 2019.
• Strengths: Identify what the foundational strengths of your agency are. What has enabled you to succeed in recent years? Those strengths could include a great staff, great products, strong profits, and a growing and loyal customer base. Celebrating and building upon your strengths is an important ingredient to provide perspective to everyone on the team. Celebrate the wins of the past year and spread wide the compliments to those that have contributed to the success to date, of the agency. This provides the balance to strategically look at the next area of focus.
• Weaknesses: On the other side of the coin is our weaknesses. An open discussion of our deficiencies can expose blind spots that must be acknowledged so they can be addressed. The real danger here is complacency! Ignoring competitive vulnerabilities, low profit margins, and lack of innovative products and services will limit growth and create an opening for the competition. Complacency is best addressed when you take a good, hard look in the mirror. Discovering your weaknesses before the competition does enables you to make the adjustments necessary to ensure continued growth in the years ahead.
• Opportunities: This is the fun part of business: Identify where you can best focus to increase your level of business and overall profits. For larger agencies, it could be a bold acquisition to increase your footprint in the market. Introducing innovative new products, services, and techniques can increase the value of doing business with your agency, strengthen existing relationships, and create new business opportunities. It can also break the cycle of complacency and provide new profit opportunities. A question you need to ask yourself every year is, “What is needed that few, if any, other agencies are offering?” What product or service will give us a competitive advantage? Taking action on these opportunities each year will help ensure your agency’s continuous growth.
• Threats: Are there any undiscovered or ignored threats that could negatively impact or counteract that potential growth based upon your strengths? Ignoring potential threats virtually guarantees an endless cycle of one step forward and two steps back. Every agency has newcomers to the market and other disruptors that threaten their market share. Acknowledging the new or increase in competition can allow you to properly address the threat. It also creates a sense of urgency to do an honest evaluation of vulnerabilities that could undermine your success. What are the real causes behind deteriorating revenues and profits?
We have some great economic factors in place for 2019. The economy is still good, while interest rates are rising, they’re still at historically low levels. Car sales are expected to maintain or only slightly decline from their current levels, and competition is intense. That means every dealer will need a strong, proactive agency partner more than ever. It’s a new year with new opportunities. … Make it count!