The rural lifestyle market is growing, yet dealer attrition is at an all-time high. And, many dealers are working hard and selling equipment, but don't seem to be making money. As the old adage goes, the devil is in the details. For dealerships, those details, virtual mountains of valuable data, reside in your dealership management system (DMS).

We've heard from business consultants that we need to be measuring by the numbers, but we don't have universally accepted baselines in the OPE space, like the ag, powersports, automotive and other mature industries do. Furthermore, our business management software systems usually don't offer some of the most fundamental reports we need in order to really scale our businesses or even just manage it well.

For instance, a report showing what percentage of deals include trades would be very valuable. Or, another valuable report could show which trades are worth keeping and which need to go immediately to a wholesaler/auction and which should never be allowed to come in at all. What is our average transaction time? What is our profit on a per-unit basis after interest?

We could drive ourselves nuts finding all the ways our DMS platforms are deficient, or we could leverage the data we can see and supplement those built-in reports with custom reports.

Creating Tools

One obstacle to overcome is that we are often not disciplined enough to look at certain reports regularly. No alarm bells go off when warranty receivables cross the 30- and 60-day age. No warning emails or text messages are sent to managers and principals when profit margin dips below the 3-year average. It's high time we take matters into our own hands and build this functionality ourselves, which some DMS platforms allow.

For instance, Infinity, by C-Systems Software, does not do any notifications whatsoever, but it does have a module for SQL data views. SQL data views can be used by data analytics tools such as Tableau, Periscope, Grow.com, Chartio, and many other reporting and dashboard platforms. A data agency or even a developer from Upwork.com could do the footwork for you. Perhaps for a small fee or a commitment to an annual contract, one of these software providers will deploy it for you.

These tools are updated every 5-15 minutes and can connect with automation platforms like Zapier, so a daily digest email report tailored to a specific job function, such as a service manager, is fairly easy to set up. That email report could even include a few key metrics, such as repair order cycle time, labor recovery rate, overtime, freight recovery rate and warranty claim aging.

A dealer could also have a dashboard through Databox, Grow or Chartio on a TV on the wall with each of these metrics, and perhaps that dashboard rotates to a view with cameras in the shop. Consider trying out the Google Chrome tab extension called "Revolver." It rotates between different open tabs, such as dashboards, cameras, news, weather, calendar, or whatever else you would like to monitor, cycling at whatever interval you like.

If you are not measuring these and other important areas in the dealership, you simply cannot manage them. I contend that every department needs one or more dashboards with key data metrics, and it is not expensive or complicated to build. Here is a list of tools needed to take on the task of displaying your dashboard:

  • LCD TV. I like 36-42 inches, but bigger is better, if you have space.
  • Swivel TV wall mount
  • Google Chromebit or Intel Compute Stick will get you basic computing power with a browser
  • Logitech keyboard/trackpad combo
  • Zapier subscription, free online service that can be upgraded for premium features
  • Port in your firewall
  • Business intelligence tool

Breaking Down Data

Every department in your dealership should follow the practice of monitoring dashboards. For instance, marketing could have a dashboard with Google analytics. Sales could have a dashboard with average margins, the top 10 slowest moving models or monthly sales vs. goal. Parts could have margins and fill rate widgets, and even break down parts sales by line. Accounting could have a weekly cash requirements widget, percentage deviation from budget, average accounts payable and accounts receivable aging.

Be ready to make major changes when reviewing these reports for the first time, but also make sure your compensation plans reflect your goals to improve problem areas. Eliminate incentives based on revenue in favor of incentives based on margin. Make sure employees get something out of the deal, and they will work harder to meet these goals.