Fixed Ops Journal – February 2016 - (Page 4)

FIXED OPS JOURNAL DEALERS & FIXED OPS ■ Considering blocked career paths and the rocky road ahead W hy, I asked Mark Smith, aren't more auto dealerships run by executives who have a rich background in fixed operations? The question was nagging at me as Automotive News prepared to launch a quarterly magazine devoted to helping dealers and their fixed-ops managers do better in this critical-to-profits operation. As with most every question I posed to DAVE the 51-year-old Texan who appears on the cover of this first issue of Fixed Ops Fixed Ops Journal Journal, Smith had a swift and clear response. As he sees it, high-potential employees in the parts, service and collision departments of franchised dealerships often become victims of their own success. They may become fixed-ops chiefs at a number of stores. They have unique skills, after all. And as dealers typically aren't masters of that universe, they can't afford to lose anyone who is. So they pay their fixed-ops directors very well. Those directors then pay a price of their own: They are too valuable in their roles to be shifted away from them. It is different on the sales side. As Smith explained, ambitious salespeople become successful sales managers. Dealers, who typically have similar backgrounds and are often camped in the same building, see them in action every day. The best ones become general managers. Those general managers are then first in line for all sorts of opportunities from there. Smith himself is a rare exception to that pattern. He made his initial mark on the fixed side of the business at Sewell Automotive of Dallas, a company with a national reputation for treating customers right. Since 2014, he's been running his own operation as co-owner of Principle Auto, a three-store-and-growing group based in San Antonio. Smith may well have ended up as one of those career-long fixedops guys if his boss and mentor, Carl Sewell, hadn't pushed him out of his comfort zone. Stops in used cars and then new were steps to an eventual COO post at Sewell. Nor would Smith have had the broad command of the industry he showed during our morning-long meeting in December. It didn't take long for him to get stirred by the way this industry treats its technicians. That was one of many topics he feels strongly about. The importance of continuing education. Ways to structure a parts department. The value of being a company that encourages its employees to read. Customers' need for transparency. Processes for weeding out waste and creating efficiency. The benefits of having lots of women on staff. And, yes, his passion for this side of the business - he actually at one point said, "I love fixed operations." These days, he's gotta be lovin' sales, too - especially as demand for VERSICAL PAGE 4 FEBRUARY 2016 Principle's Volvos, Minis and BMWs rises under their new owners. Yet, as everyone in this industry is keenly aware, this six-year U.S. sales streak will someday sputter. Those who don't have the fixed side of their business in shape are going to hit the rockiest road. You can bet that Smith won't be among them. We hope this publication will help smooth your ride through the next slump, too, as well as through all the peaks and valleys beyond. Dave Versical Editor Fixed Ops Journal P.S.: Thoughts on this first issue? Suggestions? Story ideas? Please send them to me at

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Fixed Ops Journal – February 2016

Editor’s Letter: Welcome to Fixed Ops Journal
Service Counter: Tracking fixed-ops numbers
Legal Lane: Court cases that affect you
Mobile mechanics: Do shop-free technicians threaten your business?
Mark Smith: A fixed-ops-focused dealer aims to change the industry
Adding capacity: Sales spur FCA, Subaru dealerships’ fixed-ops growth
Richard Truett: Toolmaker targets new techs
Designed for service: A look at a Minnesota dealership’s makeover
Weekend work: Service extends to Saturday, even Sunday
Tech exodus: How outdated policies worsen the tech shortage
Before Xtime: The origins of widely used scheduling software
Older parts: Toyota, Ford respond to older cars on the road
5 minutes with: Ford’s Toney, Toyota’s Laukes
Shop Talk: One question, multiple service directors
Fixed in Time: A look at service of yesteryear

Fixed Ops Journal – February 2016