Interview: How to run a contactless dealership

Date

In this episode we talk about how to run a contactless dealership. We cover everything from challenges with distributed teams, understanding the right applications to help you to protect your business and we discuss what the future holds for powersports dealerships.

Johnathan:

Hi my name is Jonathan Aguero, and I’m here for the web series “Running a Contactless Dealership” sponsored by Blackpurl. A simple, powerful, web-based dealership management platform.  

Last week I was fortunate enough to catch up with Derek Bannister, founder, and owner at the Banner Recreation group. A top-25 BRP dealership. As well as his controller of the past 20 years Elaine Morneau.

Naturally, since Derek has grown the business from one dealership to four and counting, I wanted to pick his brain, about what he is doing during this unique time we’re all facing, and how his dealerships are adapting. 

So Derek and Elaine, what impact has COVID-19 had on your dealerships so far?

Derek:

I think the biggest impact that I’ve seen in general is, is always going to be the people, to be very direct. You really see a side of your people that you don’t expect in some cases, or you just never really would have guessed their ability to handle adverse challenging times, if that’s a good way of putting it.

Johnathan:

Yeah that’s a really good way of putting it.

Derek:

Some, some get very scared, some are, you know, don’t put a lot of value in what’s going on. But for the most part, it’s really about managing the people and trying to get them through this.

Keeping them positive, and trying to build a safe environment for them.

Johnathan:

Right on. So let me ask, what changes have you had to make within your dealerships during this response?

Derek:

Well, we’ve certainly tightened up. Tightened up our belt with our staff, we’ve you know, we’ve lost some good people in some cases, and, we’ve also just really had to implement and put the good habits in.

Well, Jonathan let me say this. 

Good habits are made in bad times, and bad habits are made in good times.

Jonathan:

Yeah.

Derek:

This is a time right now where we’re really trying to implement and drive home the good habits, that in some cases, we either lost their way, or you know we’ve, we’ve forgotten the basics.

Johnathan:

So, when you say basics are you going back to sort of blocking and tackling. Going back to the basic process and follow-up?

Could you elaborate?

Johnathan:

Yeah, basics to me would be the processes, the system’s, making sure that customer expectations are met.

I do think that there’s an opportunity for us right now, and we’ve been trying to execute on it, on taking the level of service to it, to a new place, given this COVID.

I think this COVID is gonna change the way that businesses go to market in the future.

And we need to be prepared for that and we’re trying to get ready for that.

Johnathan:

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

Now getting ready for the future is important. Right now in the near future are there any new processes, new services, new ways that you are pioneering to deal with customers?

Derek:

What’s interesting, we had, we never would have imagined the COVID would have come to the table the way that it was.

But over the last six months Elaine, I trust would agree, we’ve been talking about this. The next recession, and what it would look like, and what we need to do to prepare for.

You know, it certainly includes do we go to a place where we’ve got mobile parts. You know like our parts people, you know, our parts department, if you will?

Can they work remotely or from home and do all the things that need to be done?

So, for the last year, we’ve been talking about mobile service, mobile mechanics, delivery of units and all these things that we’ve talked about for the last year, all of a sudden have hit us in this last two months of what really the future, I think is gonna look like.

So we’ve, we’ve changed our phone system, we changed our software package and all these things to get ready for this next what I would have said downturn in economy.

Never ever considering it was going to be the COVID.

So, there are some things that are still on the radar for us that are going on. But yes, lots.

Johnathan: 

Yeah that makes a lot of sense. you know at Blackpurl, as you know, we believe that it’s important that a dealership management system be able to do business for us anywhere we are.

So I’ve actually been hearing from clients that, there’s one in Washington for instance who’s stuck inside her home, and she likes that she can still reconcile her invoices, do all her stuff from home. She doesn’t have to create some virtual network to log in. She can just use any computer and use her dealership management system at home.

Derek:

Well. Johnathan, I’m gonna add on that, and if you don’t mind. Cause I, that is one of the things that we’ve been fearless on finding a solution for. And I’m gonna let Elaine touch base on it when I set the table.

Johnathan:

Yeah

Derek:

It was absolutely important for us to take our accounting packages, our administration accounting packages outside of the dealerships. I’ve always felt that the biggest Achilles heel or risk for any dealership is, is in either the DMS system or in the accounting software side of it. To a place where if you lose your controller you’re at risk of paying bills and managing, and all the things that go along with it.  

I’ve watched too many good friends and other dealers that have lost their controller, and it’s taken them a year, in some cases two years to find the right person and then get cleaned back up again. 

So you know for us it was about moving, finding a DMS system if you will, or you know obviously we chose Blackpurl too, because of its ability to offshoot the accounting side and I’ll let Elaine step in on that because she’s gonna speak more toward our direction as we try to go.

Johnathan:

Right on.

Elaine:

Yeah basically the goal was, as I’ve been the controller for 20 years it’s been quite busy with doing this online-based and outsourcing the accounting.

It just as Derek said, it’s it takes some stress off me, but also gives him a little that if I ever leave or retire or whatever you know that between the Blackpurl and we use Xero it just gives us that opportunity to outsource, and still yet be able to kind of see, have control a little bit of what is going on in the accounting side of it.

But we’re not doing the day-to-day paperwork, and, you know everything’s online.

Johnathan:

Well that makes sense. So what you’re saying is that the fact that Blackpurl, whenever you do a transaction or really anything to manage your dealership within it, it automatically in real-time sends those accounting entries over to Xero, which is the cloud-based accounting package worldwide, very popular and that’s made it really easy for you to do your job and to keep everything organized. Is that right?

Elaine:

yeah absolutely fair and, and you know Xero. Xero is instantly uploaded.

And the nice thing about Xero and different from other, our old software, for example, is adjustments are so easy compared with being on Xero and Blackpurl as opposed to our old DMS system.

Also, you know it’s, I don’t have to worry about it, everything goes into Receipt bank, and it’s automatically uploaded into the software.

And so it does make it much easier for me, it’s just a matter of getting the processes down now.

Johnathan:

That makes a lot of sense. You know one of the themes that we are exploring here is a contactless dealership.

How do we do business in a world where you may or may not be able to shake hands physically, right?

And one of the things that a lot of people are finding is the more ways that you can keep your data in the cloud where you can access it at any time the more flexible you are, the safer you are in the case of a pandemic. Like what we are experiencing.

And it sounds like on the DMS side Blackpurls key for you. It sounds like a Xero on the accounting side is key and then Receipt Bank.

Receipt Bank is a solution, if I’m not mistaken where you can use a phone or a tablet and just anytime you have a business expense, you take a picture of it, it will scan it and using AI, automatically assigns it, tags it, and then all you gotta do is approve where it’s gonna go in your accounting right?

Elaine:

Absolutely, yeah 

Johnathan:

That’s another good. 

Elaine:

Yeah, it’s everything’s mobile, we’re trying to go everything mobile you know.

Johnathan:

Yeah, that’s great.

Johnathan:

Well you know we’re hearing.

Derek:

Well you know Elaine I would say to you mobile and obviously almost paperless to a place where you know whatever we’ve got from a supplier we’re taking a photo of. Goes into the cloud and we’re done with it. It’s saved and we can access it when we need it but other than that we’re really just trying to streamline and cut some of the costs out of the organization.

Johnathan:

Yeah no that makes sense. Having nimble software that’s flexible, that you can use anywhere is the key part of that 

Well thank you so much for sharing that. I’m kind of curious. As we wrap up, are there any kind of permanent changes you’re going to be making to your dealerships beyond the software beyond, maybe servicing, more pickup and delivery. Are there any permanent changes that you’re gonna be making as a result of what we experienced during COVID?

Derek:

Jonathan, I will tell you right now it’s business as usual but I do see the changes in the future for us, in the response to COVID. 

As an example, and really it does fall in line with the Blackpurl side, and you used, I think used earlier, you used nimble or flexible and you know we want to get to a place for our salespeople and including our parts people, are going instead of a desktop we’re going to a tablet base. 

To a place where instead of us being behind the counter we can get in, interact with the customer more directly to be able to facilitate the sale or the transaction out on the floor as opposed to behind the counter. More of an industrial-based standard thing.

And with that tablet, that tablet end of it, it will allow our people to have the flexibility, if they need to work from home, if they are sick, instead of coming into work you know, and contaminating if you will, our other people they can take the tablet, they can work from home, they can work from their cell phone, they can still be mobile with a customer.

They can still take care of the transaction, they can still sell their ass off. It just doesn’t need to be here.

Johnathan:

No thank you so much for saying it. It makes a lot of sense. That’s probably going to be very helpful.

Just thinking about how you can take all your processes make them so they’re flexible, like you talked about, being able to sell a deal on a tablet.

There’s a lot of benefits other customers talk about.

Hey Blackpurl, which is a DMS that can be run right on the tablet, how they can take that to a boat show or a trailer show, or whatever it is they’re going to.

And they can still do business. They don’t have to be tied to their PC. That makes a lot of sense.

I think the future is nimble, flexible.

We’re aiming to be part of it and you’ve talked about a lot of other good solutions today and I really appreciate your insight.

Derek:

Thanks, Johnathan.

Johnathan:

Yeah my pleasure, well Elaine, Derek thanks for being with us.

Again Jonathan with Blackpurl talking about a contactless dealership.

For more information feel free to click the link below.

Thank you guys very much.