Nick talks about inheriting a dealership and getting to the bottom of any issues by problem-solving, being self-aware, and relying on your network.
Tactical Tips Episode #27 Transcript
BRAD: All right, we’re back here with another Tactical Tip Tuesday. We have my good friend Nick Varney. He’s president of Varney Automotive Group. He’s also the Co-Founder of something called lobsterwrestling.com. If you go to lobsterwrestling.com and you type that in, it actually redirects to his website, which is kind of a funny late-night clubhouse joke. But Nick, dude, super pumped to have you on the show.
NICK: Thanks. Yeah, lobster wrestling may be one of my most valuable domains that we own in terms of like Godaddy shows you like the website value, and lobsterwrestling.com is like one of the higher valued ones. But thanks for having me on. I’m really excited.
BRAD: Yeah there could be a super-secret lobster wrestling fantasy football league.
BRAD: Yeah, I mean, I heard there was a really good-looking champion from Amarillo Texas out there.
NICK: He brought the belt to show everybody at NADA. So when I went out to Vegas, Brad had the old World Wrestling Fantasy League Championship belt on. It was pretty awesome. So we got a good laugh out of that.
BRAD: So Nick, other than other than creating amazing gimmicks to drive traffic to the website, I know that you recently took an adventure down to one of your stores and took over. I know you had some massive, massive success over the last year. I want to talk about–and you can kind of give us some round numbers of what it looks like in your fixed ops department. What are some things that you really looked at? What are some things that were really wrong and let’s start there. I think that’s a good place to start.
NICK: I inherited the store that had a lot of booking issues and appointment scheduling issues and efficiencies on scheduling appointments. We also had a bunch of like obsolete parts, and we’re a Chevy store, so we had some pace issues where we weren’t in compliance with rim and some things like that, and a lot of it was not as much that people stopped caring as much as nobody continually trained or explained to these people. So as they left, they never really paid attention to these things. And as time went on it started kind of dropping off and when I got down there, I started looking at warranty schedules, seeing what was outdated, just trying to make sure that before I started anything, I wanted to make sure I had a solid foundation. Even if I was at like below subterranean, at least I was on solid ground and then I could get myself out. So for me that’s the big thing is if you’re in a rebuild or a revamp or anything you’re inheriting something from somebody else. Check out the financials of it. Make sure that your warranty schedules are up to date, make sure that if you’ve got wholesale parts accounts, make sure everybody knows who’s past due. You are trying to collect, figure out if the money’s actually good. So you get a good benchmark on where you are. I think it’s really important. A lot of people try to rush to try to make money right at the beginning, which is great if you can accomplish that, but really the big thing is look over everything before you start, see where you’re at, and get everything squared away and up to where you want it to be, make sure everything’s claimed that needs to be claimed, written off and needs to be written off. That way you’ve got a good, solid foundation to start up.
BRAD: I think it’s a beautiful thing because you have to find that foundation and then, I don’t know if you’ve ever-I’m sure you heard of Dale Carnegie. He said something that was really interesting. He said an idea at the top of the pyramid it said idea and then moved down to plan and then it moved down to vision, and then all that comes together and you have success in the middle, right. So I think finding out where you’re at, right, being self-aware within the dealership. Look, this is where I’m at, okay, and then you really got to tackle those problems one at a time, right, you tackle them one at a time. You figure out because sometimes if you tackle that one problem, it affects this other problem over here, right, and it might solve that problem over there, or it might solve this problem over here, or it could make this problem worse over here. And you’re like, okay, that wasn’t the root thing. Let me go to this problem first, because that’s the root thing. So this problem solving is a rare trait nowadays, rare, rare trait, and so that’s one of the big reasons why we wanted to get on here. We’re going to call this episode “Problem Solving Within Your Service Department”, and the biggest thing is get to the bottom, right, get to bottom and make sure it’s not a false bottom, right, get to the bottom of the thing, and the only way to do that is to pull out the financials, dive into it, and figure it out. Now, I know part of the way that you got to do those financials was asking your pops and NADA, right the NADA Academy. Y’all, dove into those at the NADA Academy. I know that was a big part of your success. Talk a little bit about your experience. I know we have another buddy in your class, Eric Hall, so we got to throw a little shoutout to him.
NICK: Yeah Eric’s Class President. Yeah, that’s been a really good experience for me. I’ve been really fortunate to make some really good friends, and they’re not just along with Eric, but like my friend Chris Eviso from Tampa, that works at Regal Auto Group, and Josh Suarez who works out in Billing, Montana, and Josh Christopher is another really good friend of mine,he works for Bob Johnson in New York. You know, I’m close with everybody in our class, but you know, I’ve been very fortunate and I’ve learned a lot, but the relationships that I’ve made in learning from those people, in us teaching each other, has been as much about my experience of NADA as the actual one week every other month that we’ve gone and I think part of it is that I met some people that personality types were a lot like mine. So we really kind of hit it off. But in the same sense, like I’ve had my friend Josh has worked with Heather that works with me, and I’ve had her help him with some stuff and like they’ve helped me with stuff and I try to help them and that’s kind of the way. I always joke with them that when I want a vacation, I want him to send me out and make me work for him for a week. But you know, that’s kind of like I think that’s fun.
BRAD: I’ve heard you told Eric that multiple times. But I think what you’re angling for some Eric’s brisket is what you’re really angling for.
NICK: Yeah, it’s awesome.
BRAD: You know what’s beautiful about that right? Part of being a problem solver is knowing when you don’t have the capabilities or the knowledge currently to solve the problem and relying on people that do, and once you rely on people that do, you start to develop those skills. I do that all the time. There’s stuff I run into that I can’t solve and I call my network and I call the people. And that’s why connecting is so important, because even if you solve the problem and you didn’t really solve the problem, someone else did, you still get most of the credit for it. Right. So, even though you probably relied on a lot of people to help you along the way, and I rely on a lot of people to help me along the way, you solved a problem. I know that your team’s really close-knit over there. You had to make multiple changes. You even-this is a this is an interesting thing. So you had a technician slip on the ice, right? What you do is like you told him, “Hey, I don’t want you out of work this month.” So you put him as a service writer.
NICK: Yeah, and he wanted to. He’s a younger guy, and he was in Maine there’s not a lot to do, and especially when you got a broken leg. And he was like “Nick, is there anything we can do?” And I said, “if the doctor says you can come back to work, I’ll find something for you.” And then my really good friend Doc Goodwin when from Maine Veterans Project had a mobility scooter that they had in case they had a veteran in need that needed one and they weren’t using it at the time, so they let us borrow it. And so he was able to like dispatch parts and get underneath the vehicles. And then he worked with our warranty policy administrator and he taught him how the warranty submission stuff works on the OEM side so that he could better understand how to write his stories and what they’ll cover and what they won’t. And, to be honest with you, it’s really hard to pull one of your best techs off of the service bay and have them work with somebody like that. Because I get it, because they’re a revenue generator for you. But what happened as a circumstance of him breaking his leg was really tremendous for him in terms of growth for his job, because he got to learn something that he didn’t understand, which was how what he does for work when it’s warranty with the OEM, what they are looking to see and what goes through if he doesn’t do what he’s supposed to do, because he’s submitting the other techs at the stores warranty stuff with him and he’s seeing they don’t do it and then he’s kind of riding them and they respect him. So it really did help a lot and you know, I’ve been fortunate that everybody’s kind of really bought in and we have the youngest store as far as employee age and the whole group by far. Almost all my employees are younger than me, which is kind of not the market up here. So it’s really neat, you know, a bunch of young guys and kind of like a bunch of rookies. It’s fun and we’re having all the fun.
BRAD: Hey, I’m still a fixed ops rookie in the long term of things right?
NICK: I’m just a rookie in general.
BRAD: I’ve been a year and a half now on the fixed ops side and I feel like, you know, I get dubbed as a fixed ops guy all the time and what they don’t know is I was a sales guy for way longer than I was a fixed ops guy. So I think that’s beautiful. I do want to share what type of increase we’re talking about. Okay, so are these numbers that you sent Eric legit? How much was the increase for the first five months of this year versus last year on the fixed ops side?
NICK: The fixed ops side? I’m looking back to my message from Eric. Sorry, he just texted me. So that’s good.
BRAD: There you go. Awesome. I just want to verify that real quick because he texts me and that’s tremendous growth.
NICK: So yeah, we increased $100,000.
BRAD: $100,000 over the first five months. So that’s about $20K/month. So here’s the thing that I say right, it doesn’t matter if you’re a rookie, doesn’t matter if I’m a rookie. The thing that you and I say all the time is that what matters is you work the problem right, you work the problem. You worked the problem and if it includes bringing in your network, then you still work the problem. And so that’s why I wanted to have you on here in case anybody needs some help working problems or they wanted a different set of eyes on it. It would be great, I know you can reach out to Nick, I know you can reach out to myself, but I wanted to tell you that if you work the problem, the proof’s in what happens the next year and you’re living proof of what happens. And I can’t say that you did it alone, because I know Heather’s a big part of it, and I got to throw a shout out to her because she’s fantastic. I deal with her a lot. She’s awesome.
NICK: I’m really just a cheerleader for my people. So honestly, I’m very fortunate. I’ve had great people that I work with. I’ve had great people that have taught me the business that have worked for my family. I obviously, my father and my grandfather, especially, and my uncle. I’ve learned from all of them. I’ve had great people to admire and that’s, you know, why I tried to help out with people as much as I can, because, you know, I realize that I’m a product of my upbringing, per se, and I wouldn’t be the way I was if it wasn’t for the people that I worked with and was around when I was growing up in the business.
BRAD: Nick, what’s a way someone can reach out to you if they want to?
NICK: You can look me up on Facebook. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Those are the two easiest ways. Facebook Messenger then we can exchange cell phone numbers or whatever.
BRAD: I wanna give one more shout-out, there’s something that a lot of people don’t know about you. Yeah, being a master fisherman actually skipped your generation, and then it went straight to your son Leavitt. So if you guys haven’t followed leavitt_linesout, go follow Leavitt. This kid catches the biggest fish ever and you know, being a hunter/fisherman, I can’t leave him out, but I do thank you for being on here, Nick, and I hope everybody goes and follows Leavitt.
NICK: Yeah, he would really appreciate it. Honestly thinks he’s like really into it and the fishing is something that being in the Northeast, bass fishing is not a huge thing up here, but Leavitt’s crazy about it and I’ve been fortunate to have some really good friends that I’ve made over the years in the fishing industry that helped me out, helped me teach Leavitt, because I didn’t know much about bass fishing and I’ve really learned it and you know, I think my friends David and Gary and Jan and people like that, they’ve just really helped me out a lot with teaching Leavitt how to fish. So it’s been great. My dad’s taught him a lot too. Yeah, the hunting stuff, and my father more than me because I’m usually working. And that’s the joy of having grandkids. You get to leave your son with to run the dealerships on Saturdays and he goes hunting with my son. But you know what, that’s the same way it was with me and my grandfather. So I really appreciate it. Well, happy about it. So it’s exciting
BRAD: I appreciate you for coming up today, man, I will talk to you later. Have a great day.
NICK: Thanks so much. I really appreciate it.