Detour Ahead? Stay on Course

A picture of Wendy Sheaffer

Looking back on the best trips I have ever taken, I do not remember the planning. Instead, my memories are of those spontaneous moments when we discovered something unexpected and allowed ourselves to savor the moment.

Finding a creek just off the original path, noticing the way the campfire’s embers glowed, or seeing the world’s biggest office chair are far more memorable than shifting your journey 10 minutes away from the original route.

The fun, the adventure, are what we remember; how we got there often becomes just another detail. But those details make everything else possible.

One fact we have all learned from 2020 is that things do not always go as planned. You can have a road map for the future, but the unexpected can steer you off course. For many people, 2020 has been a road map drawn in crayon by someone in the back of an open-bed pickup truck whose driver has decided to go off-road. In these moments, you have to think quickly to adapt to the world around you and follow that shaky crayon line down to what might be a river.

Figuring everything out as we go along, adjusting along the way, is why so many people have been drawn to the RV. The lifestyle merges the stability and safety of a home with the ability to pivot at any moment and go somewhere else. RVing is the ultimate family bonding vacation under “normal” circumstances, but given the volatility of modern times, many have rediscovered it as the true champion of the domestic travel experience.

The Ability to Pivot

When you take to the road, solving the next problem that comes along becomes second nature. You might deal with a critical issue like avoiding an obstruction that has fallen across your path as you’re driving or face something mundane such as troubleshooting a faulty Wi-Fi connection at the campground. Knowing when, and how, to pivot is crucial.

If your brakes fail, though, will you be able to stop? If your steering column is off, will you be able to swerve? The first rule of any activity is that you need to know and trust your equipment. Following the shaky crayon line is much harder when you do not know what you can depend on. Understanding the capacities of your equipment, as well as its limitations, is how you stay safe and plan effectively. That knowledge is what separates adventure and disaster.

In your case, though, you should know — and trust in — your Dwight.

Dwight has been your dealership’s top salesman for years. He is driven, competitive and focused on finding the best fit for his customers’ needs. Once consumers have a chance to meet him, you know they will be in good hands.

You want to reward Dwight’s years of service by promoting him to a management position, but how will he transition? Will switching from working for commissions to a salaried position dull that edge? Will his need to compete translate into driving his employees toward meeting team quotas, or will managing others with similar characteristics create the potential for conflict? How can he best manage that conflict potential and turn it into opportunity?

If you understand Dwight’s motivations, that insight will help you achieve the best from him. Just as important, that awareness will assist with retention, development, engagement and productivity. Knowing where people’s challenge points are, and addressing them before they become issues, is as valuable as any routine annual inspection of your vehicle.

Understand Your Dwight

Having a behavioral assessment can help you better understand Dwight. You can learn how he might do in a new position, and where he might struggle, before you ever offer the job. You will have the ability to plan for journeys down potential new roads of personal and industry growth. Behavioral assessments also can help you to pivot if Dwight unexpectedly no longer works at your dealership.

Knowing the details of Dwight’s personality and understanding how they impact his job can help you find new Dwights in the future. You can use the assessment to compare and contrast employees across positions, regardless of dealership location. You even can match the results against industry standards to see where Dwight fits into the benchmarks of an RV salesman.

Sure, you could make these moves without an assessment. But doing so is like converting a box van — you can trick out a standard vehicle many different ways to make it more fun, but those embellishments lack the same level of reassurance.

Forgoing an assessment can work as long as no collision happens in your workforce. An assessment is a great framework to help absorb and redirect behavioral impacts while reducing the amount of institutional crumple. These days, taking every bit of help we can get is important.

With the industry booming in new and unexpected ways, one recurring question is whether these new customers are joining the lifestyle, or if they are just here for the pandemic. Assuming that the situation is “either/or,” though, is short-sighted. The better plan is that it is both.

The pandemic got people to seek safe opportunities to travel; now, your dealership must create an easy pathway for them to fully join the lifestyle. To do that, you already know the Business 101 rule of understanding who your customers are and what they want. You also know that finding the right match for each family’s needs and pairing a quality vehicle with outstanding personalized service is a path to long-term success. Consumers might come in looking for a vacation rental, but the industry is growing for good reason. With the right fit, customers easily can fall in love with the lifestyle.

The challenge is finding that perfect intersection of a customer’s needs, expectations and budget. Which is why having employees such as Dwight to guide buyers is so important. With years of experience in the field and superior product knowledge, he is their best bet for exploring the possibilities.

Customers often will visit a dealership without a clear idea of precisely what they want. Even when they do have a specific make and model in mind, they might not know the full scope of their customization options. Dwight’s knowledge and training will provide these consumers with a better road map.

Understanding your customers has a clear benefit. That is equally as true in regards to understanding every member of your team. Knowing your employees personally is important, but that familiarity is no substitute for exploring the full scope of their capabilities through an objective, third-party tool.

Though your team is not actual equipment, they are crucial to keeping your dealership on the road to success. Some would say that you cannot concentrate on both your team and your customers, but this is not an either/or situation, either. Deepening the understanding of your team is the heart of customer commitment and should be at the core of every plan to grow your business. More information helps make every pivot easier.

Proper Planning Pays Off

Whether you are launching a new initiative or hiring a new employee, you focus on the planning until you see what all that planning looks like when confronted with real-life situations. You are forced to pivot to get through the day and prepare for the next. At some point, you can sit back and reassess how close you are to your long-term goals. That is usually when you realize that the original route is no longer appealing and that you might be better off taking the more scenic option.

We cannot predict the future. Who knows what is coming next? Perhaps we will see another federal and state park shutdown or the camper van becoming popular again. We do not know where a disaster might hit or how a local campground staffing shortage might impact short-term rentals. But wherever we are going, and whatever comes next, our equipment is what will get us there.

Sometimes it is a specific piece of safety equipment or the RV in which you are traveling. Sometimes that equipment is Dwight. You need to know as much as you can, inspect before using, then trust they are going to be the stabilizing force that allows you to enjoy the moment.

If you prepare right, no one will see all the planning that you have put into the dealership. They will just enjoy the ride.

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