Who is Chris Collins and What Can This Former Lot
Attendant Teach You About Exploding Your Service
Department Sales And Profits?
From Chris Collins
Former GM and Dealer, Profit Exploder, Owner of Championship Bulldogs, Drummer
Los Angeles, CA
You’ve probably been hearing a lot about me on the Internet lately. Kind of weird, all of these people talking about me. I’m just a regular guy, and I have to admit, all of this attention freaks me out a little!
I’m pretty sure that what has caused people to start talking about me is the fact that in a down market, my consulting clients are up $3,219,364.00 year over year in C/P. On top of that, they’ve set a one-month record for year over year increases in customer pay labor of $222,235. One month! And that doesn’t include the additional parts sales gross.
Our clients are pretty happy, in fact really happy.
I have a problem talking about setting records like I did it all myself. The truth is the Service Directors, Service Managers, Service Advisors, Technicians, Cashiers, and Porters did it. I’m just there to help influence, point them in the right direction, and create an environment that breeds amazing record setting results.
Now the real down low about me….. I started out washing cars as a porter for a VW/Audi store in Seattle. I don’t know what they were thinking when they hired me, a 17 year old kid that had his sights on being the biggest, baddest rock and roll drummer in the world. My hair was long, really long, down past the middle of my back. All I wanted to do was play my drums, so I was a part timer from noon to 5:00. I was a real standout washing cars in the rain in Seattle and yes it’s true…
I dropped out of high school to be a rock star! Seattle was the place to be back then. Pearl Jam, Sound Garden, Mudhoney…
The thing is I played a lot of shows, rocked a lot of houses but didn’t end up being a rock star after all. Looking back I am really thankful I landed that job washing cars. I could have ended up anywhere, but to land in an industry that measures you on your results, and not your education or family heritage was sheer luck.
I’m lucky. I like to win. And in no other industry could a kid like me go from washing cars to owning his own dealership, and that’s exactly what I did.
My story is a good one, but I will save the details for a book some day. The quick highlights are that I went from being a lot attendant to becoming a detail manager, then a service advisor. I was a natural, and after a while, the owners and other dealerships started noticing and asked me to train their service advisors.
Over time I developed a complete “Service Advisor Training” and it’s funny, but I use that same training in one form or another still to this day. I trained advisors in the evenings for other dealerships, and I got good results because I could speak their language.
I wasn’t an outsider teaching the latest buzz words and techniques…I was teaching things that I knew worked, because they were things that had worked for me. I always hate it when outsiders come in and would try and change things just for change sake.
Since I really loved helping other advisors, I gave two months notice, (crazy) and set out to consult and train advisors on my own.
I struggled getting clients…. if you can imagine a 24 year old trying to convince a Service Manager that I could increase his sales with my advisor training. I heard a lot of well kid…It wasn’t easy…To this day no matter how busy I am I will always try and listen to an outside vendors pitch and I have beat my competitors to the punch on many occasions just by giving someone 15 minutes.
I remember how frustrating it was…. I knew I could help, but no one would listen.
Then just by chance, I met the guy that would change my life forever. He had been helping dealers for years, and knew the business inside and out.
I convinced him to teach me what he knew. For months we were locked in an office in Portland, Oregon. He taught me, how to read a financial statement, chart of accounts, how to create effective systems, dealership structure, and some secrets he had developed to increase net profits.
It Was Brutal….
I remember my head felt like it would explode from all of the riddles he would make me solve. Then after that he would test me. He would throw me a financial statement, with a business outline. He would give me 2 hours to find the problem and then come up with a bulletproof plan to fix it. No matter how hard it was, I felt like I was getting the chance I had missed by not going to college. It’s funny but years later; dealers will sometimes ask me to access a potential dealership purchase before their C.P.A. The secrets he taught me helped me see expenses and how to get them in line. But he also taught me the thing the C.P.A.s usually don’t see. Hidden sales opportunities.
With my mentors help and new found knowledge I went from training advisors, to fixing under performing service departments from the top on down.
If my memory serves me right, I have helped well over 25 independently owned dealerships. And every time the systems, and approach I was taught worked. It was like I lined everything up and then pulled the lever. Sales would increase and expenses would drop. It worked like magic.
I loved what I was doing and had a deep satisfaction that I was helping people get better. Every time I taught a struggling Service Manager what I knew, it was like I had let them in on the secret that no one wanted them to know.
I remember asking my mentor what would happen if all of the dealerships ended up being owned by public companies and we had no more clients. His answer was….”We will go fix sandwich shops” simple but that’s how powerful these techniques are….I proved that point exactly because….
Years later as a General Manager I found myself in a street fight for 1st place in new car sales with another BMW dealership…. they had just built a brand new state of the art building, had a better location, could spend more on advertising, and had a higher allocation of cars. Unfortunately for them they didn’t have the levers we had. It was Classic David and Goliath. I could not have written the story better….we ended up Top selling BMW dealer 2002,2003,2004,2005. First dealership ever to be number one in new and certified pre owned sales….
Again, I have a hard time taking credit for all of that, with out pointing out what a great team we built. That team deserves all the credit. We broke records and had a lot of fun. It really is fun to kick ass and win!
After all this time, there’s one sad fact that really bugs me. I see dealers under perform all of the time, and it drives me crazy when I see other consultants leading dealers in the wrong direction with lack luster results. It’s painful to watch, especially because I know it doesn’t have to be that way. I love the old joke, “What do you call a consultant? A guy in between jobs”…and it’s true in most cases.
I want to be different… and I have really done it! I’ve performed at a higher level with no higher education, family help or winning lottery ticket…I’m an average guy, and I can relate to the day-to-day struggles of dealership life.
Let’s face it, in the car business results are all that really matter. We start from zero at the beginning of every month. I like to think of it as a 12 round fight. 12 rounds are the months in the year, and you start every month/round off fresh. Even though we have the least amount of training on how to read financials, docs and management reports, you would be hard pressed to find an industry that is more competitive, fun and prints a financial every month, so you know if you’ve won or lost. Outsiders never really understand or relate to us. (if other industries did this, maybe America wouldn’t be in the financial mess it’s in, but I’ll save that discussion for another time).
Lately the question that is asked of me over and over is…Can you share your secrets”?
There is not one easy answer.
You see I’ve helped a lot of dealerships increase their profits and totally dominate their market. I’ve created a niche as a consultant working completely on commission with some of the best dealers in the country. My clients are basically paying for exclusivity of my “Secret Service Society”. But, I have so many people bugging me and asking for my help that I may develop an on-line coaching group of some sort if my current clients don’t freak out.
I also have my attorneys working on how I can create a competition or challenge for service managers that join. I don’t have the details worked out yet but I want to call it …
The $25,000.00 Challenge.
The service manager that takes my strategies and increases their profits, C.S.I, effective labor rates, C/P sales the most will win 25 Grand!
Now that’s a challenge!
Make sure you get on my email list and I will keep you updated on my progress