How Do You Topple The Tower?

By Ted Ings, Executive Director

Do you want your managers sitting in their comfy offices, only venturing out every now and then to ensure that the minions are working hard, and more importantly, haven’t forgotten their place in the hierarchy or who is in charge?

Seriously, that is not what you employed them to do. A manager’s job in a dealership is to manage the sales or service team, and you can’t do that effectively from behind closed doors.

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The true irony of the tower of power is that everyone in the tower talks and talks about teamwork and working together to create a better company and a more productive working environment, but they don’t back up their words with actions.

Once or twice a year perhaps, management spends a fortune on team building exercises designed to strengthen the company bonds by negotiating rapids in kayaks and zip-lining over gorges. But then what happens? Everyone goes back to the dealership and the managers retreat behind closed doors.

Oh, to be lord of the manor, watching all your little minions scurrying around below you, doing your bidding and following your instructions, no questions asked. Having all that power and wielding it at will is an exhilarating experience. Who doesn’t want to be king of the castle, ruler of their own universe? Being in charge of your own team of minions is truly awesome. For you, maybe. But what about your team? How do they feel, and more importantly how does your attitude influence their productivity? Surely, the time has come to topple the tower of power once and for all?

Avoid the Us and Them Scenario

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If we’re honest, we all aspire to the corner office with the great view, but maybe it’s time we realized that the view on the outside is not as important as the view on the inside. As soon as you separate your managers from your sales teams and service department, you create a clear division between management and non-management – an "us and them" scenario. You establish a work environment and culture where everyone is expected to know their place and respect the hierarchy at all costs. Woe betides the unfortunate minions who disturb their superiors while they are practicing their dark four square magic behind closed doors. Is this really the culture that you want to promote in your dealership?

How do you do it?

The traditional organizational structure is vertical and hierarchical, with powering flowing from the top down. In this fixed and rigid work environment, everyone follows the chain of command and employees are departmentalized, both physically and in terms of job responsibilities. Everyone knows their job, they get on with their job, and only their job, and there is no cross-contamination between departments. Doors are kept firmly closed and employees are often hesitant or even afraid to knock on a manager’s door. And while this may work in many businesses, it is not ideal for the automotive sales industry.


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Progressive organizations, however, have a more horizontal management structure and are highly reliant on employee involvement in all aspects of the business. There are fewer boundaries between management and team members and they draw on ideas from many fields to be more organic and dynamic. Employees know that their opinions are respected and valued and this increases morale and boost productivity. Progressive management is about working towards a common goal rather than dragging the team behind you, kicking and screaming. If you want to topple the tower of power, you need to adopt a more inclusive management style.

Teamwork is the main focus of progressive management

The organization that can create the most dynamic teams is the one that gains the most and excels in a highly competitive market. But you can’t build a team from behind closed doors. In today's sales environment, managers actually need to be involved in the entire sales process and not merely sign off the paperwork. They need to introduce themselves to the customer and work hand-in-hand with the salesperson to close the deal.

The customer needs to be reassured that the salesperson knows what they are doing, and this trust is hard to achieve when the person trying to close the deal has to keep scurrying off to meet with the manager behind closed to get their approval. This does not create the image that you want to project. However, if the customer sees that there are open channels of communication and a good relationship between the salesperson and the sales manager, they will feel more comfortable and more willing to work towards a deal that makes everyone happy.

The days of hiding in the cave are over

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It’s not just your organizational structure that creates boundaries between management and team members, so do the physical walls in your dealership. This means that you may need to give your dealership a makeover, change the layout and remove the physical walls as well as the managerial ones.

Open plan offices encourage communication, collaboration, and co-operation, creating an environment of trust that is free of anxiety, fear, and suspicion. Offices with low panel heights foster an atmosphere of openness, enabling team members to quickly and easily discuss issues with each other and make decisions. Higher panels provide more privacy and many offices use a combination of spaces depending on the needs of different teams. A well thought out and correctly planned communal office space does wonders to promote teamwork and allows team managers to constantly interact with their teams, solving problems, answering questions and offering advice quickly and reducing the need to organize meetings and make appointments.


The design and layout of your showroom and service drive reflect your dealership's culture and it is important to tailor your space to suit your needs and enhance the work environment. Progressive dealerships are reshaping their showroom floors so that the sales consultants, customers and managers all sit in comfortable pods with medium to low partitions and attractive furniture.

There do need to be some private spaces, especially for financial discussions that still have to be held in private to protect customer confidentiality, but that’s what conference rooms are for.

So, you can be a medieval king, lording it over your subjects from your tower of power, or even worse, you can remain a caveman, hiding in your damp cave and forcing your outdated management and sales concepts on all around you, or you can evolve and become the leader of a strong and dynamic sales team. The choice is yours!