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What 3 Controllers from North Texas Taught Me About Training

Article Highlights:

  • In-class training will have the largest return for the money invested.
  • "Dealerships must get their people into a distraction free environment."

I’ve been a software trainer for over 25 years.

Usually, I’m the one doing the teaching, but every now and then, my students catch me off guard with an insight I never would have had on my own.

Today I want to tell you about one of those experiences. It’s the story of three ladies who came to one of my classes not long ago, and what they taught me.

It’s a lesson that’s reshaping how we approach our training options, and one I believe can help you get significantly more return on all your technology investments, regardless of what company they come from.

A Short Backstory of Dealership Training

10-15 years ago, dealers and dealership employees stopped wanting to attend live, in-person classroom training. They didn’t want to travel. They didn’t want to be away from their dealerships.

They wanted us to come to them, via self-guided training, remote webinars, or trainers sent into their dealerships during the business day.

We’ve done the best we can to deliver training through these channels, and we do ok with it. We can get people started on their software. We can teach them all the basics.

But it’s not ideal. Any time employees are still in the dealership, their minds aren’t really on learning.

It’s just not a good learning environment. I always leave those situations wishing I could have done more. A dealership that trains like that isn’t going to use the system anywhere near its full capacity, which means they won’t get the biggest return on their investment.

A Call From North Texas

I had just returned to Houston from a week in Dayton, Ohio, where I led our brand-new (at the time) ERA-IGNITE Dealer Overview course.

I was sitting in my office when the phone rang. I picked up and found myself on the line with a very nice lady from North Texas.

She was the controller at a store that had installed ERA-IGNITE several months before. She and the controllers from two other stores in the same dealership group had seen the listing for the Dealer Overview course in Dayton.

Would we consider putting on the same course in our Houston office?

“Absolutely,” I said.

A few weeks later, these three ladies came to our training facility for the inaugural Houston edition of the ERA-IGNITE Dealer Overview course. It’s a two-day course, delivered in the classroom with a live instructor and lots of hands-on exercises.

Rewriting the Training on the Fly

I like to start all of my classes by asking students the following question:

“What do you want to get out of this class?”

People’s answers are usually generic. They want to learn as much as they can. They want to get better and faster at their jobs, that sort of thing.

But these three controllers were not like my normal students. They had specifics.

  • “We don’t understand the security system”
  • “We don’t understand Retail Management Intelligence. We don’t know how it works for other departments except for just the bare minimum.”
  • “We know the system can do so much more than what we’re using it for.”

I was surprised, delighted, and a little overwhelmed by their questions.

We did something drastic that day in Houston. We threw out our entire prepared curriculum.

Instead, for the next two days, we did everything we could to answer every single question they had about how to use their system better.

Was It Worth It?

Classes like that aren’t free. They cost money, and they cost time.

Over the years, we’ve found that it’s the time investment that is the most costly for dealerships. This is an industry where employees regularly work long hours, especially those in management roles like these three ladies have.

For them, two days away from their office was a tremendous sacrifice. It probably meant hours and hours of catch-up work for them when they returned.

Even so, they were very happy when it was over. We must be doing something right if they walk away from that experience and say it was worth it.

What We Learned (and the Lesson for You)

As a training organization, we are deeply committed to creating self-paced and remotely delivered training.

But we also know that the more distractions you have in a training environment, the less effective that training will be.

The lesson for us (and for you) is clear: dealerships must get their people into a distraction free environment if they truly want them to learn how to use their technology tools better.

More than that, if you want your employees to significantly increase their skill using the tools you’ve provided them, instructor-led, in-class training will absolutely have the fastest and largest return for the training money you invest.

What We Changed

We still offer that two-day Dealer Overview course on a quarterly basis. We’ve refined it to really zero in on everything a dealer or a GM needs to know to run a dealership on ERA-IGNITE.

But thanks to the three controllers from north Texas, we also created a new course.

We gathered up all the questions they had for us, and we turned them into the rigorous, three-day ERA-IGNITE Management and Control course. It’s specifically designed for CFOs, controllers, office managers and system administrators.

At the writing of this article, it costs $942 per person, not including travel, and the course has sold out many times, even though we offer it every month.

Here’s what one of our students said about the course:

“The biggest advantage of taking the ERA-IGNITE Management and Control Course is being in an isolated environment with an instructor. It forced me to focus on learning, and the instructor gave me help when I needed it.”

-Sarah Irby-Goad
Controller, BMW Mini of Sterling

Conclusion

Reynolds will always be adding new features and functions to its solutions. That’s what dealerships pay us to do. To enable them to do their jobs better, faster, and more profitably.

But here’s the rub: Our efforts to improve the results for our dealerships are worthless, unless dealership employees take the time to learn how to use the new tools we build for them.

I encourage you to take full advantage of whatever training options your technology vendors make available. Self-guided and web-based training are great, but if you get the chance to attend instructor-led training in a distraction-free environment, I hope you will seize the opportunity.

Finally, if you’re using a Reynolds system, I invite you to attend one of our classes in Dayton or Houston. I’d love to meet you in person, and I promise we’ll do everything we can to help you quickly improve the return you see from your technology investment.

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Director, Software Education, Reynolds and Reynolds

Oscar Walker is the Director of Software Education, with over 25 years experience in teaching and training management. During his career, Oscar has taught courses in six different countries and two different languages.