My 13-year-old son, Nathan, and I spent an hour yesterday in a car dealership, signing the papers on a new vehicle. Nathan is passionate (obsessed is probably a better word for it) about anything that has a steering wheel, from the boat and the lawn tractor to his go-cart and the family cars.
While my lease didn’t expire until October, Nathan began researching new vehicles last Christmas break, and he hasn’t let up. If we had it my way, we would have waited to turn in our lease until the day it was due – and probably would have saved a few thousand dollars. But that would have meant enduring another three months of debate with a 13-year-old over the benefits of this feature vs. feature and this model vs. that one.
So, Nathan accompanied me to the dealership, partly out of his passion to be in a business full of cars, and partly so I would choose a vehicle that met his standards. As I was signing the papers, I shared with the salesman that Nathan has considered a career in car sales. He has a natural way with people. He loves to be behind the wheel. And all his time researching cars online has made him an encyclopedia of specifications and options.
I’m thinking that this guy has the opportunity to give my son the encouragement to chase his dream, to get paid to pursue his passion. He has the power to not only influence him to follow in his footsteps, but also to change my kid’s life.
Or not. The salesman – a 60-something who has been selling cars since he was 19 – rolls his eyes and says: “Go to college, kid!”
Opportunity lost. Experience ruined.
As dealers, it’s our job to focus on the customer experience. A big part of their experience is determined by whether they’re interacting with people who love what they do for a living. Your employees’ passion can not only attract people to want to buy from you and to engage at a higher level in boating (or driving), but it also can inspire people to want to work alongside you. Or not.
When it comes to careers, boating actually has a BIG advantage over other industries. Whether you’re selling or servicing boats, you get the chance to bring people together on the water with their friends, their family and the natural world to have fun and to escape from the stress of life on land.
If your dealership hires employees who believe in the incredible value of what you provide to your customers and train them to apply that enthusiasm to delivering a great customer experience, we can not only attract and retain more customers, but also spark more interest in working in our businesses and our industry. If other industries fail to do the same, their loss, our gain.