DealerKnows Consulting was what I ended up on, but not what I started with initially. Back in 2008, even before I spoke at my first automotive conference, I knew I would leave retail and start my automotive training and consulting company.
For roughly three years, I had been writing for Dealer Magazine and Digital Dealer magazine, blogging for countless resource sites, and fielding calls from other dealers asking me to fix their dealerships’ Internet teams, all while I was nestled in a comfy position at my store. It was hard (and nerve-wracking) leaving where I was, but it was simply time.
How I Named DealerKnows Consulting
As much as I enjoyed where I was, I wanted my knowledge to have a more profound impact on a larger swath of dealers. I didn’t just arrive at the name DealerKnows right away, but I recall the exact day I made the decision to start my own company. With pen in hand, I started writing down countless names in my trusty notebook (yes, I used to carry a notebook). I wanted the name of my company to clearly identify two things about me.
- It’s backed by someone with documented success at a dealership
- My goal is to educate.
The downside was, having been celebrated by peers, on blogs and forums, by the OEM, and at conferences, I had a big head. I was arrogant. An up-and-coming egotist. So I really wanted my name “Joe” or “Webb” somehow built into the name. (Yes, I was that vain.) I arrived at JoeKnows. That’s what I wanted to name it. Then I found out the domain JoeKnows.com was taken. “Damn it, GoDaddy!”, I thought. So I checked again for a similar name… DealerKnows.com. And, huzzah, it was available! I ended up, as I thought, settling for that.
If JoeKnows.com was available
The official business name was DealerKnows LLC, founded in September 2008, but my DBA became DealerKnows Consulting. “Ugh, why couldn’t JoeKnows.com have been available”, I’d ask myself repeatedly. When people introduced me to others at conferences and events, they’d always say, “This is Joe Webb.” Or recognize me from my comedic videos or magazine articles and say, “You’re Joe Webb!” (It fed my ego far more than I deserved.)
On a quick side note, can I say, if you’re looking to start an automotive training and consulting business, I strongly recommend not doing it the month before the entire economy and industry collapse.
If you put 2 and 2 together in the above paragraph, I started DealerKnows LLC at the end of September 2008, officially launching at the beginning of October 2008. And then the automotive industry crumbled for a while. There is no better time to start a new company for dealers than when all dealers stopped spending money. (Sarcasm aside, it was tough for a little while).
Somehow, someway, and with a little bit of help from my family, I stayed afloat long enough to survive. It wasn’t until about a year after starting DealerKnows Consulting that I was at a conference. A super nice guy who used to kick around all the conferences, Philip Zelinger, introduced me as “DealerKnows” instead of “Joe Webb.” Surprisingly, I really liked the sound of that. I finally realized that this company I was growing should represent more than myself.
How DealerKnows Consulting Grew
I’d met Bill Playford about a year before at a conference, and we’d stayed in touch. My schedule was too packed with video training, and I needed help. To travel less and be able to train more clients, I had created a “virtual dealer training” service where I was doing live video conference calls every week with each dealer client on a video chat app called Oovoo.
Thankfully, Bill became the second team member of DealerKnows Consulting. Now he is considered my Vice President, Partner, and a very close friend, Bill is instrumental in building the consulting operations. I added Melissa Roberts, then Jessica Livingston, and our team just kept growing.
We have trained countless automotive salespeople, BDC agents, managers, and more, and this is why DealerKnows Consulting is a dumb name. (though not near as stupid as JoeKnows) I’m sure these folks wouldn’t want to work for a company named after one person. As Garth Brooks says, thank God for unanswered prayers.
What is Consulting?
“Consulting”, as a word, is when an organization has a problem and hires someone with the knowledge to present a solution. The consultant analyzes data, inspects processes, assesses needs, and then provides the answer to the client’s problems (as they see it). However, with “consulting”, that typically is when the job is done. No part of the word “consulting” involves ensuring the organization deploys the solution you provided.
You gave them the knowledge; it is up to them to do something with it. While we frequently make technology or marketing and sales recommendations, never do we leave it there. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. It’s not even half the battle to present a fix. You have to see it through to implementation and measurement. Something most “consultants” never do. Again, this is why DealerKnows Consulting is a stupid name.
The great majority of what we do for dealers is car sales training, coaching, and accountability. It took me a long time to realize, that training and coaching are just as different as training and consulting.
What is Training?
“Training” is when you teach someone a valuable skill that they can use to do better or be better. While “consulting” often happens in a board room or office, training (much like coaching) can occur in small groups or even one-on-one, anywhere.
Consulting is when you tell someone how to do something. Training is when you get to show them how to do it. When you role-play (which anyone I have trained knows, I LOVE the role-playing aspect of training. You illustrate and teach a skillset. This is much of what DealerKnows Consulting does.
What is Coaching?
“Coaching” can happen in small groups and one-on-one environments, as well, but it involves the why more than the how. A good coach gets to know the person in front of them. Asks questions. Cares about them. Then, the coach asks more stimulating and provocative questions so the person they’re engaging starts to examine the situation deeper, understand the why, and internally motivate themselves as to what needs to be done.
This too is very much what I would consider a specialty of DealerKnows, because a good coach makes things more personal than even a trainer, and certainly more than a consultant.
What is Accountability?
“Accountability” is something not near enough dealers in our industry invest in. This is when you don’t just inspect what you expect, but you create incentives, rewards, learning opportunities, or punishments to how well the individual does what is asked of them. You breed consistency and measure follow-through.
A long time ago, I realized, that if I’m going to train someone how to do something, I want to make sure they can do it after I leave the store. Hence, Virtual Dealer Training was born (since I couldn’t be in multiple cities at once).
Sometime after Bill joined, we realized, “Hey, if we’re giving out countless templates and processes to dealers, and building it into their CRMs, we can’t just leave them after and trust they use them.” As Bill always says, “You wouldn’t hand the keys over to an F14 Tomcat and trust someone who knows how to fly it.”
So, we built our own training software
That’s why we built TaskTeacher, our automotive training software (and our team of “graders”) that make sure people are following processes, saving deals, staying on track, sticking to the workflows properly, and doing the designated activities asked of them timely and properly. This is a lot of what DealerKnows does today also.
So… knowing that naming the company “DealerKnows Consulting and Training and Coaching and Accountability” is wildly idiotic (though I bet the domain is still available), I should have pushed to just be called “DealerKnows” all along. Because this company is more than me. It has been more than me for a long time.
Even if much of our curriculum stems from my training and methodologies, DealerKnows would be nothing without the people who drive it. If only I was smart enough to have just stuck with “DealerKnows” in the first place, I may have had a better sense of all that it would eventually become.
In the end, a single word or service rarely accommodates all that a dealer needs. It’s more than “consulting”. It takes consulting, then training, then coaching, with a lot of accountability. If a company wants to improve, they need to receive all of the above.
Otherwise, they’re spending money with no clear path to completion, gratification, or accomplishment. Everything we at DealerKnows do is never about me. It’s always been about us. All of us. 15 years after its inception, and that’s really the only thing JoeKnows.
Read the original post I made about when Bill joined DealerKnows.