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Want to increase dealership performance? Take a vacation.

By Forrest Flinn

This blog originally appeared on PowersportsBusiness.com.

If you work in the retail end of the marine industry, then you work often in a pressure cooker that is almost ready to explode on a daily basis! No matter what department you work in, marine dealerships are often chaotic, fast-paced and stressful environments. This is especially true when we are in high season. Let’s face it: Working in a dealership is fun, but yet it is very hard and demanding work.

Do you want to increase dealership profitability? Then my suggestion is to allow your employees to take a vacation — then go take one yourself!

The business case for rethinking your dealership policies on vacations is strong. First of all, it is difficult to recruit and retain top talent, and a good vacation policy can help you in this process.

In my opinion, the old policy of one week of vacation after one year of employment and two weeks after two, etc., is outdated and destructive. Believe it or not, some dealerships have vacation policies where an employee can only take a vacation in a month that ends in an “R!" This old thinking is outdated and costs your dealership more than you think.

Study after study has proven that vacations help improve employee performance, which in turn increases your dealership’s bottom line profit. According to Francine Lederer, a clinical psychologist, in a 2012 article in The Atlantic, "Most people have a better life perspective and are more motivated to achieve dealership goals after a vacation, even if that vacation is only for a 24-hour period." I personally can attest to this through my own work. Late last month I took a seven-day vacation at the beach and came back rested and ready to take on anything. Vacations reenergize, reinvigorate and help you reset your thinking towards the future.

Let’s go back to the comment I made before with some dealerships only letting employees take vacations in months that end in “R.” I know it goes against our grain to think of having a sales manager, service manager or a technician out for a week while we are in high season. I think you should consider what it costs to replace one of these positions because of a bad or lacking vacation policy. At the end of the day, with proper notice and planning, the dealership will not fall to the ground in one week. If it does fall apart, then you have deeper problems than a faulty vacation policy.

What if you give three weeks per year to each employee? It really isn’t that absurd when you think about the cost of replacing an employee. How about allowing all employees to accrue vacation time as they work? Allowing employees to accrue vacation time from day one is a vacation policy that a lot of businesses use. For example, if an employee works 40 hours per week and you allow two weeks per year, then you would accrue 0.0385 hours for each hour worked. This would allow employees to “bank” vacation time as they earn it. It also gives an employee some peace of mind that they have some time coming to them throughout the year to take time off or deal with personal issues outside the dealership.

One of the biggest problems I see out there in dealerships is what I call “vacation shaming.” This is where employees are allowed to schedule and take vacation time but are then made to feel bad or shameful about it. Consider this, according to a 2014 Forbes study, 34 percent of employees surveyed indicated that their employer neither encouraged or discouraged leave/vacation time, and 17 percent of managers considered employees who take all of their vacation time to be less dedicated. This “vacation shaming” is a real thing and it is truly detrimental to dealership morale/culture and directly affects overall organizational performance.

In addition to increased dealership performance, there are also other benefits of having a well thought out and crafted vacation policy. Below are just some of the things I want you to ponder. A good dealership vacation policy does the following:

  • Promotes physically healthier employees.
  • Increases mental power and mental productivity.
  • Prevents employee burnout.
  • Promotes good family relationships.
  • Improves overall emotional and mental health of your employees.

As we wind down the crazy season in the marine industry, I would like you all to revisit why your vacation policy is what it is. I understand that all dealerships are not created equal, and a one-size vacation policy does not fit all. But as the economy continues to improve, overall employees have more options available to them today since the Great Recession. It is getting tougher and tougher to find quality employees that are willing to work in a seasonal business, so maybe revamping your vacation policies can help you attract and retain the best talent available.

Overall, the vacation policies I see out there in dealerships are old and outdated. It’s time to take some of the research and science that is available about vacation policies and put it to work to make your dealership a more desirable place to work — it’s just good business. Now go think about your next vacation and enjoy!

Forrest Flinn, MBA, PHR, SMS has been in the motorcycle industry for more than 20 years and has been a true student and leader serving in various capacities. He previously worked as an implementation consultant for Lightspeed and as a general manager with P&L responsibility for a large metro multi-line dealership. Currently Forrest is the managing partner and chief visionary for a consulting firm that specializes in outsourced accounting, human resources, social media strategy, dealership operations consulting and Lightspeed/EVO training.

Contact: forrest@powersportsmc.com

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