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Using Data to Spot Trends in Your Business

Encourage Your People to Dig Deeper

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"Have your people mine their own data and report back up to you," says O'Connor.

| Photo Credit: MTD

This MTD exclusive was provided by tire and auto industry veteran Randy O’Connor, the executive director of TEN (Training and Education Network). He can be reached at roconnor@endeavorb2b. com. For more information, see www.mtdten.com.


One of the most significant contributors to success is the tools we provide our teams. There’s no doubt that the technological progress we’ve seen in the last five to 10 years has been much needed and a large contributor to some of that success.


Automation and ease of access to and customization of sales reports certainly help. 


\Most everyone in tire dealership management or sales - Generation Y age and older - can recall the days of old, where the data we had was simple and effective, but not always quite enough to make innovative decisions. The time and effort spent working and reworking the scattered data to drill down into a given challenge or issue often was a job in and of itself. The hours we spent pulling reports, merging them, applying formulas and reformatting seemed endless. 


That said, while most of us likely wished for a future of automated processes feeding us canned reports, we likely didn’t always give credence to the value of our efforts. 


At the risk of making most everyone in the tech space pushing a program or product cringe, I’d like to reintroduce a nostalgic topic. While our industry sometimes pales in technological comparison to some other industries in the retail space, text-to-pay and digital vehicle inspections have been effectively integrated into many tire dealerships’ operations. And there is no question that reports provided by the leading point-of-sale software suppliers are better than in years past. 


While there are numerous advantages to the aforementioned advances, drilling down into reports the old-fashioned way develops a certain set of skills. Each of your data challenges are different. Those who excel at becoming experts on gathering and presenting sellout and shop management data know exactly where this discussion is going. 


While I’m often reluctant to advise making reports based on other reports, the reality is that becoming an expert - or even an amateur expert - on any given topic takes a concerted effort. Some learn best by listening, some by seeing and others by doing. Any combination of those three styles greatly improves the chances of understanding. 


The minutes, hours and days we used to spend manipulating and presenting data also doubled as an exercise in truly understanding the systems at our disposal and the issues at hand. All of the mistakes, failures and successes woven into those endless hours are what made us experts. 


As I have mentioned, it’s up to you to fill the toolboxes of your team members the best you can. I encourage you to educate and empower your teams to dig a little deeper into data using these easy steps: 


1. Stop spoon-feeding reports. Pushing data “down” may have its time and place, but I’d bet that some of those people who are reading the reports - if they even really read them - don’t have a full understanding of what’s in them, how the data was compiled and what the ultimate goal of having the data is. A simple solution that works well is to have your people mine their own data and report back up to you. I promise you they’ll learn much more quickly that way. 


2. Never produce and distribute reports that don’t involve a regular, concerted conversation. Make the data intentionally designed to solve a specific goal or set of goals. You don’t need to spend hours discussing reports, but you should be focusing on what the report is saying and why the data says what it says. 


3. Translate your data into actions and behaviors. Focus on what the data is saying and what can be done between now and the next meeting. Finally, give your people the time and space to explore the various data sets that are available. Ask for their feedback on what data they really need and how they suggest it should be produced and distributed. And take the time to think through your reporting systems and structure. 


Rethink how giving your tradesmen, which is what we in the retail tire and auto service business ultimately are, the tools and freedom to contribute to a meaningful report system. After all, we’re tire people. Tinkering to solve problems is in our DNA!

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