How to Overcome Resistance to Change

April 11, 2024

Has it ever seemed that when you try to change something at your dealership, like a process, or add something new, like tire protection plans, that it goes well at first, but then it dies a quick death?

That is what is known as resistance to change.

Most people are predisposed to want things to remain the same, even if the existing process, policy or procedure stinks. Let’s dive into how to make your dealership more open to change.

Adapting to change is 95% mental and 5% physical. Most owners have an idea — or have attended a meeting or read a book — and think, “That’s a great idea. I’m going to do that in my shop.”

They proceed to tell all their employees how they are going to do things differently because “this will make things better.”

They explain the steps, give a little guidance and the next day change is underway!

And in about two weeks, change will again be underway because everyone is going to go back to the way they used to do it.

Employees who are directed to change will almost invariably start the change process with suspicion. “Why does the boss want to change this? Why is it always me that has to do most of the work? Oh great, another thing to try and sell.”

If an employee starts the learning process with suspicion. ("Why does the boss want to change this? Why is it always me who has to do most of the work? Oh, great - another thing to try and sell.") 

If an employee starts the learning process with suspicion, he will look to find flaws and will seek its failure - unless, that is, there's an immediate "a-ha" moment from the start. \

The “a-ha” moment is an extraordinarily powerful moment for the mind. There are all sorts of endorphins and pleasure receptors in the brain that break out in a dance with the revelation that “Hey, this really works!”

But if it takes time to see the benefits of change, employees usually seek the flaws and the reasons for not changing.

Think about converting from paper inspections to digital vehicle inspections (DVIs.) You hold a meeting. You announced, “We are switching to DVIs.” You hand out the tablets. You do a little training and you launch.

The first day, someone or maybe even a few will complain that “this takes too long. The old way was faster.” Well, yeah — the first time you tried to ride a bike, walking was faster, too.

The element most crucial to getting to a change culture in your company is to not be the only person who comes up with ideas and imposes them on the employees.

Sometimes when bosses say, “This will make it better,” they really mean, “This will make me more profit, but add work to your load.” And employees know that.

Change needs to be discussed. Change needs to get talked about and debated. Concerns need to be addressed — to the satisfaction of the employee, not the boss.

Having a discussion about change instead of just implementing it might intimidate some tire dealers. They could be afraid the employees will win the argument and change won’t happen. But if you don’t have the discussion, you will only get two weeks of change.

Employees are the ones doing the work every day. They are the masters of the process or system that you’re trying to change. Listen to them. Hear them out. Give them a voice.

Then take their opinions and think about them for a few days. Use critical thinking to vet their concerns and see which ones have merit.

Develop a plan for rollout - if it still makes sense to try to change - that includes what to do if different concerns come up. Make the process predictable as much as possible, as predictability during change is the most soothing path.

If employees can anticipate certain hurdles, they are much less likely to give up.

Don’t be afraid to make changes to the plan while you are rolling it out. Almost all plans require a little tweaking after implementation.

Challenge assumptions and get your team involved to figure out a way to keep most of the plan in place, when and where it makes sense. And if the plan fails for good reason, that’s OK. Failure is a great educator.

In order to get a change to stick, you have to invest the appropriate time to prepare your team before that change occurs.

About the Author

Dennis McCarron

Dennis McCarron is a partner at Cardinal Brokers Inc., one of the leading brokers in the tire and automotive industry ( To contact McCarron, email him at [email protected].