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Agile mindset: automotive leadership during disruptive times

Agility requires the ability to think your way through a scenario and know that many of the facts you thought you knew might change in a hurry.

The car dealership business demands flexibility of thought and action. We’ll use agility to describe the ability to see a potential problem as an opportunity instead of a threat. Let’s discuss some of the ways that agility can help automotive managers and owners overcome how they see potential changes instead of panicking, and see problems as a moment to build and grow their dealership.  

What does it mean to be an agile leader? 

Agility requires the ability to think your way through a scenario and know that many of the facts you thought you know might change in a hurry. The recent pandemic poses one of the most recent major threads to the auto business in recent memory. I do definitely remember as an online marketing manager wondering how impending lockdowns in my home state were going to affect business with people traveling significantly less.  

COVID required that we cut back on advertising expenses a little bit, especially outdoor ones, and shift to online advertising as those who were still working wouldn’t likely be in a public place to see our ads. More sales were going to take place remotely, and could even be delivered to the customer too. 

Of note: The ability to change the scales of our digital advertising quickly – and practically overnight, is why I love digital ads. 

Quick Decisions Under Pressure

One of the more important actions to take while being agile is the ability to make quick decisions under pressure – though to be honest, not too quick.  

I have an honest method of making decisions under pressure: Assume there is no pressure, and figure out all of your possible decisions and their outcomes first. Write it down if you need to.  

Part of the reason why I would choose this method is because it is so easy to overfocus on one answer and make a decision too fast. We are looking for a quick decision, not an instant one. Looking at all potential scenarios (plausible or not) at least slows you down enough to make a decision based on the information and not overreact.

Embracing Innovation 

Most of the time, like when the pandemic started, some level of innovation within the dealership is needed to move things forward to respond to customers wanting something like a contact-free experience.  

Consider these moments opportunities to try something new. You could find yourself in scenarios where you need to hire more technicians quickly or like fairly recently, have the prices of used cars go up and stay up. Both require different approaches to you how to market to and treat customers. Since you are unlikely to discount, you can think of something else to communicate within an offer to the customer. 

This can go much further to saying that innovations like having your salespeople do more videos to attract customers with something new and unique in their emails or text. While having an electronic document signing system may have seemed unnecessary before, you might later find that people buy more often when presented with an easy-to-use setup.

Leading with resilience in uncertain times 

In uncertain times, your dealership or service business needs an agile leader. You might have to prove yourself right on more than a few occasions if your employees or customers think that previous decisions are not going well. Also, realize that you can’t control the outside world, and there is no sense in getting hostile or angry at people who are in the same boat as you. 

If you panic, so will the people around you. Sometimes agile leadership and resiliency concepts are really that simple.


Car dealerships require lots of flexibility. Much of what we suggested in our writing today involves using technology and simple decision-making methods to give your dealership the best chance at succeeding at unique, but fairly common challenges faced by dealerships recently. I hope you can use this information to overcome problems from staffing to legal issues and inventory.

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Ben Stewart
Ben Stewart
Ben is a contributing writer and reporter for CBT News with 10 years of dealership experience in automotive marketing. Ben loves all things cars and putting together strategies that help dealerships succeed.

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