Trailblazer, Self-starter, Motivator- Rebecca ‘Becky’ D’Amico Chernek has many monickers she’s earned through the years. In 1986, she was hired as the first woman to sell autos for Al Packer Lincoln & Mercury in Baltimore. In 1989, she took on the role of F&I Manager for Ron Bortnick Ford in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Six years later in 1995, she took a position with the JM&A Group and was promoted to District Manager for the AutoNation division.
Throughout those positions, she gained hands-on skills and experience in several aspects of the automotive sales process including new and used car and truck sales, F&I, director of finance for volume operations and general management.
In 2001, she melded those skills and founded Chernek Consulting, LLC. Now, as a consultant, trainer and nationally-recognized expert in F&I Training and sales procedures, she lends her expertise to hundreds of automotive dealers.
And while Chernek’s experience is impressive, she has a strong background in the business. Her father, John D’Amico, managed Chesapeake Cadillac before purchasing his own dealership. Growing up, Chernek spent countless hours in the dealership where she greeted customers at the front desk, answered phones, overheard the chatter of salespeople and caught the scent of coffee and that ‘new car smell.’ Though this experience was profitable later in life, it was the hours after work in the evening where she really gleaned the insight that helped mold her into who she is today. She reminisces fondly about conversations in the evening with her father around the dinner table.
“I don’t know what fathers and daughters generally talk about, but what we talked about was very special. He really leveled with me on how to make a profit and how to put a deal together,” she said.
Through the years, her father became even more frank with her on the ins-and-outs of the dealership business, including how to close a deal and to “hold back on the trade.”
“He had incredible passion about the business. He knew the business inside and out,” she said. “He was one of the best in the industry. I’m not saying that because he is my father, but because it’s true! He was well respected. One of things that I learned from my father was being independent, not to take no for an answer, don’t let anyone undermine your dreams and don’t forget who you are. Be humble, but be honest and resilient!”
Resiliency played a role in Chernek’s role as she ascended the ranks in a traditionally male-dominated field. Tune into her broadcast on CBT News and you’re as likely to find her providing key insights into new F&I practices as touting the idea of hiring more women in dealerships.
Here she addresses the importance of being part of a team in the dealership, women in F&I and how to work with the rise of digital applications.
How to be successful in F&I
- Leave your office.
- Know your team.
- Get to know more than your sector of the dealership.
These are a few of the statements that Chernek says will open avenues for F&I employees to grow.
“If you’re in F&I, they need to see you as a team player and you’re going to get more respect because of it,” she said.
Chernek recommends they stop being desk jockeys, participate in sales meetings and be present on the sales floor.
She also said it is vital to stay engaged in the entire sales process. By staying involved, F&I employees are able to see the big picture and have a stronger grasp of the entire sales process.
These actions will help raise their profile and poise them for more success in the future.
Dealing with Digital
The advent of online selling is the foremost challenge facing F&I, Chernek said. “What I see is more and more customers are going online to buy their vehicles,” she said. “There are more competitors and disruptors online that allow them to buy and finance them in person.”
While the bells and whistles of technology might be alluring, Chernek warns that all that glitters is not gold. She said it is critical for training to be in place for employees to easily segue into the digital realm.
“You can’t just stick a plug-in on the website without training to go along with it,” she said.
She cites not only web applications, but other technologies such as docuPAD as an example.
“[Technology like docuPAD] will help and can enhance the process, but they are not replacing the future. They can’t replace the person behind the screen,” she said.
And the person behind the screen is the strongest tool for survival in the digital wave. Incorporating the digital aspect can be a win, but only if it works as an addition, not a replacement.
“Let’s not forget the human factor. I feel like the whole thing with the technology phase is forgetting the human factor,” she said. “Technology should enhance the experience, not replace it.”
Females and F&I
Chernek has trumpeted hiring women in F&I for years. She said they are more persistent, personable, detail-oriented and less prone to turnover.
“Dealers need to realize that hiring women is great for their business. Women relate to other women,” she said. “But women want a plan, they need to know that the dealer has their back.”
She also said that for women to thrive in the dealership workplace, it helps to create a female-friendly culture and show them a career path. Another way to lure women in to the industry is to allow for flex scheduling so women can achieve a work-life balance. Due to technological advances, women can schedule their appointments with customers from home and work around issues such as finding childcare.
Mottos and beliefs
Determination and knowledge are pivotal to success, according to Chernek.
“As far as business is concerned, you don’t have to break laws to break records. I’m 100 percent all in on being upfront and transparent in our business. If you know your trade, product knowledge, if you’re confident in your presentations you don’t have to lie cheat or manipulate to earn the sale. The reason some of these guys take the path of least resistance is they haven’t been trained they aren’t skilled they have nothing to fall back to. Dealers need to train their staff! Insist on the best, inspect what you expect.”
While Chernek sees the value in motivational videos and books, she emphasizes the importance of starting with yourself. With the long hours and pressure of the industry, she said it is important to start with yourself. She recommends taking care of your body and mind by reading more books, eating right and implementing healthy sleep patterns to keep your energy level up.
“Energy is everything. Energy is how we run our wheelhouse,” she said. “ Your energy is your success.”
Photography Courtesy of Rebecca Chernek