How Dealerships Can Enhance Work-Life Balance and Attract More Females to the Industry – Lisa Copeland, Cars Her Way

Lisa copeland

Lisa Copeland, CEO of Cars Her Way, recently joined us in-studio and discussed trends in retail automotive, enhancing work-life balance, and how dealerships can attract more female employees to the industry.


Jim Fitzpatrick: Hello, everyone. I’m Jim Fitzpatrick. Thank you so much for joining us on another edition of the CBT News Network. On today’s show, we welcome back Lisa Copeland, founder of Cars Her Way. Glad to have you back on the show, Lisa.

Lisa Copeland: Well, thanks for having me. I’m glad I got here.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah. I was going to say, we’re so happy to have you in the studio. Usually we’re doing this via Skype. That isn’t always the best situation.

Lisa Copeland: Right. But it’s worked out great over the years. I’m so grateful. I think I’ve been on your show since the show began.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, I know. I know. We are grateful to have you on. So, we’re excited. The staff is excited. “Lisa’s coming in today!” So, glad to have you here.

Jim Fitzpatrick: The last time I think that we spoke to you, we had Brian Benstock. It was myself and you. We talked about this very-

Lisa Copeland: Always a good conversation with Brian Benstock.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. That’s exactly right.

Lisa Copeland: Always good.

Jim Fitzpatrick: In that conversation, we spoke about women in automotive and how do we get more women in the automotive industry, what has to happen in the industry in order to make that a reality? Then, what are some of the benefits that we’re going to see by bringing more females into automotive? I know all of those topics are near and dear to your heart. So, let’s kind of jump right in and talk about first, the problem that exists out there. Not enough women are in dealerships, selling or managing dealerships, right?

Lisa Copeland: Yeah. And it’s a big problem, right? So, per NADA, only 19% of the retail workforce is women, with probably 11 to 12% of those sitting in the accounting offices answering the telephone, right? So, when you look at women actually selling cars on the service drive, or, in management, it’s single digits. It’s like this is 2019. What’s going on with that? Right?

But, I mean, I’ve got a theory. A lot of times, it isn’t even that the dealers won’t hire them. It’s that they don’t want to work there. They don’t want to work there. They don’t want the hours. They don’t want the stress. They don’t want the low pay, you know?

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. That’s right, that’s right. Yep.

Jim Fitzpatrick: So, let’s drill down on some of those things. What has to change in our great industry in order to attract more female employees?

Lisa Copeland: I think that the dealers have got to come with the mindset in the year 2019. You look at great retail environments that people want to work in. Look at Apple Computer. I mean, I look Carvana. I’ve been looking at their stuff a lot lately. You look at the automotive space. How do you create an environment with reasonable hours?

Now, we know it’s retail. I’m a firm believer. I don’t believe a retail job is 40 hours a week. I don’t, but I don’t think it should go much past 50 for men or women, right?

I mean, people want to spend time with their kids. I think you have to create a livable pay plan with some security behind it so that they know that if they come and they give 40 to 50 hours of their time a week, that they’re going to make a living. They’re not driving Uber at night, right?

And so, and I know with women especially, a lot of times with 50% divorce rate, a lot of times, they’re single moms. They have to be able to depend on their paycheck, having some flexibility on the weekends to be able to take your kids or your grandkids to soccer games and baseball games. So, these are the things that we hear over and over and over again.

Now, we’ve got dealers around the country, I do personally, that are clients of mine that are fantastic. We’ve really laid out some strategies. It’s like, this is a job, but you don’t have to be married to it. From the time you get up in the morning to the time you go home at night. It’s just changing that mindset. I will say that the public have done a good job, several of the public-

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah. They have. They have.

Lisa Copeland: … in coming out and streamlining things.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah, yeah. That’s right. That’s right.

Lisa Copeland: Yeah. It’s this independence so many times that I have a hard time-

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure. I would imagine what you’re saying is if, in the event that dealers came up with a 45- to 50-hour work week, they paid a salary plus maybe a unit bonus or something like that so females, as well as males-

Lisa Copeland: As well as men.

Jim Fitzpatrick: … can come in and say, “Oh, I’m making at least $40,000 a year. I can pay my rent and my car payment. I can get to work.”

Lisa Copeland: Which I’m not even sure that 40,000 is a livable wage.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Well, what I’m saying is, in addition to that, though, if somebody comes in, guy or girl, and then proceeds to sell 15 or 20 cars a month and they have a small unit bonus, they can get that 3,500 a month up to 55 or $6,500 a month, but it’s based on productivity. But they know coming in that they’re not just going to get their $200 or $300 a week draw check and they going to owe that back at the end of the month.

Lisa Copeland: Yeah. I’ll tell you, Jimmy. We talk about women, but we also have this whole Millennial workforce that’s coming out of college. They’ve got lots of options out there, you know?

So, when you look at women and Millennials and they think, “Okay. What do I want to do when I graduate from college,” or, “What do I want to do with the rest of my life? Do I want to work at Google or do I want to work at the local car dealership? I mean, hmm, let me think about it.” Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right. And even the notion that kids are going to get out and they’ve spent four years in college and they’ve got a tremendous amount of debt in many cases. Like you said, they get out and say, “Oh, I want to go into the retail automotive industry,” because it’s such a great-

Lisa Copeland: Never. Says nobody ever, unless, of course, they’re a legacy or maybe their parents have a car dealership.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure. Sure, sure. So, that’s got to change, right?

Lisa Copeland: Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That has to change now, not down the road, not 20 years from now, 30 years from now.

Lisa Copeland: I’ve said, “Forever.” I mean, we need to have more of our high schools get involved. I used to go talk to some high schools around here. They’d bring me into speak quite a bit in my town, but college is not for every kid. It just isn’t.

A great technical skill would be something that they could take. Then, that way, they’ve got a job forever. If somebody has a child who doesn’t want to do a four-year college, I would absolutely recommend to look at the technical skills. Service rider, technician. What a great career. As we know, there’s a shortage so you can get a job anywhere.

Jim Fitzpatrick: And a good-paying job.

Lisa Copeland: A good-paying job.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Very common for technicians-

Lisa Copeland: Right, but here’s the problem.

Jim Fitzpatrick: … to be making six figures.

Lisa Copeland: Right, so the technicians can make six figures. The service riders can make six figures. The managers can make six figures, but the men and women that are pushing the iron over the curb are driving Uber at night.

Jim Fitzpatrick: As I pointed out the last time that we met via Skype, the notion that a mini deal in a dealership nowadays, and I’m going to hear from my dealer friends right now,-

Lisa Copeland: It’s coming.

Jim Fitzpatrick: … is a hundred dollars. It was a hundred dollars 30 years ago, okay?

Lisa Copeland: Yeah. It was a hundred when I was a saleswoman-

Jim Fitzpatrick: It was a hundred. Right. So, it’s like-

Lisa Copeland: … 32 years ago.

Jim Fitzpatrick: … here we fast-forward. The level that we’re at right now, where somebody can sell a $65,000 Tahoe and make $100 because they came in with an internet price. The desk manager took the deal. The sales person can’t even deny taking the deal. They don’t have that power. If you ever said, “Nah. I’m only going to make a hundred dollars on the deal. Nah, I don’t want that deal. Sorry.” As a salesperson, you’d be in trouble.

Lisa Copeland: Yeah, because a hundred dollars is better than no dollars, right?

And so yeah. No. I mean, a little bit in fairness to the dealers, the manufacturers have a pretty good program a lot of times where they’re compensating the salespeople, but the problem with that is that then … I mean, what we know about pay plans is that behavior drives compensation, so the factory will put money on cars that they want to sell.

JSo, if you’re in the GM business, “If you sell this today, we’re going to pay you 200 and we’re going to pay you a hundred on this.” Well, that drives behavior of our salespeople.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right.

Lisa Copeland: Well, what if I, the dealer, I’m loaded up on the hundred dollar car? And so now, I’ve got the internet working against me. I’ve got low margins working against me, compressed margins. Now, I’ve got my own factory working against me.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. With your own sales people.

Lisa Copeland: With my own sales people, but if you’re a salesperson and you know you’re probably only going to make a hundred dollar min a year, I mean, come on, you know?

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah.

Lisa Copeland: Pay plans drive behavior.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s exactly right.

Lisa Copeland: I’m going to be out showing the car that I can make $200 on, so it’s a balancing act for sure,-

Jim Fitzpatrick: It is.

Lisa Copeland: … but it’s keeping it top of mind in figuring out a pathway to success where a salesperson can make a living that, I mean, that they can count on every single month.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right, right. If it was Lisa Copeland Auto Group today-

Lisa Copeland: That would be awesome.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Well, I’m sure if you wanted it, you’d have it, knowing you, but if it was Lisa Copeland Auto Group, what in the next year would the sales force be made up of in terms of men and women? What would the percentages be?

Lisa Copeland: 50/50.

Jim Fitzpatrick: 50/50? Done.

Lisa Copeland: I wasn’t always able to accomplish that, but what I worked for it. I was so intentional about hiring women, hiring Millennials, bringing people in that had never seen the business before, but I think the code that I couldn’t crack, that so many dealers can’t crack is how do we compensate them so they can make, especially on a car like I was selling, a very low-margin car, but what I found, even on the high-end luxury cars, those buyers are so educated. So, on an $80,000 car, you’re still going to make a hundred bucks.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I know.

Lisa Copeland: Because that’s a very educated buyer.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I know. I know.

Lisa Copeland: Several of my dealer clients right now, they’re going to it. I’m very mixed about it. “Oh, let me guess. I have to see if it works or not,” but they’re going to a salesperson who also doubles as an F&I person.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Okay. I’ve heard a lot about this. Right.

Lisa Copeland: It’s coming. I don’t really have an opinion on it. I’ve got three major dealer groups I’m working with that are working on it, so we’ll see because, again, that F&I department is so important to the dealer’s profitability. It’s a paperwork importance, right?

Just to keep cash flow going, but their theory is and we’ll see. It may be six months from now I’ll come back, we’ll talk about it, but their theory is that they’re going to be able to hire better quality sales people because they’re going to have the opportunity to learn finance and be able to handle the financing, too, so really a cradle to grave approach.

Lisa Copeland: We’ll see. But, again, I mean, so then, but then that’s going to knock out a whole nother level of management, but that would be a way that a dealer can repurpose some of that money. I’ve got so many friends in F&I, I’m going to get killed on that comment, too, but-

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah. Yeah, but it could be, too, that your friends in F&I realize the change is coming in that area. They say, “Okay. I can wear both hats. Let me sell. Let me be the F&I guy.”

Lisa Copeland: Correct. Now, I mean, in a very high-volume store, I cannot in my wildest dreams see how that could work, but in a store that’s selling a hundred which … These are a couple of my dealer groups. I’m selling between 100 and 150 cars a month, 200 tops. It works. It does work. I mean, my problem with it … It’s not even a problem. I just don’t know. The integrity of the back end of that deal, is the sales person just going to just say, “Oh, just … Okay. No. Forget about it.” and not-

Jim Fitzpatrick: Giving up to close the deal.

Lisa Copeland: … just give it all up. I mean, already made a hundred on the front. Now, I can make a hundred on the back. Now, all of a sudden, you have a dealer that was used to making $2,000 and they’re making $200.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure. I want to talk to you about some other things here and working in a dealership, how do you get rid of self-doubt and other self-limiting habits that people have? You’ve got some self-doubt about being there, they’re down. They’re not up. How do you deal with that? Every sales manager listening says, “Yeah, has half my staff each day. I just don’t know which half,” you know?

Lisa Copeland: Right. I agree. I’ll tell you, I mean, I’ve said this for years and I love it, but selling cars solves all your problems, so when you’re selling cars, the doubt’s not there, but when things get a little bit slow, if inventories get tight, if your cars go on stop sell, all of a sudden, the dealer cut the auto trader budget. I hear that all the time. “Well, the dealer cut the auto trader budget.” I’m like, “You don’t even know that. You’re just … Somebody told you that so now it’s just crapped out your whole day.”

Jim Fitzpatrick: Exactly. It used to be, “We don’t have an ad in today’s paper.” And then that changed.

Lisa Copeland: Yeah, yeah. “We don’t have an ad in the papers. This is what’s going on.” I would tell you and there’s so many … The guys and gals that are out doing it is really to build that self brand where you’re not reliant on the dealer for that to come in.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah. Good point.

Lisa Copeland: I mean, there’s so many guys and gals out there now who have got their Facebook pages and they’re out there and they’re promoting within their community. I had a chance to … I was really honored. Ali Reda is a very good friend of mine. I know you know who Ali is.

Ollie, for those of you who don’t know out there is, he broke the Guinness Book of World Record when it comes to sales. So, Ali and I talked about it. I said, “Ali, you know, what is it that you do? You’re the number one car salesman in the world, 1,581 cars last year.”

Jim Fitzpatrick: Crazy!

Lisa Copeland: I mean, that was more than my whole dealership sold in a year. I’m like, “You are a one-man dealership.”

Jim Fitzpatrick: Exactly. Exactly.

Lisa Copeland: I love the guy. He is such an awesome person. Anyways, he said, “You know, I am in my community. I don’t worry about what the dealer is going to bring in the front door because at the end of the day, I am an entrepreneur. I sit at this desk and the dealer’s providing me a desk, a phone, inventory to sell, and it’s my job to go out and procure the customers.”

Lisa Copeland: I’ve said that for years, so for those of the salespeople that are out there, when it’s a tough day, get on social media. Start connecting with your customers. Make videos with your customers. Follow them on Facebook. Pick up the phone. Call them and ask them for a referral.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. Make it happen.

Lisa Copeland: Make it happen. You are the captain of your ship. You are really the dealer principal of your dealership. That desk is your front door.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s a good way to look at it. yeah. During your days as a Fiat dealer, your team was setting sales records even though they had no automotive experience. Is it better to hire non-automotive experienced people in your estimation?

Lisa Copeland: I think you should have a good mix. I do, because what I found is when I had all rookies, it was just a little bit tougher on the sales managers and myself because we were really having to micromanage every single deal, but I think if you do 50/50 and you hire the right 50% who have a mentor mentality, who really want to root for the new ones coming in the front door, then I think it’s a good mix. The problem is is that the old car people don’t necessarily like to play with the new car people, right?

There is a fear on their part, especially and social media was not as big when I sold three years ago as it is today. The thing that when I work with these dealers, the first thing I talk about or first thing we go and we look at is what is the social media of your salespeople? What are they doing to promote business? The people that have been in the business a long time, 20, 30 years, the fear comes for them is being left behind. They don’t do the social media things. They don’t understand. They just want to stand out there and take it up. They want to work through old customers.

That’s okay until it’s not okay anymore, because dealers are having to cut their advertising budgets because of compressed margins.

Lisa Copeland: So, I think of the Lisa Copeland Auto Group that we’ll put in the universe right now. So, if you’re watching out there, anybody. I would absolutely make it mandatory that they had a social media marketing plan. That would just be a no-brainer. A professional page. What are they doing every day? They do walk arounds? How are they connecting with anybody they’ve ever sold a car to, what are they doing in the community? All of that.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right. We talk a lot about sales training here at CBT News, as you know.

Lisa Copeland: Yes.

Jim Fitzpatrick: What was your plan for sales training with your people when you were running the dealership and as a dealer yourself? Was it daily? Was it weekly? Did a manager do it? Did a team do it?

Lisa Copeland: We all did it. Yeah. We all did it. So much of it was, I was so active that I was out there talking to every one of the customers and my sales managers were, too, especially because we had such a green sales team. So, so much of it was just baptism by fire. Let them hear us.

Lisa Copeland: But the thing that I will tell every dealer out there is that we had a story. We had a story that we were there to revolutionize the auto industry, to show an industry and just to show an industry that women, minorities, and Millennials that we are good and we know what to do. So, we really crafted that story. What, I think, my superpower was at the time was to teach them our story. Then, they would just tell our story to every single human who would listen to it.

Lisa Copeland: I think that, in today’s world, you can’t just hire people just to hire them. They have to be brought in on the mission of who your organization is. Then, they need to be bought in on what they’re selling.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Sure. They have to be brand evangelists. Right.

Lisa Copeland: They do. I mean, I can remember one time, I had a sales person show up in a new Toyota or whatever it was. I’m like,-

Jim Fitzpatrick: Oh, boy! Uh-oh!

Lisa Copeland: … “What are we doing here?” You know what we’re selling? You should probably go work down there.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Exactly.

Lisa Copeland: So, I mean, there is something to that. The most successful people in the world are going to be brand evangelists. You nailed it.

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. So, I know that you’re all over the place, as I follow you on Twitter and Facebook and all the social.

Lisa Copeland: I am.

Jim Fitzpatrick: You’re everywhere, which is great, because I think you’re a great advocate for the industry. Talk to me about what your business is and how you help dealers. For the dealers that are watching right now, why do we bring Lisa Copeland in? She got a lot to share, but why do we bring her into the dealership and what’s going to be the end result for us?

Lisa Copeland: Right. They bring me in for a lot of different reasons. If it’s sales strategy and marketing, that’s my superpower, but we’ve really honed it down with a media partner that we’ve got a partnership with, a very famous one that we are actually drive low-funnel female consumers, both sales and service, into the dealership. We know how to find the defectors and we know how to bring them back in. We know even how to pull them off of other people’s lots.

Lisa Copeland: But, then the second part of that whole thing really is what do we do with her when she gets there, right?

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah. Yeah.

Lisa Copeland: Because women and men both buy differently. So, sometimes I bring in partners to do some of the training because they need to stay forever to teach them how to treat women or sometimes I can go in for a day.

Lisa Copeland: So, ours is really a media digital strategy for these consumers and to be able to pull women consumers who are in-market shoppers both either for sales or for service, pull them out of the bad guy’s or gal’s lots and bring them to the good dealers in town.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Ah! Good point. Good point.

Jim Fitzpatrick: So, for those dealers that are listening, they go, “I hear what she’s saying. I’m all bought in. We need to make a commitment to more females in the industry first and foremost. And then we also need to make a commitment on how to treat on the consumer side, how to treat those female buyers that come into our stores.” What’s happening there because if I have a team of, let’s say a hundred sales people company-wide among all my brands and 80 of them are men, probably 90 of them are men. How are they treating because there’s going to be a disconnect and Lisa’s bringing that to the forefront. Can you actually train these men on how to treat women consumers better?

Lisa Copeland: So, that isn’t really what I do as much, but I got great partners. Jody DeVere, AskPatty, and some of that on the training piece of it. We really are digital snipers. We are digital strategists.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Okay. So, you’re really looking for that female consumer that goes, “I’m looking for a car.” You guys zero in on that and go, “Great. We got the dealership for you.”

Lisa Copeland: Yeah. I mean, we actually study consumer behaviors. I’ve got a whole team in New York, which you and I talked about earlier. So, I’ve got a whole team in New York. So, all day long, I mean, we’re targeting women who have got a propensity to either buy or service a car and we know that. We’re also going out to the competitive dealerships. We’re actually conquesting the competitive dealers of my dealers in that area. We’re grabbing them and bringing them into our stores.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Very nice. Yeah.

Lisa Copeland: Yeah. I mean, we’re really careful about who we do business with because, I mean, we want to do business with dealers that are committed to not just a better experience for women, but a better experience for all consumers, right?

Jim Fitzpatrick: Right.

Lisa Copeland: So, when you delight a female consumer, usually, the guys are great. They’re like, “Okay. If it’s up here for her and my wife is happy, I’m great. I’m good. I’m there.” So, it really is about consumer journey, consumer experience. I’ve got one of the top consumer experience experts. In fact, she lives in Canada who consults with me and writes a lot of the training, but at the end of the day, we can’t make them do it. What we’re hoping is that these dealerships, and we also have a lot of manufacturers we work with, that they understand and that they see the value of a female consumer because a female consumer’s going to tell 150 people about her experience,-

And so why not? Why not bring in the top influencer in the world and make that your focus because women, we influence, depending on the study, 80 to 90% of all purchases.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yeah. That’s right.

Lisa Copeland: Whether it’s cars, health care, education. I mean, we are the boss.

Jim Fitzpatrick: And I’m married so I think that number’s low.

Lisa Copeland: It is low. It is low.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I’m not buying anything-

Lisa Copeland: It is.

Jim Fitzpatrick: … that’s going to cause an argument at the house, right?

Lisa Copeland: Right. Yeah.

Lisa Copeland: Then, the other piece to that is the studies are out and that women are going to control the majority of the wealth in this nation within 10 years. All of you guys are dying off.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Oh, man! We’re in trouble.

Lisa Copeland: You’re in trouble.

Jim Fitzpatrick: You hear that, guys? We’re in trouble.

Lisa Copeland: So, and women, they have the influence and they got the money. What are we doing, dealers?

Jim Fitzpatrick: That’s right. Wake up. Wake up, because the revolution is coming.

Lisa Copeland: Yes. Join the movement.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Lisa Copeland, founder of Cars Her Way, I want to thank you so much for joining us here at CBT. This has been very delightful.

Lisa Copeland: Thank you.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Very insightful and very enlightening, of course, so thank you so much for joining us-

Lisa Copeland: You’re welcome.

Jim Fitzpatrick: … and being here in the studio.

Lisa Copeland: Thank you

Jim Fitzpatrick: I know it’s something that’s out of the way for you. I know that you’re out of Texas and it’s a little bit of a jump here so appreciate it.

Lisa Copeland: Yeah. Well worth it.

Jim Fitzpatrick: Yes. Well, thank you.

Thank you for watching the official news source of the retail automotive industry. This has been a JBF Business Media production.