Paul Cummings: Setting Goals For Each Department of Your Dealership

Setting Goals

The CBT Automotive Network welcomes Paul Cummings, who is President and CEO of Paul Cummings Enterprises. He tells our Jim Fitzpatrick about his new book and how important practice, preparation, and doing the work is for every department in your dealership.

Paul: Jim, I’ve had a blast here today and I’m equally excited to be on your show.

Jim: Great, great. Let’s talk about this incredible book that you’ve got. I’ve some excerpts from it from your staff that sent it over and I want to see the rest of it as soon as it hits. The title really caught me. It All Matters. Talk to us about the title, how it came to be, and then a little bit about what the book is all about and what readers will take away from it.

Paul: Right. Well, Jim, for me those three words have been in the inside left cover of every workbook I’ve shared in the space for the last three and a half decades and probably because my grandfather was talking to me in athletics very young in my life about practice, about preparation, about doing the work, about the fundamentals. He kept saying to me over and over again, “Son, you got to understand. In life, it all matters.” He said, “Especially when you find out what’s important to you.”

Everybody’s all is not the same size. To a schoolteacher impacting kids, it’s one thing. To a mega dealer, it’s another. But until you figure out your all, you can’t define the it part that really matters.

Jim: That’s a good point. That’s right.

Paul: That’s why the title. We wanted to honor that part of our work. What I was trying to do with this book, I think writing a book, it’s a love affair. It really is. It’s one of the most difficult, challenging, and inspiring things you’ll ever do.

Jim: I believe it. Yeah.

Paul: I tried to write every line in this book, every paragraph, every page, every chapter, every toolkit, action plan, and life lesson as if I was actually having a one on one conversation with a person.

Jim: Oh, that’s great. It’s an easy read.

Paul: I actually have people’s names up on the wall so I could think about experiences I’ve had, relationships, dealers I know, people that have had immense success, people I’ve worked with that struggled. As I was writing, I was literally in my mind having that conversation with those people.

Jim: Oh, that’s pretty cool.

Paul: I wanted to write a book that would take people on a journey. It’s a story based book. You would not know this about me, but my first job in sales, I was 18 years old and a friend of mine talked me into going and selling layman Bible libraries, children reading for fun books, and American family cookbooks door to door.

Jim: Great training.

Paul: Door to door for the Southwestern Publishing Company right outside of Franklin, Tennessee.

Jim: Okay.

Paul: Didn’t even know where I was going. Had to sell my parents on it. They sent me to Barboursville, West Virginia. It’s a great story. I went through five days of sales training. Absolutely changed my life.


Paul: You think about, you’re 18 years old and you’re sitting in a room and you find out something like that your mindset really does matter, and the information you feed your mind matters, and that there’s something out there called goals and that there’s a formula for goal setting and that goals matter. Then you get taught formalized sales training and you learn scripts, which as an 18 year old, a lot of people didn’t take that serious that summer, but I didn’t want to fail.

Jim: Yeah.

Paul: We knocked on our first door 7:55 in the morning, our last door 9:55 at night.

Jim: Wow, that’s a full day.

Paul: 80 doors a day, Monday through Saturday. Then we had a sales meeting on Sunday afternoon at a state park.

Jim: Wow.

Paul: My parents loved me so much, they gave me $200 for the entire summer. It was the whole routine, if you don’t sell, you don’t eat. But I had a goal. I wanted to buy a car. My family didn’t have a lot of money. That summer, I grew up. That summer, I found out I had a gift for selling. I made a boatload of money, $4000 for the summer after expenses, which was a lot of money in 1975.

Jim: A lot of money. Sure.

Paul: Came home, bought me Cutlass Supreme. I still remember that car, burgundy in color.

Jim: Sure.

Paul: And had a little money to start my college education.

Jim: Great.

Paul:This book, if there’s any dealer watching, sales manager watching, here’s what I can tell you, that anybody on your team, I don’t care if they’re service cashier, service writer, sales person, GSM, this book is 40 years of my life. It’s my work. It’s the most comprehensive book ever written on goal setting.

Jim: Wow.

Paul: I think it will help any individual develop immense confidence, tremendous levels of clarity, absolute certainty about their career path, and be able to operate with a lot of creativity as well.

Jim: Yeah. For sure. It sounds like it. As I said when I read the first excerpts of it, it drew me in. I’m like, “I can’t wait to get the rest of it.”

Paul: Well, thanks. I appreciate it.

Jim: It was a job well done just based on what I’ve read so far. You’ve been in the business coaching dealers and dealerships staff now for, as you mentioned, 35 years.

Paul: Yeah.

Jim: The industry has changed so much, right? Just in the last 10 or 15 years.

Paul: Dramatic.

Jim: Yeah. You’ve seen all the changes out there. What’s changed in the area of training? Because for the dealers that are watching, how much should we do? Do we need it as much as we did in the past with so many people online now and knowing what they want to buy? What’s the level of relevance of training and then who should do it in the dealership, how often should it be done? We could spend hours on this.

Paul: Okay. You just asked me a large, large comprehensive question.

Jim: I know, I know.

Paul:  Let me see if I can break it down for you.

Jim: Sure.

Paul: Education, in my opinion, not because I’m in the training business because if you met our staff, we spend as much time educating ourself as we do educating others.

Jim: Right.

Paul: Here’s why. Education is the only gift I know that returns to you on your investment, rewards for the rest of your life.

Jim: Right.

Paul: Right. I learned something my first year selling cars from an experienced salesperson that I use every day of my sales career for four decades.

Jim: Isn’t that something?

Paul: Right. You go to a seminar, you spend a little bit of money. In the old days, our cars were university on wheels, filled with cassette tapes. That’s how old I am.

Jim: Right.

Paul: But here’s what I’ll say to any dealer. People used to ask me all the time, “Do I need to train every day?” Here’s the answer. Yes. But you can change your dealership, Jim, in 20 minutes a day. It doesn’t have to be two hours. 20 minutes of the right type of practice, the right type of drilling, and the right type of rehearsing, can literally stop your turnover. It can take your 10 car guys to 15, your 15 to 20, your 20 to 30. But you got to do it every day. People say, “Well, can I just do it three days a week?” Here’s my answer. Do it on the days you want to win.

Jim: Good point. Just do it on those days.

Paul: Just do it on the days you want to win.

Jim: Right.

Paul: Listen. Let’s not be naïve about it. Dealers come to work every day. Their managers come to work every day with the best of intention.

For more with Paul Cummings, watch the full interview above.