‘We have to let you go. Clean out your desk and hand in your keys’.

There isn’t a manager on the planet that has not dreaded having to say those words to an employee. F&I Directors are no exception. Firing an F&I manager can be a particularly tough issue. Their position is unique within the dealership and being down just one during a busy time can cause problems if your store is not prepared.

Keep in mind that each situation is unique to the manager and the store. Some are let go for lack of production, some have to go because of bad CSI, and still others are fired for unethical practices. Sad but true that it still happens today, even in a more heavily regulated and ‘watched’ environment, but it does.

So, how do you know when it’s time to part company with one of your F&I managers? What are the signs that let you know that a change is needed? What processes can you put in place to make sure you are prepared with another hire to move into place?

Red Flags You Can’t Ignore…

Teamwork – If your F&I manager is struggling to get along with the sales team or the sales managers, that can be a real problem. Teamwork and synergy between the two departments is critical in getting deals from the floor to the business office in a fluid and easy manner. If your sales staff doesn’t trust or even like the F&I manager for any reason, that will be a difficult hand-off.

Watch for body language cues that could show a tension between the manager and other staff. Pay attention to their attitude in staff meetings. Little changes in behavior can lead to big problems if you are not paying attention.

They don’t have to be BFF’s, but they have to be able to get along and communicate effectively to make sure the customers don’t pick up on any animosity.

Sleazy Tactics – It’s crazy to even have to address this but every few weeks or so there are headlines in the trades talking about something shady a dealer was doing in the finance office that was resulted in legal action against the dealership. It’s should always be a one-way ticket off the lot, period.
F&I manager
Consider doing a weekly audit of all deals for each manager. Have a checklist of what to look for such as proper signatures, forms filled out correctly, and all monies accounted for. The sleazy F&I managers that still operate in the industry are not always the most careful and when they are caught, they lean on the old ‘I’m making a lot of money for the store…what’s the big deal?’. It is ALWAYS a big deal now and this person can cost your store a lot of money and a big hit to your reputation in the community.

And watch for a high number of chargebacks…crazy HUGE red flag that buyers could be being lied to.

Low CSI – This can be a tough call. So much can go into a bad score. Maybe the buyer was having a bad day or just did not like the process in F&I no matter how much the manager tried to make it easier. It’s very subjective but with the incentives that often come with these ratings from the OEM, you can’t ignore it either.

Work with the F&I manager to find out what may be happening. Maybe it can be easily fixed but if it really is an issue with how they are with buyers, that is a big problem. It’s so important for your manager to be able to make a connection with the buyer. It should be an easy and amiable interaction and if it’s not, every deal will be affected.

Low PVR – And this is where the buck stops. F&I is all about profit. If your F&I manager is not making the money they need to per deal, they either have to be trained up quickly or they need to go. Offer extra training either internally or through your F&I platform provider. If the numbers don’t improve, they could simply lack the sales ability that is needed.

Not everyone is cut out for the F&I office. It takes a high degree of talent, knowledge, and intuition to be able to sell a buyer products and services that they always assume they don’t need. If your manager is not ready for that challenge, no matter how eager they are or how good they may have looked in a hiring interview, it will show quickly in their numbers and penetration percentages.

Having a Back-Up Plan

No one likes to think about having to replace an F&I manager but it’s smart to have some kind of procedure in place if it happens. Being down a manager during busy times can stress the remaining staff. Know who you can bring in, even if it’s temporary, to handle deals in the event of a termination.

Maybe one of your Sales managers or someone in the back office has worked in F&I before and can fill in. But move quickly either through online ads or internal referrals.

Who knows? You may have a salesperson ready to make the jump to F&I and they were just waiting for an opening. Sometimes your existing staff can be the best place to start looking for someone hungry to learn and grateful for a chance to move up in the store.

No matter what the problem is, don’t wait. F&I is too important to dealership profits to keep any staff onboard that could jeopardize it. 

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Kristine Cain is a freelance writer who loves the car business, hiking long trails, and the Steelers (not necessarily in that order). After finishing a degree in psychology at George Mason University in Virginia, she got her first taste of the dealer world working in the service department of a high volume Honda store. Warned early on that the car business would ‘get in her blood’, it did and Kristine made the leap into F&I departments at several stores around the Washington DC area and later to an automotive information company in dealer sales. A veteran of over 20 years in B2B sales to dealers, she leverages that knowledge to help write within the dealer market. Kristine lives in Holly Springs, NC with her husband and family.

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