“People are my product. I have a passion for people, particular understanding how they think.” This is the business philosophy of William Skinner, who has been through the ranks in the retail motor industry and is now a Senior Consulting Associate of Sewells MSX International in South Africa.
Brian Joss – Skinner’s speciality is the application of the Business Development Model (BDM) which he developed before joining Sewells SA in 2008. BDM is a programme for retail motor dealers, which involves detailed financial planning and then the continual evaluation of the plan against actuals as well as the development of remedial action where necessary.
“The Sewells BDM is an answer to the retail motor industry’s need for disciplined planning while developing an understanding among members of senior dealership management of the financial implications of business planning without being a high powered and qualified accountant,” explained Skinner.
“The driver for coming up with BDM was the lack of quality managers in many dealerships and the resulting lack of planning discipline in the various departments, which is often poor. Effective use of the BDM shows the dealer principal or dealership owner how to get behind the thinking of his or her departmental heads so that assistance can be forthcoming before any real damage has been done,” added the experienced Sewells Associate.
BDM guides dealer management through the planning process by making sure all costs are considered in a practical manner so that nobody in the team can claim ignorance anymore; it can be used to identify problem areas in any size dealership. The BDM creates a variance report which managers then need to investigate and provide feedback, which permits the next month’s planning to be amended if and where necessary.
The planning is measured against actuals on a monthly basis to assess the accuracy of the planning and to develop actions to improve revenue and reduce costs where necessary. Planning and the results that follow are also evaluated continually against industry benchmarks.
Skinner says that an important feature of Sewells MSXI’s BDM is that probing “what if” scenarios can be factored in before important decisions – such as major capital expenditure projects – are made and implemented.
BDM has another important benefit and that is its ability to act as an important training and coaching tool. It enables all involved managers to be coached effectively by a highly trained Sewells consultant with extensive motor industry experience and then to be held accountable to come up with deliverables according to plan.
The Business Development model is offered by Sewells for a monthly fee of R15 000 with the dealership having direct access to a qualified consultant to put the team through the process in a proactive manner. This hands-on assistance should ideally last for 12 months to entrench the system in the dealership team.
Skinner has come up with five business principles which he believes are critical in today’s economic environment. They are: Is it easy to do business with us and for us? Have we cut out all duplication in business processes and responsibilities? Are we effective first and then efficient? Have we identified potential and created a culture of learning, thereby evolving new ways of doing business?
There is a need to double the output of each individual in a team every four years.
The Sewells consulting associate then goes on to once again stress the importance of having the best people – disciplined, trained and informed – to make a success of a business. He says they need to be supported by effective communication and solid business planning so that they understand the importance of decision making and the potential consequences.
William Skinner obtained an honours degree in finance before starting his career in the retail motor business in 1987 when he joined John Williams Motors in Bloemfontein as a financial manager.
He later moved to the group head office and then went to John Williams Motors in Welkom before joining the Barloworld head office in Johannesburg where he gained experience in the Barmot Services fleet financing department. Skinner then spent time in various roles at Sandton Toyota, Supra Toyota in Witbank and Barons Volkswagen Bruma before becoming a franchise director at Barloworld head office.
He left the corporate world in 2006 and spent two years at an independent dealer before joining Sewells, through whom he says he had previously gained valuable experience when serving as a member of one of the first Sewells Performance Groups.
Over the past eight years, working as a senior consulting associate with Sewells, I have been able to build substantially on my knowledge of people and the way they think, which is enabling me to fine tune the business development model to the mutual benefit of Sewells and all the dealers and people involved in this programme.”