Auto dealers, you don’t need anyone to remind you how much the industry is changing. The question is whether you will thrive amid change. How well you adapt to change depends on whether you adopt a growth mindset. That was the key message of the Women in Automotive conference keynote address delivered by Chief People Officer Cynthia Hiskes on December 10.

The Growth Mindset

As Cynthia explained, the growth mindset is a concept first championed by Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. In essence:

  • People with a growth mindset view challenges as opportunities to grow. They accept change.
  • On the other hand, people with a fixed mindset believe their basic attributes are set in stone, which contributes to their wanting to reinforce the skills and knowledge they possess already rather than embrace learning. They resist change.

“Which one of those mindsets do you want to have when you’re facing change?” Cynthia asked. “If you are operating from a fixed mindset, you think you need to prove that you already know everything – but then you need to deal with something you have not experienced before. I don’t know about you, but that prospect is frightening to me.”

On the other hand, auto dealers who adopt a growth mindset are focused on becoming rather than being. “Becoming is better than being” she said. “Becoming has a whole different feel to it. Becoming is evolution. You are getting better. You are changing and adapting and evolving. Being is standing still. And we all know in our industry that standing still is not an option.”

The Growth Mindset in Action

She provided three examples of companies and people who have demonstrated a growth mindset:

  • LEGO. in 1993, LEGO, the creator of the popular plastic toy blocks, suffered a slump and lost its differentiation. LEGO could have poured all its advertising into making better plastic blocks. Instead LEGO took a hard look at what its customers wanted. The company realized that its customers desired something more than toys – they wanted an experience. So LEGO repositioned itself as an experience that encompasses LEGOLand stores, theme parks, and movies. As Cynthia said, “LEGO didn’t let who they were stand in the way of who they needed to become.” The key to this evolution? A willingness to learn from customers.
  • Katie Bowman Coleman, Bowman Chevrolet. Katie Bowman Coleman is dealer/owner of Bowman Chevrolet, Bowman Isuzu of Clarkston, and Bowman Auto Center. Bowman Chevrolet is one of the fastest growing dealerships in Michigan, achieving double-digit sales growth every year since 2011. In addition, Bowman Chevrolet is one of only 7.8 percent of automotive dealerships where women hold key positions, according to the NADA’s 2016 Dealership Workforce Study. One of the reasons she has succeeded is being willing to listen to what her customers want and then adapting. For instance, she realized that customers wanted a better experience at the dealership, and so Katie ensured that her dealerships began to offer amenities such as fresh popcorn, cookies, a cappuccino machine, and WiFi. Here again, a willingness to learn is crucial – and a sign of having a growth mindset. As Katie told Cynthia in a interview for our blog, “Don’t be afraid to take on new challenges and responsibilities. Read trade journals, go to seminars, and look for opportunities to network and learn. There is no job that a woman cannot do in this industry. You have to want it and go after it.”
  • Patrice Banks, Girls Auto Clinic. Patrice Banks is the founder of Girls Auto Clinic, which offers automotive buying and repair resources, products, and services to women. She launched the company after experiencing frustration with auto repair facilities that condescended to her because she is a woman. Feeling like she wasn’t getting straight information from auto repair technicians, she decided to learn how to fix her own car. Since she had zero mechanical experience, the challenge of becoming fluent in auto repair could have been a daunting one. But she was eager to learn, which was key to freeing her from a persistently negative experience. Only a growth mindset could have made her journey possible.

A Challenge to the Industry

Cynthia then challenged the audience to adopt a growth mindset by shifting their focus from leads to people and – ultimately – creating better customer experiences.

“I think leads might be a commodity,” she said. “Maybe getting more leads isn’t necessarily what’s going to work. Maybe we need to create an experience for customers coming into our dealerships. What if we think about how we can create connections and experiences for customers to cause them to have a different experience when they visit? People don’t want just product; they want experiences. It’s not just about the sale. It’s how you make people feel. It’s about the trust that you are building.”

So, how does a dealership learn to make this transition from leads to connections and experiences? One way is to read reviews of the dealership and salespeople. As we’ve discussed on our blog, customer reviews are the new currency of automotive. To continuously improve – to thrive amid change – dealerships need to embrace an entire system of soliciting and learning from customer reviews. After all, learning from customers characterizes many examples of successfully applying the growth mindset.

“Reviews are a way to make connections with people and build trust,” Cynthia said. “If you have a growth mindset, when you look at a review, you say, ‘What’s that customer telling me? What am I learning from that piece of information?’”

Cynthia urged everyone at the event to start embracing a new mindset of customer experience now. “We can do this,” she said. “We can change the way the industry reacts. How do we embrace change instead of bracing ourselves for change?”

How are you embracing the growth mindset?