I admit, I was wrong.
For many years, I eschewed the use of a hooded sweatshirt, a.k.a. a “hoodie.” For one, when I drive, it gets caught behind my neck and gets smashed against the seat, and I had to find a way to adjust it, so it wasn’t uncomfortably strangling my neck with the tension of an ugly necktie, right?
Recently however, I have become a convert, now seeing the full virtues of the hoodie. It’s brilliant and I just missed it for years. First, it keeps your neck warm. Second, it provides a portable hat which follows you wherever you go. (How cool is that?) Third, you have a pocket in the front which can be either a hand warmer or a key carrier or both simultaneously. It’s elegant.
Similarly, it’s time to warm to the concept of corporate governance. If you don’t have a strategy for covering your dealership, similar to the strategy of a hoodie that will cover you wherever you go, you risk being caught out in the cold unprepared. In the winter. With no coat, no gloves, no hand warmers – nothing!
We must all comply with the rules and regulations from federal and state laws. Yes, it’s like having an uncomfortable hoodie behind your neck while you are driving. I get it and I agree. Embracing the awkwardness in the short run will lead to peace of mind and relief in the long run. You must be vigilant. Specifically:
Are you training your employees on compliance matters at least monthly, or preferably twice monthly? Are the employees signing a Training Acknowledgement each time to document your efforts to stay compliant? If you don’t have time, or answered “no” to these items, then consider outsourcing this important element of your corporate governance.
Consider the Employee Handbook/Guidebook. Is it up to date? If a regulator reviewed it today, would it lead to more questions and concerns or would they see you are making a good faith effort to comply?
Do you have a full amnesty policy where employees are free to bring concerns to your attention for thorough investigation in accordance with your Compliance Program?
Did you know that Section 8 2. of the United States Sentencing Commission considers compliance activity when judges determine sentencing and the length of jail time? You must “(1) exercise due diligence to prevent and detect criminal conduct; and (2) otherwise promote an organizational culture that encourages ethical conduct and a commitment to compliance with the law.”
By your policy of corporate governance, you need to know if there is any activity which is wasteful, fraudulent, discriminatory, or otherwise harmful to consumer safety. You should address any issue directly and specifically. Here are some prohibited practices to be avoided:
- Payment packing
- Falsifying information or signatures
- Intentionally or unintentionally deceptive
- Disclosure of (safeguarded) personal information
- Kickbacks/bribes – receiving them or offering them
- Harassment of any kind or nature
- Money laundering
- Back-dating documents
- Odometer fraud
- Transactions involving wrecked vehicles without proper disclosures
- Any indication or suspicion of a “washed” title
Engaging in these practices may lead to civil penalties and in some cases, criminal charges and jail time.
Be “buttoned up” and warm. Train your employees. Make sure you cover a different compliance topic at least 12 times a year. Otherwise, it may appear you have a flippant attitude toward compliance.
Hoodies are soft, warm, and loose-fitting. You will feel comfortable wearing them.
Knowing you have the solid policies and procedures in place, training your employees frequently, and performing your compliance activities in a pro-active way should provide versatility, comfort, and warmth … just like your favorite hoodie.
Tom Kline, a former dealership owner with 30 years of experience, specializes in solving dealership problems through risk mitigation remedies, compliance and dealership dispute desolution. Tom is lead consultant and founder of Better Vantage Point and has worked with publicly held and private dealerships. Kline is an Endorsed Expert for the RVDA, VIADA, CIADA, and Dealership Marketing Magazine.