This article originally appeared on Digital Dealer here.
By Susan Moll and Matt Hurst
Can you hear the pencils sharpening, expo markers squeaking, and fresh new backpacks zipping? While it’s back-to-school season across the nation, at the dealership, September is also a great time to start anew by giving your strategy a refresh, beginning with your approach to month-end processes.
Whether you sell 10 or 100 cars per month, you should always take a step back to grade your month-end approach to ensure you’re setting yourself up for success. Are you maximizing efficiency, or do you feel like every month is a scramble to close out? Is your DMS provider helping to ease the process and streamline the workflow for you, or are they making it more difficult? What’s working well and what’s holding you back? Are you accounting for all of your sales and expenses?
It’s a lot to consider, which is why we recently connected with Karli DeVall, CFO of Tim Dahle & Red Rock Auto Groups and former automotive accounting consultant, to help put together some of the must-dos to make sure you ace your next “month-end report card.”
Create a Checklist
For Karli, who has worked with dealerships of all different shapes and sizes, the number one must-do heading into month-end closing is to create a checklist. Your checklist should outline the tasks that need to get accomplished on each of the four key days associated with month-end closing (usually the first four days of the following month). If you already have a checklist ready to go, make sure it’s up-to-date and covers all bases. Staying organized throughout the month-end process is essential to maintaining accuracy and efficiency, not to mention ensuring you have all the necessary information to effectively calculate KPIs.
So, how should you break out your checklist and what are the must-dos for each day?
Day 1 Must-Do: Count Your Physical Assets.
From new and used vehicles to service and parts, every department should use Day 1 of the month-end process to take inventory of their physical assets. Over the following three to five days, your accounting team will take this information and reconcile it against the books, so the sooner you get this data into the system the better.
Day 2 Must-Do: Count the Sales.
Day 2 is for reconciling and counting all the sales for the month. To do this successfully, it’s important to first ensure all sales are completed and verify that none of your assets are missing or out of place.
Day 3 Must-Do: Do an Expense Trend Analysis.
On Day 3, make sure all expenses are in and then conduct a trend analysis to see if you are missing anything. For example, did rent post on the first and 31st of the month or is there a particular utility that has been trending high over the last few months? Doing an expense trend analysis will help you get to the bottom of these questions. Ultimately, you want to make sure your dealership survives and thrives every single month, and getting those expenses submitted is a crucial piece of this.
Day 4 Must-Do: Add Statistical/Memo Postings to the Financial Statement.
Use Day 4 to confirm all your managers’ commissions are properly accounted for. Once payroll has been completed, take the time to ensure your statistical/memo postings are added to your financial statement. This step is vital bbut often skipped by controllers. While Karli notes that the majority of a financial statement is often pulled right from the books, the rest is usually a compilation of little statistical/memo postings that give you a more detailed look into your business and how you’re stacking up against your KPIs. Without these postings, you don’t have the insight needed to measure KPIs. Period.
The role of a dealership controller is critical. You’re responsible for the financial condition of the dealership and you know all the ins and outs of the business. But when it comes to month-end, chaos can quickly break out across departments. While modern, open technology has made the process easier, it still takes all hands-on deck and a structured plan of attack to close out the books properly and on time.
Look to your new checklist and DMS provider to help guide you through the smoke. You want to end each month seamlessly, so take advantage of your DMS provider’s various resources, from training sessions and webinars to peer-to-peer learning exchanges. With the right provider and approach on your side, you’ll take a lot of that weight from the month-end process off your shoulders.
Stay tuned for more as this is part II in a monthly series of must-dos to keep your dealership running efficiently all year long.
About the Authors
Susan Moll is Senior Director of DMS Field Services for Cox Automotive and Matt Hurst is Senior Director of Tech Client Support for Dealertrack DMS.