Success, relevance, survival. The pandemic has changed everything about management in today’s business world. For the automotive industry and similar businesses that rely on in-person sales, you’re going to need new tools if you’re going to succeed. Fortunately, Tim Kintz is sharing his.
In his new book, Fearless, Tim shows you how to be a dynamic leader and become unbreakable. He wants you to learn how to innovate throughout challenges, soar above the competition and keep your team one step ahead in certain and uncertain times. This follow-up to his Amazon bestseller, Frictionless is a resource for learning how to manage with facts, not feelings, ensuring that profit and success are always the end result.
Whether you’re a new leader or a seasoned professional, this book will be your constant companion for navigating the world of management today.
Drew Appelbaum: Hey listeners, my name is Drew Appelbaum. I’m excited to be here today with Tim Kintz, author of Fearless: Leading and Managing Unbreakable Teams. Tim, thank you for joining, welcome to The Author Hour Podcast.
Tim Kintz: Thanks for having me, it’s great to be back.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, we know you’re a professional here on the podcast but can you kick this off by reminding us a bit about your professional background?
Tim Kintz: I’ve had the Kintz Group for about seven years now, but prior to that, I spent 13 years training and about 11 years in car dealerships, everything from washing them all the way through to being a general manager of a dealer group.
It was the only real job I ever had. I don’t know if you even call being in the car business a real job but that’s my background. I got into it accidentally, we always say it’s like Denny’s. You never plan on getting in the car business, you just end up there at two in the morning like Denny’s or IHOP. It’s the same principle.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, this is your second book. Why did you feel the need to publish again?
Tim Kintz: The first book, Frictionless, was the first book that I put out because I understood the need that salespeople had to learn how to close and negotiate more effectively because there is very little good training out there. I realized the impact I could make immediately by helping salespeople and managers be better at closing and negotiating.
But then, the pandemic hit and I, like so many other people, spent hours on Zoom calls and helping managers and dealers figure out, “How do we get through this, how do we lead our teams through this?”
I realized, this book that I’ve been wanting to write for so long, this manager’s tactical guide, this daily, basically bible, on what I need to do every day and how to lead a team and a business, it was time and I put that together during the pandemic because the need was so great and in our face.
Drew Appelbaum: Now is the time to write the book because you recognized that need that was happening in all of these dealerships and you knew you had the answer, so to say, in your head?
Tim Kintz: Absolutely. And it wasn’t even just in my head that we needed to do it, it was the conversations I was having daily with managers and dealerships on everything from, “We have no salespeople because they can’t come to work because we’re shut down, and it’s only us as managers running this place,” to, “We need to learn how to build a digital retailing process and/or department.”
I had to deal with it every day to help these guys through it. It’s amazing when you embrace the challenge when you attack these processes fearlessly and realize, “Man, this is what the end result is going to look like, and let’s kick ass and make it happen.” It’s amazing the change in evolution that can happen.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, how is this book different than other leadership books?
Tim Kintz: I think there’s a lot of great leadership books out there, written by really smart people. I’ll be the first one to say that I may not be a really smart person when it comes to book sense. I went to college for four years and don’t have enough credits to get a two-year degree. I’m not proud of that, I did stay eligible to play baseball for four years, that was my goal.
I had real-world training. School gives you knowledge so you can be good at taking tests. Life gives you tests so you can gain knowledge. I think the knowledge is what I’ve learned over my 23 plus years training in the car business.
It’s a day-to-day tactical book. I always say leadership’s overrated and everybody looks at me like I’m crazy. I don’t really mean leadership’s overrated, but the word is overused. Because there are so many really good books out there that are, you know, a dozen rules to effective leadership and man, those are great.
But how do I actually pull it off every single day? Okay, when I come in, I understand character and vision and all these things are important, but when I walk in and I’ve got 50 emails I have to respond to immediately, I have two heat-case customers that are standing there that want to talk to me, I have to order cars, I have to work car deals and sell cars, I have two salespeople that called in sick, I got one there and they’re hungover and I’m supposed to focus on 21 irrefutable laws of a leader–that’s the difference between mine and theirs, this is a tactical guide that they can follow to get through the day.
Because everything isn’t perfect. Mike Tyson said, “Everybody’s got a plan till they get punched in the face.”
Drew Appelbaum: Right.
Tim Kintz: You’re going to get punched in the face as a leader.
Drew Appelbaum: You have all of this experience in your head, you know the book you want to write, but while you were writing it, did you come across any learnings or major breakthroughs?
Tim Kintz: Yeah, I think especially as we get into the coaching and the one-on-one’s, you know, that’s always a big resistance point from managers. They’ll give me a million excuses on why we shouldn’t sit down with our salespeople and do one-on-one’s every day. That’s fine.
But the reality is, most of us were never trained how to do an effective one-on-one. One-on-one’s and sitting down with your people every day can be awkward if you do not have a plan, if you do not know what to talk about every day, if we’re not making it about them, their vision, their goals, about their statistics and their probabilities, if we’re not helping them every day.
When you get done doing one-on-one’s with people and sitting down with your people, the question is, are they better at the end of that five or 10 or 20-minute one-on-one than they were at the beginning?
If you can’t say yes, then you just wasted five or 10 or 15, 20 minutes of their life. As you work through the book, making sure that it’s a step-by-step on how to do it and what to do, versus, just saying, “You should have a meeting with your people every day.” Yeah, well, too many other books “should” all over their people, this is the how-to, this will give them a step-by-step on getting the most out of their team.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, this is the how-to for who? Who is this book for, is it for owners, managers, and GM’s, or can sales staff get something out of this book as well? Is this, would you say, only applicable to the auto industry or could any sort of sales org pick up and get tips and tricks from this book as well?
Tim Kintz: As far as who’s it’s for, all of the above. Anybody that wants to be a leader and being a leader isn’t necessarily the title. You could be a salesperson and that’s lateral leadership, right? Locker room leadership. There are lessons for every position, it’s obviously anybody that’s in a management position, that is managing, leading, coaching a team that are either salespeople or they have targets–medical supply companies, medical device companies, insurance companies, pharmaceutical sales, insurance sales, investment sales, car sales, RV sales.
If your people have targets and if they have goals, if they’re selling anything, you need this book because it is, as you guys already know, it’s like herding cats when you’re dealing with salespeople. Because the highs are higher with the salesperson. When things are going good, man, they’re rocking, having fun.
Problem is, the lows are lower and when things aren’t going good, man, that’s when they need that pickup and that’s the hardest time when things are not going well. Anybody that’s managing people, that have agendas or have targets to hit, this book is for them.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, I love the story early on in the book where you really learned about people and building a team and it was the experience you had, as you mentioned before, in college baseball. Can you talk about that experience and how it got you started thinking about effective teams?
Tim Kintz: I think when you’re 18, 19, 20 years old, you don’t really know the lessons you’re learning until years later. I always say, “The older you get, the smarter your parents were.” Well, it’s the same thing with the lessons I learned. I was blessed to be able to play baseball in college and play out in Arizona and that story in the book, it was my first team out there.
We had Kak and Coveny and they couldn’t have been more different as far as their methods. One was a coach, one was progressive, and man, he cared about us, to the point that I talk to him regularly to this day, 30 plus years later. The other one, man, he was a boss, he wanted to win. They both love the game, they both love baseball, they both knew baseball, but they didn’t know how to get the most out of their players.
I think that happens in the dealerships that sometimes we manage our department, we want to win but we forget that if you want your department to succeed, you gotta stop managing the department and start managing the people within the department.
It’s really the same lesson that I learned out in Arizona and Kak, he knew how to get the most out of each one of the players. He knew what made each one of us tick, he knew what motivated each one, and he used that in a good way. Sometimes, he had to rattle our cage every now and then and get serious, and sometimes, you know, he knew when to pat us on the back.
I think the big lesson I learned though was how to bounce back from failure. I remember Kak telling us that he didn’t care how we handled success, he said anybody can handle success. Everybody loves scoring touchdowns, that’s easy. He said he cared about how you bounce back from failure. You go 12 for 20, you’re hitting 600, you’re King Kong, you’re a hero. What about when you go 0 for 20, how do you handle it then? That’s true success.
That doesn’t happen because, “The player has great character, the player is a unicorn.” That happens because that player’s got a great coach that can lead and mentor him and he was so good at picking you up when you were down and helping you get going again.
I remember he always said, “It takes a hundred swings to get into a slump as a hitter and it takes a thousand good swings to get out of a slump.” A hundred bad swings and all of a sudden, you’re in the slump and nothing goes right. So you’re going to have to do a thousand good swings to get out of that slump. But without having a great coach and mentor to walk you through that and let you see what you need to get better at, then you’ll never hit your potential as a player or as a salesperson.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, when you’re building a team, you obviously have to bring people onto the team, so I’d love to talk about hiring for a moment. Is there a difference between hiring and training for a sales position and team, versus other industries?
Tim Kintz: Yeah, the person and the personality is definitely different. It’s obviously more of a retail versus a detail position when you’re in sales. I think as managers we have to be careful because so often, we’ll hire somebody because we need to fill that position.
We end up selecting them in the interview instead of rejecting them. We’re looking at all the reasons why we need a warm body instead of, “Is this the right person?” It’s, “Are you better off being short-staffed or wrong-staffed?” You know, it’s funny, whenever I ask managers that question, it’s always, “I’m better off being short-staffed.”
Yeah, you say that until Saturday when you have 20 customers and eight salespeople. Then on Monday, you hire warm bodies that can fog the mirror. You ask him first thing, “When can you start?”
When you’re hiring, this isn’t just punching the clock, I think the number one question I want to know, other than the obvious–their background checks, all of that–I’m going to ask them, “When was the last time you were in a competitive situation? Tell me the last time you had to compete for something?”
When I’m looking for a salesperson, I want them to be competitive. There’s a scoreboard for a reason because you’re supposed to win. If they can’t tell me the last time they were in a competitive situation, chances are, they’re living in a world of complacency versus the world of competition. I don’t need that for a salesperson.
Drew Appelbaum: Continuing on with hiring, what is with hiring managers today, what’s the issue? Is it hiring because of tenure, is that a problem or is it hiring because the highest seller, you think you need to promote them, and is that a problem? Talk about hiring and bringing in management?
Tim Kintz: Well, I think that’s kind of a double-edged gem and there are two problems, right? I think going through the pandemic, we had attrition, we had people fall off, we lost some good people. Hell, we lost some good people in 2008 when we had the recession.
We lost a lot of good people. Good managers, good leaders. Then, we had some people get promoted because they were good salespeople but that didn’t necessarily mean they were good managers. I think sometimes we think because you’re a good player, you’re going to be a good manager? Okay, that doesn’t always happen.
We’re kind of repeating that at the pandemic, that if you stick around, and it’s like Survivor, outwit, outlast, outplay, and don’t get voted off the island. Well, that’s kind of how it is so often in the dealerships.
If you outwit, outplay, outlast, don’t get voted off, eventually, you’ll be a manager. Well, just because you’re a great player, doesn’t mean you’re a great manager. There are very few great players that made great managers in sports. There were a lot of them that tried it, the Magic Johnson’s, Michael Jordan’s, Gretzky, you know, it didn’t work out for most of the great players.
Well, there were some good ones that made good coaches and good managers but just because you’re a great player doesn’t mean you’re going to be a great manager, and if you’re selling me 25 cars a month, why the hell do I want to take a 25-car-sales person off the floor?
Who am I going to replace them with? Three eight-car-salespeople? Sometimes it’s because we don’t make sales the best job in the dealership and it is perceived that manager is and it’s not. If you are a high achieving salesperson, I don’t want another job. It’s creating, cultivating, I may promote somebody, but it needs to be the right person.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, a lot of your book is about building internal motivation. Can you define that for us?
Tim Kintz: Internal motivation is something that you create. It’s their purpose, right? It’s that burning desire, it’s when they put their feet on the floor every morning, what’s their purpose? You know, Rick Warren wrote the great book Purpose Driven Life, it’s kind of purpose-driven career. What’s the purpose of everybody? Because success is a choice, survival is our instinct. When you wake up every morning, you don’t wake up instinctually saying, “I am going to be successful.”
We wake up, survival. “I need to eat, drink, go to the bathroom,” that’s survival. We have to consciously make that choice to succeed and as managers, we have to create that internal motivation in our people and help them have their long-term vision. What do they want to achieve in one year, three years, five years? What does their life look like in the perfect world if they could paint it? It’s not easy to do but the other option is just letting people exist.
I mean, look around you. It’s amazing when you look around at how many people are just existing versus actually succeeding. Go to a class reunion and look around and think, “Wow, I mean that guy had so many dreams. Look at them now.” And I think so often we spend our first 18 to 20 years of our lives dreaming big, man we were shooting for the stars, and worst-case scenario we’re hitting the moon. And all of a sudden, we get out of high school or out of college, and then we just start surviving.
We wake up at 6:00 in the morning and it’s time to make the donuts and then we come home at six at night, drink a six-pack of beer, watch Jerry Springer. Pretty soon some of us are on Jerry Springer and we spend the next 60 years of our life existing. It’s insane how many people, dream and succeed and they want, they have such big hopes in their first 20 years and the next 60 years, existing. Man, you’ve got to break that and with salespeople, we have to help them have that passion.
We have to give them that drive and if they were going to do it, they’d have already done it. That is my job as a manager and as a leader and it is sitting down with them and getting to know your people. It’s not just about managing tasks, you’re managing people.
Drew Appelbaum: Now you say to really become a great manager, a great general manager, you do need that internal motivation, sure, but as you mentioned, you need to be a great leader and you have to have those leadership qualities. You break down being a great leader into four quadrants. Can you list those quadrants and maybe go into a bit more detail of what each one represents?
Tim Kintz: Yeah, I really–kind of what I talked about earlier, was leadership’s overrated. Yeah, it’s overused. I really break leadership down into four areas and I call it the leadership quadrant. You lead, manage, train, and coach. I think all four of those areas are critical and all four of those areas are learned and you have to keep getting better at them because there are some of us that are good at leading.
You lead people. If you’re not a good leader, people aren’t going to follow you. It doesn’t matter what you want to do but I also think you need to be able to manage. You manage your inventory, you manage statistics, you manage their tendencies and probabilities. You manage your day. If you can’t manage your day, how can you expect your people to manage their day?
Then you have to be able to train for knowledge. I can’t just get knowledge as a salesperson, you have to train me. You have to give me knowledge. It’s a transfer of knowledge. You coach to develop skills and that’s where you roll up your sleeves.
I believe all of them are critical because some of us are great leaders but we don’t manage the details well and things just become a mess and we end up with heat because we procrastinate. We don’t know the statistics or probabilities so we can’t lead our people in any real direction.
Then there are some of us that are good with detail, not good with retail. We’re good with managing things but we’re not good with people. Well, you can manage things all you want but if your people aren’t going to follow you, it doesn’t matter. So, those go together and it’s the same with training and coaching. Okay well, you can train and give knowledge all you want. I have an online training platform, you’re going to gain knowledge.
Sure, I can watch a Zoom call and get knowledge but knowledge isn’t power. Knowledge is dangerous man. Knowledge without the skill is not any good. Okay, if anybody tells me that you’re going to learn on Zoom as good as you will in person, then I want you, the next time you have surgery, I want to make sure that you have surgery by a doctor that learned 100% on Zoom how to do that surgery on you, because the hands-on, the coaching, it’s the rolling your sleeves up with your people and helping them develop the skills part that’s missing so much.
It’s train and give them knowledge, but coaching is developing the skills with them and when all four of those are working well, that’s when you become a great leader. That’s when people will follow you through a brick wall versus you being the brick wall because that’s all we are if we’re not giving them the knowledge and helping them develop the skills.
If you are not inspiring them, leading them, giving them a vision to shoot for, then it’s like I always say, “If you shoot at nothing, you’ll hit nothing with amazing accuracy.” I am tired of my people shooting for nothing. I want to give them a vision.
Then we have to break it down into manageable stats, manageable numbers, and targets and benchmarks and start measuring it as we’re moving forward so we can celebrate successes and we can make adjustments as needed, based on our statistics and tendencies and probabilities.
Drew Appelbaum: Are there other rules in your experience that great leaders tend to live by and follow?
Tim Kintz: There’s a ton of them and I touch on a lot of them in the book. I could probably do Fearless Part Two and put more in there. I think it really starts with having vision, being able to set actionable, attainable goals, and being able to execute an effective plan. I think that really is where it all starts because when you start doing that, it’s a ripple effect. If I can communicate that to my people, now they know how they fit in and their vision matters.
We can create that internal and external motivation by having goals. I think great leaders, when we aren’t hitting our goals, when things aren’t going great, I think great leaders will take the bullet and say, “It’s my fault. I didn’t get my team prepared. My plan wasn’t good enough, but I am going to make it better.” When things go really well, I think the great leaders say, “Look, my job was easy. These guys we got here, man, they went out and made it happen.”
When things go good, great leaders give credit to their team and when things go bad, great leaders, they’ll take that bullet. “It’s my fault, it wasn’t my team,” even when it was the team’s fault at times, they’ll still take that bullet and never, never publicly bash on their teams. It’s kind of a sacrifice, right? If you are going to be a great leader, you’ve got to be the one to sacrifice and realize it is not about you. It’s about your people.
Put your ego in your pocket and if you want to grow your store, grow each individual. That’s when you start growing your company.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, you do bring up a few people you look up to in your book. You mentioned your college baseball coach and you also talk about Collin Sewell and I hope I am pronouncing that right. He makes a lot of appearances in the book, in the beginning, and at the end. Can you talk to us about Collin and what you see in him and maybe what is his secret to success?
Tim Kintz: Collin and I have been friends for years. In fact, I am heading out there next week to do training in his dealership and you know, Collin understands the value of training, giving back, that it’s about his people and sacrifice. I probably learned more from Collin than he’d ever learned from me just because I see that, how he puts his people first, and how they are the most important to him and everything he does is about that.
He has a vision unlike anybody I’ve seen. He saw a blank piece of dirt that was in the middle of nowhere, saw that as the future of Sewell Ford and I saw it as a piece of desert that, “What are you going to do all the way out here?” And he created the new Sewell Ford out in Odessa and it is unbelievable, it’s a Taj Mahal. His whole goal, his whole vision is to give back to the community and you go out there and you’re going to see Sewell Ford on the back of every kid’s soccer jerseys.
When there’s a kid that can’t afford cleats and gloves then Sewell, he’s going to make sure they have cleats and gloves. He gives scholarships to high school kids and gives away Mustangs. His sacrifice and how much he cares about his people and he puts them first, that’s why he’s been so successful. One thing his people say about him is his mindset is that, “We’ll take you how you are, but we love you too much to let you stay that way.”
If you think about that and that being his mindset, it’s all growth. He wants to grow his people and his store and, “We’ll take you how you are but we love you too much to stay that way.” That philosophy is, to me, amazing.
Drew Appelbaum: Also in your book towards the end, you have really amazing motivational tools. You have retention programs, you have contests, sales contests you could run, and a ton of other resources. Can you tell us a little bit about what’s there and what effects these resources can have on a business?
Tim Kintz: Yeah, I am a big believer in that. If you want to change a culture and create a culture of competition and fun and eliminate the culture of complacency, I think bringing games, contests, spiffs, bonuses into the sales team, into the sales department, is critical. Man, I just wanted to add a bunch of ideas. Look, some of them may work for your industry, some of them may not, maybe you like some, maybe you don’t.
I don’t care, you don’t have to like them all, but I figure the more of them I put out there, you’re going to pick something up that will work in your store whether it’s the heavy hitters set where guys get the autographed bats for hitting certain numbers on their profits, or whether it’s the volleyballs for skill development and training or whether it’s just some obscure spiff program like Big Bucks for Little Trucks. It’s about having fun and rewarding our people.
I hear a lot of managers say, “You know, you shouldn’t have to spiff or bonus your people for doing their job,” and I guess they’re right, but I always ask them, “You’re right, but would you rather win, or would you rather be right?” And when you think about it, if I bonus them for going above and beyond, will that motivate people? Yeah. It’s not the only thing that motivates people. It’s not just cash, it might be time off. It might be a title.
I don’t know what it is, you need to know what it is with your people, but anytime we can bring the game, spiffs, contests into our sales department, that’s when competition’s there and that’s when the fun happens.
Drew Appelbaum: Well Tim, writing a book, especially one like this one, which is such a great read and it is going to help so many business professionals, is no small feat, so I want to say congratulations.
Tim Kintz: Thank you.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, if readers could take away only one thing from the book, what would you want it to be?
Tim Kintz: Realizing the old saying, “You don’t have to be great to start but you have to start to be great.” It’s absolutely true and don’t wait until you’re motivated to become a better manager and to start doing your one-on-ones and start training, just do it, and then you’ll be motivated. It’s more of the ready-fire-aim method than it is ready-aim-fire because perfection can be the enemy of progress, and if you wait for the perfect time, the time that you’re motivated to do it, then there is no perfect time and you’ll never be motivated to do it.
Just do it and then you’ll get motivated because motivation is the byproduct of doing the things that it takes to become motivated. When you get motivated and you start taking action and you become that better leader who is spending time with your people, that’s when they get better and that’s when you become a true leader.
Drew Appelbaum: Tim, this has been a pleasure and we just scratched the surface here today. There is so much more in the book and I am really excited for people to check it out. Everyone, the book is called Fearless and you can find it on Amazon. Tim besides checking out the book, where can people connect with you?
Tim Kintz: You can go to kintzgroup.com and we have a lot of resources on there. We’ll have some downloads on there. There’s a shop on there with a lot of other resources for training, games, and competitions and then also on social, on LinkedIn I am on there at Tim Kintz and Kintz Group. We have Instagram and Facebook, the Tim Kintz, so we’re all over the place. Follow us and we’d love to hear from you guys.
Drew Appelbaum: Great. Tim, thank you so much for coming on the show today, and best of luck with your new book.
Tim Kintz: My pleasure, thank you.