Doing Something is Always Better than Doing Nothing

When it comes to complying with federal and state regulations, what’s the worst thing you can do? Absolutely nothing. Here’s why:

A regulatory agency field representative is in your store to check for compliance with a specific regulation. You’ve done nothing. In effect, you’ve just told your visitor, “I don’t think you – or your work – are very important.” You can be assured the regulator will spend the better part of a week showing you just how important he or she actually is.

If you’re found to be noncompliant – but are able to demonstrate that you’re aware of the rules and have made a good faith effort to abide by them – the penalty may reflect that. You might not get off scot-free, but depending on the severity of the infraction and the effectiveness of your faulty compliance policy, you’ll live to see another day.

Which state and federal regulations need to be given top priority? Simple answer – those that directly impact primary elements of your business. It doesn’t take much research to determine which rules are currently on the regulators’ and plaintiffs’ bar radar screens, in addition to the perennial enforcement hot topics.

Regulatory compliance isn’t a onetime event; it is an essential operational process. The commitments involving employee time, expenditure of company funds, and owner-oversight are ongoing.

There is no shortage of qualified resources to aid in developing industry segment-specific in-store compliance programs. NAF and NIADA offer a full slate of BHPH-specific classes available in multiple formats. The Association of Dealership Compliance Officers provides certification and best practices training for those holding the position. Hudson Cook, LLP, provides legal advice to the industry and has developed Compliance Management System templates for dealers and finance companies. Member Benefits Services provides turnkey dealer Safeguards and Red Flags compliance programs, along with other qualified regulation education providers.

Knowledge of the rules does more than keep you legal – it helps close deals. In many cases, the regulations define the acceptable boundaries of sales and financing negotiations. They may provide the information needed to overcome objections or accurately answer prospective buyers’ questions. More often than not, rule-savvy sales and finance personnel are the top bottom-line income producers – and key contributors to repeat business.

Great advice, but I don’t have the personnel or the time to spend addressing a bunch of rules. You can spend your time in a classroom or a courtroom. And regulatory training costs are less expensive than regulatory fines, attorneys’ fees and court-awarded settlements. Doing something is always better than doing nothing.

Dave Robertson, MBA, is a co-founder and the executive director of the Association of Finance & Insurance Professionals (AFIP), a nonprofit continuing education association. Dave’s 40-plus years in the automobile business include vehicle sales and F&I, followed by work as an account development manager and home office executive for a credit life company, industry consultant specializing in aftermarket products, and independent VSC administrator. Contact him at 817-428-2434 or [email protected].