We had the chance to sit down with Michael Lee, a CoEFFICIENT® user and a Fixed Operations Manager (FOM) with Nissan. Read our interview to learn about his role and why he thinks building great relationships with his dealers is the most important part of his job.

Square Root: How many stores do you manage?
Michael Lee: I manage 11 stores. I have four stores in Austin, as well as a few in San Antonio and other smaller towns in Texas.

SR: Tell us about your background and what prompted you to first pursue this line of work?
ML: I grew up in Michigan, and my dad was a mechanic. I’ve always had an interest in the automotive industry; I was attracted to it. I went to technical school for two years and then earned a bachelor’s degree in automotive management. After that I started working for dealerships and OEMs.

I realized early on I wanted to be a Field Rep for an OEM and thought the retail side would be a great experience in my journey to become a Field Rep. In addition, I just didn’t want to spend my career getting greasy under a truck.

SR: What has surprised you most about your work as a Fixed Operations Manager (FOM)?
ML: I was a service manager and now, as a FOM, I manage service managers. Because of where I came from, it’s easier for me to relate to the service managers. For them, I know it can sometimes feel like program, after program, after program. It can be difficult to sometimes relate the value of the programs to service managers.

Having been one, I have a lot of empathy for them. I’m focused on their success and on my relationship with them. For me, it’s about making them profitable, but more importantly it’s about the relationship. I want them to know they can reach out to me and talk with me about what’s going on in their business. I want to help them sell their business, and give them assistance when they need it. For instance, sometimes I’ll give them marketing ideas to help them sell some of the products. That can go along way with dealers.

SR: What is the most challenging part of your job?
ML: Everything feels like a priority for me and for the dealers. There are so many different departments and every one has a job to do. To manage this, I just focus on what I can control. I’ve found as long as I do right by the dealers, they’ll do right by me. My focus is on helping my dealers improve.

I also meet with some customers, I don’t have to, and it’s not something that most FOMs do. However, having been a service manager and dealing with them in my previous job, I think it’s an area where I can help the dealers. I would say I do that about three to four times a month.

SR: What do you like most about being an FOM?
ML: I like the freedom and making my own schedule. Being out in the field also gives you the opportunity to travel to places you normally wouldn’t visit. You get to meet a lot of interesting people. It’s a small world and a lot of people know each other.

I also really like having the ability to help people improve. I don’t take credit for it, but when you see a dealership improve, it’s nice to know you helped them accomplish that.

SR: What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a FOM?
ML: Enjoy it. You can get caught up in the day-to-day. In my role specifically, I get to go to these places I’d normally never go, like west Texas. Everyone’s style is different, but my suggestion would be to enjoy the job and the travel. Sometimes you find yourself going from store to store to store. I say take the opportunity to get to know your dealers, take them out to dinner and enjoy the experience!

SR: What do you think will change about the district manager role in the next 5 years?
ML: I think we’ll focus on service retention. That will probably be the key driver in the next five years. If they hit those objectives, they will be successful.

SR: What do you think you need to get to the next level and be successful?
ML: Typically you start out as a specialist then you move to a FOM roll and finally a DOM (Dealer Operations Manager). When you’re promoted to the DOM position it opens a lot of doors for you.

To make the jump to a DOM role, I don’t think the resources are necessarily important. I think it requires you thinking through what your dealers need and how they think. You can then connect the dots to how they operate. That’s why relationships can go a long way, sometimes the help they give me is knowledge. Many field folks don’t necessarily think that way. To me, it’s about partnering.

SR: What makes people in your role successful?
ML: Performance is some of it. Networking is probably the best way, though. I think building your network is really important. It’s a big corporation and someone will probably rise through the ranks. Knowing those people will help you. You have to have good performance to get good reviews, and to be well known through the organization.

Thanks to Michael for his time and sharing his thoughts on the Fixed Operations Manager role at Nissan. Interested in learning more about our solutions? Check out our CoEFFICIENT overview page to see how our solutions can optimize operations across the enterprise.