Dennis Manns, industry consultant and senior automotive advisor North Motors LLC, talks to Victoria Johns about washing cars, American Honda and why you always need a plan B


What did you want to be when you were younger?
I have always been in the automotive industry. My father was a Chrysler and Dodge dealer in our hometown in Ohio. When I was young, I would often wash cars on the lot, work on the retail parts counter and even sell used cars in the afternoon and on weekends. I assumed I would be involved with the retail side of the business.  I always enjoyed going to the used car auctions.

What is the greatest piece of advice anyone has given you in your career?
To always try and do things the right way, take care of the people in your organisation and be a good communicator. I have been involved with a number of different roles and responsibilities for American Honda and other employers. With each of these roles I wanted to make sure that my employer, my people and my customers could count on me to execute and perform. With the various groups that I have managed and led, I wanted to make sure my team very much felt part of our success and that they understood they had a voice in the decision making process. 

“Leaders can be wrong, but they should never be unclear” - Dennis Manns

So often you attend a meeting on a issue and everyone is waiting for the “boss” to give the solution. I prefer to have the entire room feed me with thoughts, ideas and suggestions. It is amazing what you learn when the room is giving you its perspective of a challenge.  Finally, I like to connect the organisation upstream and downstream of our business. I take pride touching base with the organisation and being transparent. Leaders can be wrong, but they should never be unclear.  Your team needs to understand where the group is headed. 

Who or what inspires you in the world of automotive logistics?
Risk takers inspire me. Everyone can guide the ship when the seas are calm, but the test is when there is a storm. You have to respect the person that takes the path less travelled. I am interested in change and I love a challenge. I love to identify the unique solution - it will test your nerves for sure.   
What piece of advice would you give to someone entering the automotive logistics industry?
My advice is to be a great communicator and make plenty of contacts. I have met so many wonderful people in this business and I have re-connected with them in new positions, which can be very helpful.  If you can stay connected with this wide band of friends it will serve you well.

“Regardless of your role or what part of the business you’re in, the best plans change and often fail” - Dennis Manns  

If you could learn one thing that would help you in your job, what would it be?
The one thing to learn, which is in two parts, is patience and resourcefulness.  Regardless of your role or what part of this business you’re in, the best plans change and often fail. You need to have patience in the plans you create to give them time to develop and you need to be resourceful in the event you need to make adjustments. The pieces of the puzzle sometimes need a little help to nudge them into place. You will see where things start to go off course and that is when you need to trust your plan, trust your people and allow the proper patience for things to fall into place.  As we all know, challenges occur and this is why you need to identify them and have that plan B in your pocket.

“I love to identify the unique solution - it will test your nerves for sure” - Dennis Manns

What was the last experience that changed the way you work?
Probably when I switched from leading the sales side of American Honda to a leadership position with the operations group. Each group has similar and unique needs. The OEM sales side requires a delicate touch with pricing decisions, model mix, advertising placement, marketing programmes and inventory balance. Each executive dial can be adjusted and each is pressure sensitive. On the operations roles with distribution, logistics planning and logistics operations, you face a totally new set of executive dials that are equally pressure sensitive. The sales role and the operations role required that I understand the relationship between these various controls - there is a connection.  There is so much at stake with these two groups that you really have to focus and maintain a large perspective.