Profits and Leadership vs. Greed and Ego

November 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Greg Goebel - Also by this author

Greed (n.) - an excessive desire to acquire or possess more than one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth, often at the expense of, or by taking advantage of others.

Ego (n.) - An exaggerated sense of self-importance; conceit.

For everyone reading this column, these two words will immediately bring to mind someone that they feel exemplifies these two traits. To some, it may be someone like Donald Trump, while to others, it may be an ex-spouse. And to some, it may well be the manager or owner of the business that they work for or with. Hopefully, for your employees, it isn’t the last one.

It is a tough market out there for many companies. You can’t turn around without someone pummeling GM, Ford or Chrysler in the media. That means many dealers are suffering, which can bring out the worst in some people. I have seen that “worst” in some dealerships, as well as industry companies serving dealers (or more appropriately preying on them).

“Desperate times call for desperate measures.” I am not sure who was the originator of this often-used phrase, but I am fairly certain “desperate measures” didn’t mean taking advantage of your employees and/or customers for your personal gain. I can simply shake my head at the actions of some of the dealers, managers and owners in the allied industry. They have lost sight of the fact that their revenue is generated by serving their customers needs. They have simply become greedy.

The desire for strong profitability becomes greed at the point you introduce the work EXCESSIVE. Obviously auto dealerships and all of the allied industries serving them are for-profit businesses. While not everyone’s income statement is written in black ink, all individuals and companies have their sights set on what they feel is an acceptable rate of return on their investment with its associated risk and expect to achieve it.

Profits are managed by controlling expenses and maximizing productivity. The top line revenue generally comes from one thing – earning money by serving the needs of others. Nearly all successful individuals and companies focus on this by creating mission statements which recognize the importance of both their customers and their employees, and then they practice what they preach.

I love the dollar as much as anyone. Everyone that I have ever managed, trained or provided consulting to will tell you that I believe in asking for gross profit. Gross profit is not bad, as long as it is gained by serving the needs of others. That being said, there is a fine line between being a confident leader focused on strong profitability and serving the needs of others and being an egotistical ass focused on oneself. Leaders have to be confident. Leaders have the responsibility of getting others to follow, and people want to follow someone that is confident. However, they don’t want to follow an egotist.

Additionally, the examples set by egotists for their employees are everlasting. Once this attitude is embedded in a company, it is nearly impossible to change the culture – assuming ownership or management would ever see a need to do so.

Today, I have the opportunity to get to know and enjoy the friendship of some amazing people. Most have brilliant minds and impeccable character. Many are terrific entrepreneurs, some earning millions of dollars in profits. They cherish their customers (and they generally have many) and employees, and in turn, they are cherished by their employees and customers. It is an absolute joy to interact with these people and their teams. They all have one thing in common - their profits don’t come at the expense of others; it comes as a result of serving others.

On the other hand, I unfortunately encounter a number of people that just don’t get it. They need a revolving door for personnel. They will be the first to welch on an agreement or pay plan or to convince someone to accept a clearly one-sided offer and complain that they never can find good people. These same people will use slight-of-hand tricks to deceive customers then wonder where their sales went. These people exist in every market, and for certain, this includes some vendors in the industry that give the appearance they care about their clients’ success, while simply chasing the almighty dollar. At the magazine we get calls and letters all the time from dealers that have been on the wrong side of a greedy vendor. Occasionally it appears to be poetic justice.

Sometimes you just have to let your customer or employee win. Carl Sewell’s book, “Customers for Life” talks of how his service manager would policy service work that was clearly customer abuse or neglect. He would let the customer “win,” but the dealership would always win as the customer would always come back, purchase again and refer others to do the same.

If you are looking for the answer to perpetual problems of stagnant or decreasing sales or continual employee turnover you may need to stand in front of a mirror. The problem may well be you. It may be that overwhelming desire for more at the expense of others. You may be winning the battles but losing the war.

I used to think it was as simple as knowing the difference between right and wrong – or good and bad – and making the right decision. Obviously, for some a large gray area exists. Greed and ego don’t have to be synonymous with profits and leadership. The question becomes, how would you feel if the shoe were on the other foot – in the role of the customer, or the role of the employee? If the answer to that question makes you happy and you can honestly look at yourself in the mirror, then you are most likely on the right track. If not, what goes around will likely come around.

Until next month,
Keep serving others!

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