Article

Be Strong: It is Time to Be a Leader

February 2009, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Greg Goebel - Also by this author

What a month it has been. Not one that many want to repeat. The calendar says it is the tenth day of October as I write this, so we are 10 days into what is destined to become the worst quarter of auto sales in decades. My prediction, contrary to what the other analysts see, is that we will not finish the year with even 13 million new vehicle sales – down 20 percent from 2007 – a historic decline that has impacted virtually every manufacturer and retailer.

My mind flashed back to a number of things over the previous month. First, shortly after this magazine came out last month, another magazine’s advocate proclaimed the answer to this dilemma was to not participate in the decline and just “sell your way out of it.” Yeah, right. Look, I am a trainer and a consultant, and like him, I am fortunate to have some of the best dealers in the country as clients, but let me tell you, the best managers and best sales team can’t sell if no one is coming in the door. Certainly, you’d better be on your game and maximize every opportunity, but if the people in your market aren’t interested in buying, you simply can’t sell.

Next, I had another noted consultant tell me that the industry trade journals shouldn’t be printing all the bad news, that it was depressing an already-downtrodden group of managers. To quote many other folks, I don’t care how much lipstick you put on a pig, it still is a pig. This economy and the industry is what it is. I have been beating the drum for dealers to right-size and maximize fixed operations for over a year. No, it isn’t uplifting, but it is definitely prudent. Right now, with more than a dealership a day closing it doors, if I can motivate dealers to preserve what they have rather than join the ranks of those who have padlocked their showrooms, that is what I choose to do.

While visiting a dealer-friend and client in Milwaukee this week, even though I knew the closings were taking place, I was stunned to see a number of empty dealerships with weeds growing in the cracks in the parking lots. It was an instant reminder of how stark the situation is. I predicted a month ago that the dealer ranks would be 3,000 thinner by the end of 2010. I may have underestimated that number.

The closings segue to the most stunning news of the month for many – but not a total surprise to me – the closing of Bill Heard Enterprises, the largest Chevrolet dealer in the world. If a dealer that large with over $2.1 billion in revenue can disappear from the retailing landscape, it can happen to anyone—especially those that have taken all of their cash and leveraged it to buy store after store. As long as things are moving forward, everything is good, but if business skids sideways, things can death-spiral in an instant.

The last news, of course, is the election. While neither party has chosen an individual of my preference, one is destined to become our leader for the next four years. Just as important are your congressional representatives and your state and local officials. The candidates have been preaching that this election is the most important in our history. I can’t say whether that is true or not, as I feel they are all vital, but I urge you to not be one to sit on the sidelines and then complain. It is more than your right to vote; it is your duty. Please do so, and then please encourage your employees to do so as well.

As we approach the Thanksgiving season, it may seem difficult to find much to be thankful for, especially when you feel you are looking down the barrel of a gun. I suggest you start by being thankful for both your families and your employees, and by being thankful that you are on the right side of the grass. I certainly am thankful for that. No one is depression-proof, but with your health, the love and support of your family, and the hard work of your team, you can live to fight another day.

Finally, if you are a dealer or an executive manager reading this, as more than 90 percent of our readers are, it is time to be a real leader. Be strong, be confident, be decisive, be careful with blame, and be supportive to your team. It may seem cliché, but your team will follow your lead and that will be what sees you through the next 12 months.

Until next month,
Be strong!
Next, I had another noted consultant tell me that the industry trade journals shouldn’t be printing all the bad news, that it was depressing an already-downtrodden group of managers. To quote many other folks, I don’t care how much lipstick you put on a pig, it still is a pig. This economy and the industry is what it is. I have been beating the drum for dealers to right-size and maximize fixed operations for over a year. No, it isn’t uplifting, but it is definitely prudent. Right now, with more than a dealership a day closing it doors, if I can motivate dealers to preserve what they have rather than join the ranks of those who have padlocked their showrooms, that is what I choose to do.

While visiting a dealer-friend and client in Milwaukee this week, even though I knew the closings were taking place, I was stunned to see a number of empty dealerships with weeds growing in the cracks in the parking lots. It was an instant reminder of how stark the situation is. I predicted a month ago that the dealer ranks would be 3,000 thinner by the end of 2010. I may have underestimated that number.

The closings segue to the most stunning news of the month for many – but not a total surprise to me – the closing of Bill Heard Enterprises, the largest Chevrolet dealer in the world. If a dealer that large with over $2.1 billion in revenue can disappear from the retailing landscape, it can happen to anyone—especially those that have taken all of their cash and leveraged it to buy store after store. As long as things are moving forward, everything is good, but if business skids sideways, things can death-spiral in an instant.

The last news, of course, is the election. While neither party has chosen an individual of my preference, one is destined to become our leader for the next four years. Just as important are your congressional representatives and your state and local officials. The candidates have been preaching that this election is the most important in our history. I can’t say whether that is true or not, as I feel they are all vital, but I urge you to not be one to sit on the sidelines and then complain. It is more than your right to vote; it is your duty. Please do so, and then please encourage your employees to do so as well.

As we approach the Thanksgiving season, it may seem difficult to find much to be thankful for, especially when you feel you are looking down the barrel of a gun. I suggest you start by being thankful for both your families and your employees, and by being thankful that you are on the right side of the grass. I certainly am thankful for that. No one is depression-proof, but with your health, the love and support of your family, and the hard work of your team, you can live to fight another day.

Finally, if you are a dealer or an executive manager reading this, as more than 90 percent of our readers are, it is time to be a real leader. Be strong, be confident, be decisive, be careful with blame, and be supportive to your team. It may seem cliché, but your team will follow your lead and that will be what sees you through the next 12 months.

Until next month,
Be strong!

What a month it has been. Not one that many want to repeat. The calendar says it is the tenth day of October as I write this, so we are 10 days into what is destined to become the worst quarter of auto sales in decades. My prediction, contrary to what the other analysts see, is that we will not finish the year with even 13 million new vehicle sales – down 20 percent from 2007 – a historic decline that has impacted virtually every manufacturer and retailer.

My mind flashed back to a number of things over the previous month. First, shortly after this magazine came out last month, another magazine’s advocate proclaimed the answer to this dilemma was to not participate in the decline and just “sell your way out of it.” Yeah, right. Look, I am a trainer and a consultant, and like him, I am fortunate to have some of the best dealers in the country as clients, but let me tell you, the best managers and best sales team can’t sell if no one is coming in the door. Certainly, you’d better be on your game and maximize every opportunity, but if the people in your market aren’t interested in buying, you simply can’t sell.

Vol 5, Issue 11

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