Leaders Know-Love-Believe…

Recently I flew into Oklahoma City and couldn’t help but notice the awesome statue of Will Rogers sitting up on his horse with lasso in hand. I often see quotes by him and I’m always amazed at his wit and smarts that to this day remain true. He died in 1935 at the young age of 55 in a plane crash in Alaska. The more I read his material the more brilliant I think he is. Here’s a typical Will Rogers quote:

“If you want to be successful, it’s just this simple. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in what you are doing.”

Leaders know what they are doing because they are students of the game. They have become information junkies always seeking a better way because they know they never really get it totally figured out.

Leaders love what they do because they are passionate about what they do. It’s important to understand that the love and passion they have for what they do today was not always the case. It is not unusual that what they currently do with such passion was not their first love. Somewhere along the way something or someone helped ignite the love for what they do today.

Leaders believe in what they do because they know what they are doing and they love what they do. They seek to serve those around them through stewardship of their knowledge and passion for those things they believe in. What could be more powerful than sharing knowledge, love and beliefs?

And that ladies and gentlemen is what leading is all about. That’s all I’m gonna say.

Which One Are You?

I’m betting you and I are a lot alike because we are both constantly asking “What if?” What if I worked a little harder? What if I worked a little smarter? What if I could learn some things that others haven’t figured out yet? What if I could tweak an existing idea?

The vast majority of what we read and learn is either re-worked, re-stated or borrowed from someone else. I’ve probably had 10 original ideas in my lifetime and that may be a stretch.

The older I get the more I enjoy learning. Actually I love learning. The more I learn the more relevant I become. I like being relevant.

My brain is constantly reviewing information either through reading, communicating with others, observing, or from wherever information comes from, into my mental hard drive. I have a fear of being left behind and I don’t like the view from the rear.

I’m going to be discussing and commenting on what’s commonly known as the “Four Stages Of Learning” plus two others that I know you have never heard of because I made them up. I don’t know where the first four originated, I just know I stole them. All six stages of learning apply regardless of the application. They can be applied in sports, business, social activities, and life in general.

1. Unconscious incompetence-The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit. The individual must recognize their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage. The length of time an individual spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn. The more time they are willing to spend learning the skill or activity the faster they move to the next stage. Example: You decide to take up golf so you go out to the driving range and whack at a few balls. 1 out of 10 you make great contact, but you have no clue what you’re doing. You know you love the feeling and you know you want some more of it so you keep returning to the driving range and/or play a few rounds of awful golf.

2. Conscious incompetence-Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage. Example: After going to the driving range for a while and playing a few rounds you begin taking lessons with a golf pro and quickly realize how little you know. You observe others either at the golf course or on video, etc. and the realization of how much there is to this game starts to sink in.

3. Conscious competence-The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill. Example: More golf lessons, more golf rounds played and you are starting to understand the integral parts of the swing. You haven’t mastered the swing yet, but you are starting to strike the ball more consistently, especially when you think it through. It’s not automatic, but your skills are improving as your knowledge starts to grow. This can be the most frustrating stage of the first four. You still have to think about it. When you do, your results are much better and when you don’t, you want to throw your clubs in the lake.

4. Unconscious competence-The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be performed easily. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned. Example: You’ve now repeated your golf swing enough times, played enough rounds, attempted enough different types of shots that you can break par or better and have reached a very competitive level. You no longer have to think about the elements of your swing, you just do it. The physical and mental muscle memory is locked in.

5. Competent Incompetence-is the most dangerous of the six. It’s when you have years of experience, know your stuff and have become convinced you have nothing else to learn. (Do you know anyone in the car business like this?) Your success has convinced you that you are “the man,” (or woman) and you are done learning. Seeking more knowledge is the last thing on your mind. What got you to where you are today is what you think is going to keep you where you are and beyond.

6. Learning to be competent-this stage never stops. It’s a life long journey that keeps life interesting and challenging. You know that learning is a journey, not a destination. (That would be you and I.)

The most successful people at any skill, business or activity are the ones who continue to do two things:

1. They keep going back to the basics
2. They continue searching for answers even when they think they already have many of them.

What stage are you in? Only you can answer that. As for me I’m in the “Learning To Be Competent” stage and I hope it never ends. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

Leaders Inspire…

“A mediocre person tells. A good person explains. A superior person demonstrates. A great person inspires others to see for themselves.” Harvey Mackay

1. Challenge them with reasonable objectives. Not too easy, not too hard. The key is they have to be achievable. Achieved success will lead to even greater achievements. Success breeds success. It’s great to be an optimist. It’s even greater to be a “realistic optimist.” Tossing out “pie in the sky” numbers doesn’t challenge people; it defeats them and they eventually just ignore them.

2. Show encouragement by leading from the front and pushing from the rear. Cheer and cheer some more. There’s nothing better than a pat on the back or a double high five to get ’em going and keep ’em going. Sometimes you have to show them “how” and sometimes you coach them “how.”

3. Watch what you say and how you say it. Saying the right things, in the right way, at the right time can do wonders. Choose your words carefully. Remember the whole world is watching and listening to everything you say and do.

4. Show them that you care in a sincere way. It has to be real. There’s nothing more powerful than a leader that truly cares. You either care or you don’t. You can’t fake it.

I’m pulling for you, that’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

A Dozen Reason Why You Haven’t Hire Tommy Gibbs…

1. He’s too expensive. OMG, OMG, you gotta be kidding me. Come on Einstein, do the math. How many managers do you have? How many stores do you own? I come to you. No one misses days from work hanging out in Las Vegas learning stuff that “stays in Vegas”. I train all your managers. There is only one definition for the word all. Would you sell more used cars if your new car manager and your service manager had a better understanding of the used car business? Well imagine that!

2. I can’t find the time. For real, really, you can’t find the time? You don’t have time to change your used car business and make a bunch of money? You’re right, you don’t have time.

3. I want to wait until the Summer is over. So let’s see, that would mean maybe early September…no wait, maybe sometime in October. Oh, let’s stretch it ’till November. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. That way you can prolong your agony. Makes total sense to miss the selling season. I’m grinding my teeth.

4. Tommy was just here two years ago. Well, well aren’t we the king of “stuff don’t evaporate.” Look, I’m a genius, but as well as your team might be disciplined there’s naturally going to be some evaporation of processes. The longer you wait the more processes evaporate and the more complaining you can do.

5. I’ve got an old dog and he doesn’t want to learn new tricks. (Please work with me and assume he, him can mean she, her.) So, how are those old tricks working out for you? Frustrating isn’t it? But you’re loyal to him. He’s loyal to you. So why bother? It may be time to take that one more shot, show him some new tricks and if he can’t or won’t perform the new tricks then walk him outside and park him on the porch.

6. I’ve got a new guy and I want him to get settled in first. Great idea, that way he can develop some bad habits that you will never be able to break. It’s always more fun to hit them upside the head with a 2 by 4 after they have a bunch of bad “brain muscle memory” going on.

7. I’m waiting ’till we get rid of these over aged units before I hire him. So, how much money do you think you’re gonna lose screwing around with those aged units? Suppose I had some brilliant ideas on how to help maneuver you through those land mines? Nah, go ahead and take those losses so you can keep complaining.

8. Some of Tommy’s ideas are too far out in left field. Really? The view from out here is pretty good. I see all and know all. You might want to come join me and get a view of what the future looks like.

9.We’re making a lot of money doing it our way even though the used car department keeps losing money. So, let me see if I have this right. You’re making a lot of money, used is losing money and you see no need to fix used so you can make any more money? Ok, got it. Keep doing what you’re doing.

10. I make a lot of money in new cars, parts and service, why should I worry about selling more used cars? Duh, did it ever pop into your brain that if you get stronger in used that you would sell even more new, more parts and more service? Nah, why bother, you’re doing just fine.

11. Tommy can’t teach me anything in a half-day workshop I don’t already know. Hmm, you know that might actually be true, but I can teach you a lot of cool stuff you aren’t doing. Knowing and doing are two totally different things.

12. I already get Tommy’s newsletters and learn all the stuff I need to know for free. Makes total sense. I get it. Why bring me in to get all your people jacked up about the potential you have for making lots of money in used cars? You can get all the motivation and enthusiasm you want by reading my stuff. I’m a far better writer than I ever thought. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

Leaders Take Risk…

I’ve always loved the car business. Ok, well maybe not always. When growing up in Richmond, VA my dad always had dirt lots, little used car lots and he always struggled, but he was always able to grind it out. I think grinding it out is ingrained in me, but as a young man the last thing I ever wanted to be involved in was the car business.

After college and teaching and coaching for a couple of years I found my way into the car business and the love and passion continues to grow. I love a lot about the car business and especially the people who are in in.

What I love most today is the exciting changes taking place. Some people fight change. I like stirring it up. I like making you think. I like making myself think…what are the possibilities? What’s the next cool twist? What’s the next brilliant idea?

Real leaders are always searching, always digging, always asking the question, what’s next? They want to be the lead, not the follow. Sure being a leader, leading the pack, leading the team, leading the industry has risk. Real leaders are willing to take the risks, because they know in the end they win. Isn’t winning what it’s all about?

Sonic Automotive is winning. Sonic Automotive is leading. Sonic Automotive is taking Risk. If you haven’t read this article you should. SONIC ARTICLE. That’s all I’m gonna say.

Frustration Rant…


I never like to admit being frustrated, but I am. I really am. I’m frustrated that dealers still allow themselves to have aged inventory when they know it’s the killer of gross, volume and do I need to mention the attitudes of the sales staff?

If you go back about 20 years I could possible accept the fact that some dealers just didn’t understand the pitfalls and consequences of aged inventory, but that is no longer a valid excuse. I mean really…dealers and managers alike have been educated by 20 groups, conventions, workshops and brilliant people like me as to all the reasons why allowing aged inventory doesn’t work, yet I see it time and time again.

It’s beyond my comprehension that dealers are on 75, 90 days and beyond as a turn policy. Worse than that, some don’t even have a policy. Uggg…how in the world can someone convince themselves or allow someone else to convince them that keeping units past 60 days is a smart business decision?

How does “hope” overtake “reason?” As in “I hope I sell it and make some money on this depreciating asset” vs. fundamental reasoning that it’s only going to happen when a miracle falls out of the sky. Simply put, “hope” is not a strategy.

Dr. Seuss said it best “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

I preach and preach that one of the top gross killers are those cars you retail over 45 days old. Can anyone reading this prove otherwise? Since that’s a true statement what do you think a 75 or 90 day old car does to your average gross profit?

Sure, let’s blame it on the Velocity concept of the “race to the bottom.” Makes sense, let’s blame it on someone else. Let’s blame it on the used car manager. Let’s blame in on technology. Let’s blame it the Internet. Let’s blame it on the difficulty of finding cars. Let’s blame it on George W. Bush.

Oh, please….How about looking in the mirror and let’s blame it on you, the person that allows it to happen in the first place.

Let me remind you that the key is not about dumping aged units in the wholesale market and losing money on them. It’s all about having a clear-cut strategy of turn and finding a retail buyer. Being on a 60 day turn does not mean wholesale losses, just the opposite.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so frustrated. Maybe I should remind myself that as long as dealers have aged units it gives me something to do and something to write about. Keeps me busy, makes me money. But from the bottom of my heart I’d give up being busy and making money if all dealers just “got it.”

I’m staying frustrated and busy, that’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs

21 Questions Leaders Ask:

1. How much do I know?
2. Am I still learning?
3. Can we do it better?
4. Am I doing all I can do?
5. Am I restricting the team?
6. Am I giving the team the things they need to get the job done?
7. Am I seeking input from the team?
8. Do I love what I’m doing?
9. Am I being “loyal foolish?”
10. Has my thinking gotten stale?
11. Is the old way the best way?
12. Am I leading from the front?
13. Am I pushing from the rear?
14. Am I investing in myself?
15. Am I investing in the team?
16. Am I penny wise and pound foolish?
17. Am I hiring the wrong people?
18. Do I believe in what I’m doing?
19. Am I micro-managing or am I being a good “checker?”
20. Am I living on an island with a closed mind?
21. Why haven’t I hired Tommy Gibbs yet?

Can You Improve Gross Profit?

There are very few cases when you will achieve both high volume and high average gross profit. It goes against the laws of nature. Yes, you can improve your overall numbers, but if you are going to do big numbers in either, one or the other is going to suffer.

Either way has challenges. If you have decided to be a high average gross dealer then it’s a pretty sure bet you will see decline in your traffic. Yes, you can do $5,000 per unit, but you are not going to be very busy.

If you go after volume, which means aggressively pricing your inventory on the Internet, then it’s likely you will see traffic go up and average grosses go down.

Going after volume means you have to up the ante when it comes to finding replacement cars. There is a lot more to acquiring inventory than just running out and buying more cars for the sake of a larger inventory. It requires a strategic plan of staffing and research or you will find yourself with a lot of aging purchased cars.

With so many dealers pricing cars on the Internet designed to drive traffic to the front door I’m thinking you have a far better chance of improving overall business by going for the volume.

Try These:

1. Goal setting. If you are now at $1000 a unit on the front, it’s a real stretch to set a goal of $1500. You would be far better off to bonus the management team for bumping the average up by $50 a unit for the month and then repeat the process the following month. To say to them you want a $500 bump in one month is unrealistic and if you do bump it up the $500 you can bet your volume will take a hit.

If you are still paying the sales staff on gross profit consider paying them a bonus based on $50 to $100 increases in what they are currently averaging on front gross. You can ultimately get to the $1500 and beyond, but you need to eat the apple one small bite at a time.

2. Training. Do a better job of training the sales people (and sales managers) to sell the value of your company and the value of the vehicle, and your grosses would be a lot better. The Team needs to learn to say “no” and to convince the customer that you have the best deal going.

3. Provide more information. The more information your sales people have about your inventory and how it’s priced to market the more likely they are to do a better job of convincing the customers you’ve got the best car at the best price. You have to sell the sales staff before you sell the customer. A lot walk once a week will do wonders.

4. Rethink “Buckets.” Many dealers have become sold on buckets. Buckets are a solid discipline process, but you can’t take a position that all cars in the first 20 days are priced a certain way and at day 21 another and so on. There are some that need to be over market and some under market regardless of age. All cars have to be evaluated on their own merits and must be done daily, not in 15 or 20 day windows.

5. Track GAP and ROI. Dealers who are tracking GAP and ROI are seeing a big difference in their average grosses. If you’ve not bought into this process then maybe it’s something you should take a hard look at. If you need the GAP/ROI spreadsheet, send me an email and I’ll get it right to you. (It’s Free!)

6. Fix your reconditioning timeline. If your most profitable car is a 20-day car (and it really is) how can you allow the service department to bog you down with it spending 7 to 10 days in the shop? This is one of those things that’s fixable, but it has to be done by the dealer. If the dealer wants to fix it then it gets fixed. Speed wins; the lack of speed kills. It’s as simple as that.

7. Re-do your website. How does your website look? Your website is the “New Showroom.” Do your pictures tell a good story? Do you have 12 to 20 photos? If that’s all you have then you are not in the game. You need at least 40 and they need to be done in a photo booth. If you don’t have a photo booth you need to make a commitment to get one. Saying you don’t have the space is a poor excuse. You can make it happen if you want to. Kind of like the issue in service. You can fix it. You just need to do it.

8. Use my “Life Cycle Management Process.” Make sure you utilize EWR into your “Trade Walk.” Early Warning Radar helps you identify those units which are the most likely to create problems for you on day 61. Units age on day 1 not day 61. Understanding how to merchandise and market these units to create a faster turn is a major step toward improving gross and volume, as well as reducing wholesale losses.

I’m thinking you can increase your volume and average gross profit, and “That’s all I’m gonna say.” Tommy Gibbs

Leaders Are Never Satisfied

We’ve all heard the saying “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I have a different spin on it and it goes like this; “When the going gets good, the good get going.”

Many in the car business have turned the corner from some tough years and are making all time record profits. Let me caution you – you cannot be satisfied.

You can never be satisfied. Those sounds you hear behind you are the competition coming to gobble you up. If you take just one little break, take your eye off the ball for one second, or have one little hiccup it could be the very thing that starts a downward spiral.

As Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz reminds us, “Seek to renew yourself, even when you’re hitting homeruns.” How appropriate is that in today’s market?

Competition always makes you better. Those competitors running behind you are a good thing. Learn to appreciate your competitors and make it a point to learn from them. Use them to scare you into more heightened motivation and a stronger competitive mind-set.

Successful people often succeed out of fear. The fear of failure. The fear of falling back. The fear of giving up all they have worked so hard for. It’s that fear that causes the successful ones to keep pushing and to keep looking for new and better ways of doing things.

Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems once said “You either eat someone for lunch, or you can be lunch.” No truer statement has ever been made.

Competition is the very lifeblood of a driven business leader. Study it. Embrace it. Love it. Use it as success fuel. Use it to take you to the top of your mental game. Develop an unstoppable competitive mind-set, and it will push you so far ahead of the competition that you won’t have to worry about looking over your shoulder.

Competition is an extra spice that keeps life interesting, keeps us on our toes, and stimulates us to greater creativity and productivity.

The best leaders realize that when they are having success it’s easy for the team to become satisfied and complacent and it’s the leader’s job never to let that happen. A leader’s job is to push the team through the good times to the next level, and the next level and the next level. That’s all I’m gonna say, Tommy Gibbs