One of my readers, Robert Whisner with Robert Basil Auto Group in Fredonia, NY, recommended I read the book "American Icon" by Bryce Hoffman. It’s about how Alan Mulally saved Ford Motor Company.
Very early in the book there’s a quote by Henry Ford that we all should pay close attention to:
"Business men go down with their businesses because they like the old way so well they cannot bring themselves to change. One sees them all about–men who do not know that yesterday is past, and who woke up this morning with their last year’s ideas."
No truer words have ever been spoken. One of the things I find so often when working with dealers and their managers is they tend to want to rely on their past success. And they should, to a point, but if you also think that way, then you need to realize your past successes may not carry you very far into the future.
As we age in the business we have to be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that it worked for you in the past so it will work today. If you continue to hang on to the past you could wake up one day and wonder what day you are in.
Once the mind’s thinking has set out to do something, or has gotten in the habit of doing something, it is very difficult to implement change. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon or know much about how the human brain works to know that people resist change.
If leadership is smart enough to realize this well known fact then you would think they would be smart enough to develop a strategy that would lead the group into change knowing that change has to happen.
As cruel as it may seem, if you can’t get people to change then you may need to change the people. But therein lies the problem. Leaders fear change as much as anyone and they fear the change of people even more than the change of culture, processes and ideas. The concept of "the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t" may not serve you very well if you are allowing it to become a crutch for doing nothing.
The problem with change is it sets up an automatic element of accountability. If you decide to change course and/or change people now the eyes of the world are upon you to make it work. For many, it’s far safer and less scary if you don’t implement change because nobody’s watching and you can ride a wave to nowhere as long as you can stand up.
I have a friend who lives in Key West, FL. When the hurricanes would head toward Key West the masses of the population would head for the mainland. One of his favorite sayings is "Don’t panic and never follow the crowd." I think more often than not, many in the car business panic when it’s too late and end up following the crowd far too long.
While it’s very smart to understand the market you are in it can be futile "to do as the market does." Just because everyone in the market charges a $500 processing fee doesn’t mean you should. Or, to be specific about your store, just because you’ve always charged packs, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do in today’s market. (You are killing your used car buyer, and your ability to sell cars in the Internet world with your old style thinking, but that’s another Zinger for another time.)
Isn’t it interesting all the changing that takes place when new ownership takes over? How many times in your career have you seen new ownership come into a market and turn the place upside down and double or triple the previous owner’s sales?
If you are going to succeed in this volatile market then you need to constantly evaluate your market, your staff and your thinking. You cannot be afraid to change just because you and the market have always done it that way. "That way" will not carry you very far.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said "Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world." Nothing was ever achieved by sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what others are going to do. You will not win by following the crowd. That’s all I’m gonna say. Tommy Gibbs