Knowing When to Pull the Trigger

Sporting Clay Shooting is one of my favorite things to do. It is like golf but with an over and under shotgun. If you have ever done it you know the joy of getting outdoors with a few buddies, smoking a cigar, laughter, the smell of gunpowder and the exhilaration and high fives by “dusting” clay pigeons. This past weekend, having super nice weather here in Virginia as we were shooting we stopped at a couple of stands whereby the trapper sends out a pair of clays simultaneously. It is called Simo. They fly so fast you have to think very quickly as to the best position and timing of the shot to make. It first appears easy but it is actually quite difficult because your senses are so magnified in making sure you hit both birds going in different directions that you sometimes overeagerly shoot too quickly or too late at one and/or the other bird before formulating your plan. If you are patient, however, you can actually shoot both birds with one shot because there is a point in time where both birds actually intersect as they cross on their pathway in different directions. This requires calm, confident patience in carefully planning your shot to get both birds. I track the birds with both eyes open and when I see the intersection getting ready to occur I close my non-shooting eye, take aim and at that precise moment and take action by pulling the trigger. It is quite rewarding to see both clays reduced into “dust” with one shot. The formula; having vision (seeing it happen before it happens), planning, patience, timing, and action.

This reminded me of many dealerships out there where the formula gets mixed up so often it resembles a three-ring circus. Action, action, action without the vision, planning, timing, and patience required to afford their people the skill sets to accomplish their tasks and consequently their goal attainment.

When you don’t know what to do, try doing something.

Breakdown of the formula:
A number of years ago, when she was still alive Helen Keller who was blind at birth was interviewed. The interviewer asked her “What could be a more de-habilitating handicap than not having your eyesight?” Helen Keller quickly responded, “Oh, that’s easy, it’s not having vision.” You see, sometimes you can see more with your eyes closed by envisioning what and how you want things to happen.

Vision is a cornerstone for true leaders because they cast out their vision beyond the reaches of mediocre shortsighted managers who typically wait for opportunities and/or problems to occur. True leaders reach out to the future and envision business getting better, their team getting stronger and envisioning a dealership synergy that bonds the team together like super glue. That is when everyone looks in the same direction instead of each other. Some of you know that my roots were well planted in Corporate America with Harris Corporation way before the car business. The thing that struck me about that work environment, first, as a salesperson and all the way up to an Executive was that we were trained every month and sometimes weekly to sharpen our leading-edge abilities, knowledge and self-confidence. We had to because our greatest foe was IBM. We owned the markets we wanted because we were provided with the ‘extra measures’ to become our best.


As an executive I was promoted quickly several times because of three things; I hired right, I trained my people right and showed care and concern for them all the time. That’s it, plain and simple. Like the tide coming in, when my people rose to new ranks so did I. Because of my background, I have been given a gift of seeing things in a dealership way beyond just being a ‘car guy.’ Certain aspects of dealership business are readily recognized and changes implemented to repair and/or improve. Why is it we in this industry don’t have the same vision? Ready, shoot, aim comes to mind. Due to the changing marketplace and economic conditions, statistics now indicate that in 1-2 years, half of what a salesperson knows about selling is obsolete for the current changing market. And, some of us are still using old material and the same tired word tracks. This will give you progressive deterioration if left unchecked along with high attrition, lost deals, team disintegration and lower profits because your team members are not growing. Put on a new pair of glasses and enhance your vision by taking your team to new heights of skill achievement. Do not confuse short-term motivational ‘raw raw’ locker room sessions, product or technical skills with sales training enhancement. None of these help your sales team or service advisors skillfully sell or build customer relationships or your managers become true leaders.

The pressure on business managers to deliver consistent, improving financial results is relentless – and often unrealistic. We must visualize our store and our people grow to their fullest potential. Then, constantly begin seeing the improvement areas to take them there every hour, every day, every week, every month. Your reward for this corporate approach to running your business will be rewarding in so many immeasurable ways. The galaxy of opportunities will surprise you.

The challenges of modern business are so intense and ever-shifting, managers need all the help they can get. Most managers will spend more time planning to advertise than providing their all-important team members with ongoing ‘high quality’ personal skills training. I know a few GSMs who are much more concerned about what color balloons go up on the lot Saturday morning than about the care, well-being and personal growth of their team that produces (or not) his or her income every month. Go figure. I see dealers all the time spending $20,000-$80,000 a month on advertising and at the end of the month cannot, for the most part, give a clear analysis of the ad sourcing to determine the real ROI on their expenditure. Like buying swamp land in Florida in my book. What is the unrecovered ad expenditure? Guarantee it’s a ton of money that goes wasted and they don’t even know it. Am I just not getting it or would it make perfect sense to consider taking a small percent of the ad budget each month and place it into a ‘value building effort’ to increase the abilities and skill sets of your team members including management? Call it the “synergy fund” and let it build value then plan event training. You know, major league baseball players make millions of dollars but still get into the batting cage and take grounders or fly balls to improve their skills. Most, if not all of them, have personal trainers to fine tune those abilities even further. But many dealers are too busy counting deals and complaining about gross profits instead of utilizing their vision to see there are better ways to grow and develop their business.

“Great leaders and salespeople have an edge because they are able to let go of obsolete ideas”
– Donald Trump

Mr. Trump gets it and refuses to be pulled down by old-school paradigms which are perpetuating the continuing madness in our industry. Every dealership is saying the same things. Most websites look the same. And, most dealers do nothing to improve the skill sets of their management team to promote solid leadership. Nothing limits achievement more than small thinking! When you start your car, you should know the direction you are heading. Therefore, let your passion pull you forward and your planning give you direction for processes and training which endure the down times as well as the up times.

It takes time and effort to heal a sick or wounded work environment. In laying the groundwork one must first recognize that a commitment towards making improved changes is most important. Without this, nothing happens and everything defaults to business as usual very quickly and you lose credibility as complacency sets in. I do not agree with the notion that in order to create an improved effective change in the way you do business takes a long time. In fact, it can occur very quickly given a few cornerstones like empowering your people, sharing the plan with the team and giving them the economic results as they occur so everyone knows where they stand. Secrecy breeds fear and worry. It sends a signal to your people that you do not trust them or think they are incompetent in absorbing the information. Next, is investing in your people by investing in training and skill development which ultimately makes you more money. Investing in your people over an extended time frame says to them “you are important to me and a valued asset to this organization.” The moment you clearly recognize that you really do achieve a competitive advantage through your people, everything else falls in place nicely. Loyal customers are incubated through loyal workforces who are exhibiting new relationship building techniques which energize them towards customer-centric skills.

A dealership can, unlike the Titanic turn things around for the better much faster than most actually believe. How many times have you seen a sports team way behind in the game only to shock everyone by coming back strong when the chips were down to win the game? The patience element comes into play because you have to first give your team constant encouragement and pasture running room to build their skills and then continue allowing enough time to build them. If you corral (micromanage) them they will get unused organs atrophy and never run again because you crushed their spirit and creativity. I have found that almost every dealership employee I have ever spoken with would eagerly accept the opportunity to grow through effective personal development and enhanced training strategies. Sadly, most never receive it as they wait for their next job opportunity to appear.

No Dealer or GM starts out intending to build a lousy store culture, or even a just an average one. Most dealers would like their team’s productivity to be born out of a passion for the job and team synergy. Yet in this maddening marketplace, many dealers fail to see the value they can receive from well-trained people. About the timing, I guess the question you must ask yourself is when do you want to make a whole bunch more money? If later or next year is ok then that is your timing course of action. If you want to make more right now then now is it. Now is always better than hemming and hawing around “until next quarter” because the stores that choose to implement now will blow right past you.

Start a new agenda at the beginning of next month. Start your plan for doing so now. The job never started takes the longest to finish. Just don’t get fooled into thinking, like so many, that everything will work out without a plan. Be the entrepreneur you are intended to be and do it now. Breathe new life into the dealership and your people. Plant the seeds now for growing and reaping a harvest of opportunities down the road a bit. Sometimes the pursuit of the almighty dollar leads to selfish incorrigible activity ala VW’s willful skirting of emission requirement. Timing must coordinate with a well-thought-out plan.

Sometimes we are more comfortable with activities that make us feel like we’re doing something opposed to actually achieving a goal. In order for the action step to succeed, the aforementioned steps need to be handled first. No more ready shoot aim. You are now taking all the planned steps to reap an abundant harvest of increase. Of course, to win the battle you must have good well-equipped soldiers. Winning is virtually impossible if your soldiers are weaponless, cold and starving. Three things must occur for any great action achievement; purpose, persistence, and patience. One tiny spark can ignite a raging forest fire and you can ignite enthusiasm for individual and team member growth the same way. If you take actionable steps to make certain improved changes to your store you will reap awesome benefits from doing so. If this is not a priority it will be like having a flat tire; then one day in the future you have to take care of it at a most inconvenient panic-stricken moment.

Three thoughts;

  1. If you are the smartest person in the room, you haven’t hired right.
  2. It is easy to get into a routine, complacent way of conducting business. If you don’t actively disrupt that and put new ideas in front of your people all the time, they and you will lose creative muscle.
  3. Stay focused and don’t try to win a popularity contest.

Here are some action steps I would begin running my dealership by; Provide short and long-term company outlook to every employee, abide by the golden rule, create an atmosphere where the business was like family, constantly be developing employees and finally challenge yourself to be the best employer in your marketplace. The latter will attract the best future employees from your marketplace.

Faith that you can do something without action is useless. If you would like some help to starting a new direction shoot me an email requesting “action” and I will send you some ideas.