Thoughts on the Car Business

I’ve been privileged to work in the car business. I say privileged because I have had the opportunity to work with and learn from some great leaders. I’ve worked for a baseball legend, an amazing CEO when I was with one of the public companies, and entrepreneurs that have had to learn the business using their own money.

While with a public company, I was honored to go to their Dealer Academy where I learned every aspect of the car business, the New Car Business, the Used Car Business, Fixed Operations and Accounting. In completely burying myself in learning about the numbers end, I realized I had a natural knack for numbers and understanding how much revenue was generated and knowing what percentage of each expense needs to be in order to create a net profit. Sounds simple enough but with upwards of $70M in annual revenue and know where each tenth of a percent needs to go can be a bit overwhelming at times. Like I said, I had a knack, not quite a “Rain Man”, knack but a knack nonetheless.

One career-changing event occurred during my schooling at the Dealer Academy that made all the difference, though. I got an opportunity to listen to a speaker by the name of Captain D. Michael Abrashoff, USN. He spoke about leadership as outlined in his book “It’s Your Ship”. If you are in a position of leadership, this is a must read. I read it and immediately put into practice some of the things mentioned that made huge impacts in how I related to my staff. You can have incredible understanding of a business or position you hold but if you cannot get the people around you to rally to your cause you will fail out of the gate. One particular action that made a difference was sending a letter to the spouses, significant other or parent/caretaker of the people whom reported to him. The letter thanks the relative for the support of the sailor and details to that person how much the sailor made a difference in his/her job role. He developed loyalty from his crew because, in order to do this, you must take the time and energy to pay attention to their individual roles and how they affect the operation. With the receipt of the letter, the relative will relay the message to the sailor. Can you imagine the impact?

I did this for each and every employee who worked for me ever since reading this idea. I realized a number of things. First, I can guide my employee by understanding what they need from their job, irrespective of money, and help them get it. Second, I had to pay closer attention to what I have tasked them to do. This will give you much more insight. Third, I realized how much more people are capable of than they realize. People will perform with proper coaching. I’ve had employees force me to make decisions they didn’t like, so I am not in some euphoric state that helps everyone every time, but if I, as a leader, can compel 90-95% of my staff to buy into the overall objective of a business by doing their part I am way ahead of the curve. Lastly, I realized that even though I referred to the great people I’ve been associated with earlier in this post; I was even more privileged to work with, hand in hand, with some exceptional people. People that earned not much more than minimum wage that showed up for work just a little early because they felt they were a part of something, to single mothers in the business office that gained my respect because of what they needed to accomplish for themselves and their children to managers earning over six figures that took my leadership and imparted the same ideas to help all of their staffs to become better and earn more.

The effect of having a group of people that I regarded as exceptional in their individual roles and them knowing I knew their roles, challenges and loyalties was and is dramatic. Be a leader to the people whom report to you and not just another manager. Lead them to their own level of greatness.

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