When I started in this business those were the only three things you needed to succeed: asphalt, octane and a Cross pen.
It was an interesting time September 1971. I had gone to several new car dealerships in my little home town of Columbus, Georgia. I was just coming back from four years in the military and had my bride of two weeks with me. I had always wanted to be in the car business. They all told me that they couldn’t hire me because I didn’t have any experience. I can remember the sales manager from Bill Heard telling me I’d never make it in the car business (what an interesting thought that is).
I kept on going and once all the new car dealers turned me down, I started on the independents. I ended up at an independent lot right outside of Fort Benning, Georgia where I walked in and asked for a job. He told me, we work 10 to 10, seven days a week, if you want a day off, quit. You’ve got asphalt, octane and you will need a Cross pen if you’re going to be successful. Little did I know how true that was.
I came up in a time when there were no computers or calculators. We worked a deal with a rate book. You opened the book and you took it in increments of even dollar amounts that computed to payments based on the number of months to finance. When a sales manager answered a question for you, there was no way you would ever question it. You took it for gospel because: 1. he was never wrong, 2. if he was it didn’t matter because at least he had an answer and 3. everything a sales manager did was based on common sense and experience.
I look at the managers that we train today and the young dealers that are sitting in there with them and I see some of the most highly educated, well mannered, intelligent individuals that I have ever had the privilege of working with. They have more data and statistics than anyone, in any era, or any time frame, that I have ever known in our industry. The one thing that they come to us for (which is amazing to me) is common sense.
Now as crazy as that sounds, a good example of that is the last Digital Dealer Conference and Exposition where I spoke. I had a full room and I looked around at the average age of those in there and I asked the used car managers to raise their hands. Then I asked the dealers and general managers (split about 50/50). I pointed to one young man that I assumed to be in his late 30s, early 40s, and I asked him why in the world would you come to the Deese Dinosaur exhibit, after all, this is an IT convention. They all laughed. He said, my dad told me when I came here if I didn’t go to anything else he wanted me to come in here to learn the basics of how to run a pre-owned department if someone shut out the lights and the computers went down. They all applauded his comment and I asked them if that was the general consensus of the room and they all said yes.
In the session I actually taught them how you should wash a trade. They thought that was one of the greatest things they had heard, so they would know what to expect from the company that comes in from the outside to detail their automobiles. It’s interesting to me now, after all the smoke and mirrors have cleared and all the new processes are in place (which we badly needed and I am in full agreement with), that the basics are still needed.
Thank you for still needing me and I will always need you. Remember this, all you need is asphalt, octane and a Montblanc pen…well, some things change.