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New Year's Resolutions

It can’t possibly already be 2005. I mean, wasn’t it just yesterday that we were preparing for all the calamities about to occur as we rolled into Y2K?

I remember vividly standing at Disney World on New Year’s Eve 1999 for the big celebration wondering if all the pundits’ proclamations of disaster might actually occur. At the same time, I knew that I had taken all precautions that due diligence had suggested, and therefore I shouldn’t be worried. We all know that for the most part, none of the disasters ever occurred.

Couldn’t it also be that the reason that none of the disasters ever occurred was due in part to the preparations that everyone had put in place? In any case, the world didn’t end and here we are, overnight five years later, at the onset of a brave, New Year.

As I look back on 2004, it appears that it was in general, a very challenging year for dealers. The retail automobile business is not an easy business. The barriers and cost of entry are not low; it is highly regulated and there are plenty of profit-eating issues around every corner.

To be certain, I know some dealers that found 2004 to be a record year. They had solid plans and executed them consistently, and their record sales levels and their net profits were no accident.

On the other hand, there were many dealers that quite out of character, struggled in 2004. These dealers were surprised by slumping sales volume, slipping gross profits, and left wondering what they done differently that caused their business to swoon.

In most cases, they may have done nothing differently. By now, anyone with any tenure in the retail automobile industry knows that the business is always changing. I look back at how it differs from when I entered it in 1979 and just shake my head.

There is an old adage that goes, “If you don’t plan, you plan to fail.” Certainly that is just one of many axioms that govern the retail industry.

One definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect the same results. I might suggest that it may be equally insane to do the same thing year after year after year in the car business and expect to maintain your results.

I will be honest. I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions. I haven’t for years. Somewhere along the line I resolved to continually assess and modify my goals (and plans) throughout the year. The only particular entity that I know that holds a special affinity towards the New Year (the end of the previous year in particular) is the IRS.

With that in mind, some dealers tend to write off the last month (or two) of the year in their mind, justifying, “Well, it is the Holidays and I am going to get my game plan together and launch it after the first of the year.” Been there…done that…and I fixed that mentality.

My feelings are that first of all, you generally live up or down to your expectations. Second, somewhere along the way, I learned it was more effective to continually set goals, continually measure my performance, and continually reassess my action plans. Why wait until the New Year?

I am sure there are a good percentage of those reading this that diligently met with your management team towards the end of 2004, analyzed your financial statement, forecasted the upcoming year and crafted some solid plans to execute for 2005. I congratulate you. You were probably were the ones that set records in 2004.

For the rest of you, it isn’t too late. Another axiom is that the speed of the leader is the speed of the pack. Get your team together. Articulate and establish goals. Create an action plan (with a timeline of measurable goals). Put it in writing and communicate it to all. Determine who needs additional training (internal or external) in order to execute the plan. Then go execute it – and measure the success. Then reevaluate it regularly.

Vol 2, Issue 1

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