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Dealer Ops

What Does Tomorrow Hold

2005 heads into the home stretch. For many, it has been a record breaking year - record sales, record profits and all this in light of the turmoil at General Motors and Ford. Records lead to growth, confidence and sometimes even a feeling of invincibility.

It is like when a baseball player is in “the zone” and everything he is swinging at looks as big as a basketball.

First of all, I congratulate all those experiencing a record year. Keep it going. Appreciate it. I once had a friend that told me time is the great equalizer, and that there were eight months in a year and three weeks in a month, and anything more than that was gravy. That isn’t to imply that any of you take your success lightly, or are going to take your eye off the ball tomorrow – it is just that you never know what tomorrow may bring.

As you know my clients give me much of the inspiration for my columns. Over the past few weeks four different members have queried me about growth. They felt that they all have good teams, and are ready to buy new stores or add additional locations. I always smile, congratulate them and always, always tell them to make sure they have all contingencies covered before they grow. I also remind them just because they may have achieved a certain level of sales or profitability for a month or two, they can’t always depend on the same level of production every month. You never know what is around the corner. Remember 9/11?

I lead with this because this month’s column is written with a heavy heart. A good friend of mine just learned that his teenaged daughter has been diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia – stage four. He is the second good friend that has had to face this horrible situation in little over a year. At best, it immediately changes not only the life of your daughter but your immediate and extended family. You don’t even think about the worst.

These good friends just also happen to be clients. Clients, of whom, I have an intimate knowledge of their dealerships. Dealerships that at the time of their daughters’ illnesses were enjoying record profitability. Let me say right now that business and profits are a pittance to that of the health or life of a family member. I have a twelve year old daughter still at home, and a three year old granddaughter. Let anything happen to them, or any of my family, and my immediate and full attention will shift to them and their care. I cannot imagine the array of emotions that my friends must deal with. Business becomes at best, secondary.

The question is what happens then? What happens if it is you, or a key person, that is suddenly taken out of your operation? Maybe permanently. Maybe tomorrow. It does happen. And it happens everyday. If you are like many, you and your management team are often stretched perilously thin. Unfortunately you know what would be likely to happen next. Equally as unfortunate, the lives and livelihoods of your employees would also be immediately impacted.

Only the elite operations are prepared to lose someone at the top, and not feel an immediate loss. There are a number of dealerships that have personnel in place that are cross trained so that a temporary or even long term loss wouldn’t be the end of the world. Some even have life or disability policies in place for the dealer and/or key management personnel to assist the inevitable loss of revenue income. Some do but not many.

Tomorrow can happen to anyone. The sudden heart attack. The car accident. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be a disaster – it can simply be that your right-hand-person or general manager finally succumbed to the ridiculous offer from your competitor down the street. Everything can be records and roses, with never a hint of a problem - until that day.

What have you done to safeguard your operation? Who manages the assets? The cash? Orders or buys the inventory? Manages the people? Knows your various essential passwords? Can sign checks or contracts? Can close the books? These are just the rudimentary things. Most successful business people wish to protect what they have worked so hard to build, but the estate planning that you heard about at a seminar last year can always wait until a better day – like so many other things.

My advice this month is simple. Don’t wait for tomorrow even when you are on a roll and even when you feel invincible. Appreciate what you have today. Slow down long enough to say “what if”, and take the proper steps before you go forward. But first, tell your family you love them, tell your employees you appreciate them and most of all, say a prayer for my two friends and their families.

Vol 2, Issue 8



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