As our inboxes become inundated with reports from both manufacturers and big-box automotive groups gleefully boasting of double digit gains in sales, one cannot help but hum the song, “Welcome back Kotter,” look up and be thankful that maybe, just maybe our industry is on its way back. We recount 4 years ago, walking past the TV and hearing the talking heads’ predictions of impending, dire circumstances. “Won't happen to us,” we thought, “we’re rocking,” as we nonchalantly glance at the time on our newly financed Omega watch. With no ABS system, no airbags, no forward warning collision system-not even a seatbelt to restrain it, our industry smashed into reality, ejecting and killing the careers of countless dealers, managers, and dealership personnel. Some of their careers were given 3 months to live, while others showed up, feeling as if something wasn’t quite right, only to realize their fears, when they repeatedly yanked on the locked doors of their dealership-their hopes and paychecks instantly flushed. With hands cupped in a half arch over their eyes, they leaned on the glass and stared into the lifeless showroom they once scurried across. As you stood out on the blacktop and heard those stories, you vowed that if you could get through one more month, things were going to get better. As a month rolled into a quarter and the quarter flopped into another year, you parlayed your optimism for just one more month..and another…and another. This industry made you tough, these times made you tougher. Although tormented inside, you played Russian roulette with your career. With an unyielding mental fortitude, you stared down the barrel of each month. Click, spin, click, spin, click, spin-nothing. Your fears were being painted, but you were too naïve, too crazy, too irrational to buy the painting-you stayed and with baited breath, waited for the next up. Many didn’t make it-you did, but you haven’t arrived, you’ve just begun.
Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” It’s time for you to sharpen your axe. No longer in survival mode-you’re now the hunter and no longer the hunted. Unemployment, foreclosure, and bankruptcy tried to run you down, but you escaped the jaws of disparity. You cannot wait for things to look up until you begin to look out…and when you do, you’d better be swinging a sharp axe. Opportunity doesn’t knock on the door, you’ve got to be prepared to kick the door in and seize your opportunity. Over the past several years, the industry may have slowed down, but technology did not. Now more than ever, your skills have to be razor sharp; you can no longer wish, want, or wing your way into a deal-you’ve got to wield your axe and blade through an uneven fight. Loaded with Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, and social media, customers are showing up technologically armed with chords of objections, costs, quotes, book-outs, comparisons, and counters. When you have a dull axe, you have to work twice as hard, twice as long. Sharpen your blade by filing the rough edges of your day into a strategic, measured daily approach; sand the years of rust from disuse from your blade; honing oil will polish your negotiation skills; finally, in a circular motion, use your sharpening stone to perfect and repeat your product knowledge and presentation skills into a fine razor’s edge. In an industry full of axes, only the sharpest will survive.
See you on the blacktop!