The last few days I seem to be having a number of memories about the car business which I spent 25 years in directly and for the last 16 indirectly. I think the auto business is a great teacher–at least it was for me. I learned a ton.
One thing that I learned stands out and apart from much of the rest, and that is the idea of competition. I call it the ‘C’ word, and I don’t believe in competition anymore, but the car business and other businesses I’ve been around seem obsessed by it more often than not.
Many dealerships seemed to have a policy about not trading with other dealers too close. The fear (and that’s really the right word for what it is) is that a tentative customer (a prospect) may come in to our store, then go to the other store and want that dealer to get this unit so they can buy it there. Now, to me, if that is the case, we had nothing to begin with except a vehicle that someone desired. We didn’t have anything we could have lost because we had nothing to begin with.
Another way to handle it might be to just be straight and honest with each other. I’ve done that with close by dealers where I said, ‘you know, I have had this customer for a long time and they just happened to see this unit on your lot. Would you mind trading with me so I can satisfy their desire?’ It usually worked out perfectly.
One of the issues that becomes what I call, ‘competing over the lowest gross profit’ becomes a negative when we’re trying to sell the same thing as the other guy and all that is left is knocking the price. There are no real winners here.
The ‘C’ word that I do believe in is creativity. I also like the ‘I’ word, innovation. There’s room enough for everyone to share and attract.
I see a lot of commercial truck dealers stocking the same exact products as the other dealers all around them. What is the sense in this? Innovate. Take charge. Think about it. Strategize. Be purposeful. Those are excellent words to live by to change perspective and profits. If everyone is stocking the same 8′ service body with a rack and hitch from the same suppliers, there isn’t much left except price, is there?
One of the many commercials with Lee Iacocca back in the 1980’s was him saying at the end, ‘lead, follow or get out of the way.’ I love that. I choose lead.
What Is Your Choice In Your Business?
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