Since manufacturers are only building on demand, are you aware that you could probably pile up all the gold in the world solely on the empty spots in your new car lot? The reason why gold is so valuable is because the total supply of world gold could be displayed as a 110 foot cube; no more and no less from all sources on earth. In addition to leaving a sizable dent in your asphalt, I am sure that a 110’ cube of “bling” would draw traffic beyond any tent sale!
Ancient lore has it that hidden away in the caverns of history is a formula known as alchemy for changing ordinary metal into gold. Going back hundreds if not thousands of years, alchemy has also meant the pursuit of instant success through alternate means. The ambitious and optimistic choose to search for this magical shortcut for creating gold versus the grinding, back breaking work required to achieve success. As one who has dug a few holes in my day, I can appreciate the lure of slick tricks and magic to avoid back breaking work. Given the current price of gold any wizard who could pull off this feat would instantly become famous, heading straight to being the eight hundred pound automotive gorilla.
As I reflect back on my years of helping businesses with succession, I recall countless hours of dialogue usually facilitated by Professor Merlot; under the heading, “Wouldn’t it be great if we found the sweet spot?” Fortunately most of you who patronized my imagination shook off this allusion before it migrated to a delusion. However, as I look around the landscape and reflect on empty buildings the bizarre concept of “reverse alchemy” comes to mind.
Yes this is another “Rawlsism” so if you are not familiar with this concept think of it as turning what the objective eye would consider a goldmine into unproductive empty buildings. As I drive around and see the commercial real estate blight created by empty automobile dealerships I think it may be worthwhile to reaffirm a few perspectives and mindsets that can help avoid “reverse alchemy” in what is sure to be a challenging future.
1. Don’t accept what comes from the manufactures as gospel.
They are no better at doing what they do than you are at doing what you do. Otherwise, you would be bankrupt, caput, history and they would be cleaning up their balance sheets and writing books about how smart they are. Most of what they are doing is at best a hypothesis and at worst an experiment with your money. Show them the respect that they merit, but don’t lose sight of the fact that they are building their bridge as they walk on it.
2. Remember the business survival golden rule: he who has the gold sets the rules.
If your business plans include significant reliance upon banks or those venture capital geeks, don’t be offended when they change the rules. The money vendors will be back with hat in hand begging you to take their money to buy another store, another vacation home, etc. Remember if you need the banks, they own you. If the banks need you, you own the banks.
3. You are in the people business.
Irrespective of the manufacturer that you represent, you can achieve nothing without dedicated people to convey your message of trust and value. With the right people you can be successful with any make in any location. Attract and maintain the right people by showing them respect as a valued team member not an employee because perceived value means very little without trust. Customers will pay more; they will travel further; and they will overlook mistakes for those they trust. So, look at every member of your team and ask a simple question, does this person adequately project trust? For every customer your people make happy, you will gain another customer. For every customer your people make unhappy, you will lose two customers.
4. Get involved.
Don’t rely on anyone to run your stores in a manner that you don’t fully understand. Assert your expectations and inspect what you expect. If you are too old, too distracted or too lazy to understand the details of your business, get out and make a hefty donation to your favorite charity. You will be free from the anxiety of being over your head in a high velocity, no apology business and have the satisfaction of giving something to someone you care about versus being worked over or hoodwinked.
5. Everyone (customers, team members, and manufacturers) want to be a part of your family because you treat family special.
When you are confronted with overwhelming challenges it is family that will “give it up” for you. Give everyone an opportunity to earn their way into your family and they will “give it up” for you because somewhere in the past you will have earned their respect by treating them special. When you welcome newcomers into your family live by the credo that there is no business gain worth a family price.
So how do you describe reverse alchemy? There are many ways of converting gold into rubbish but the following would be your best bet:
- Believe everything offered by manufacturers as gospel;
- Spend your earnings and borrow from banks;
- Assume that your employees are lucky to have jobs and don’t care about anything but their paycheck;
- Show up just enough to let everyone know you are boss, but don’t understand what is going on; Criticize your kids and tell everyone that family members are killing your business.
Sound like something you want to avoid?