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Dr. Merlot’s Perspective: Finding Holiday Cheer

As we enter the holiday season, I reflect on the past year and all the Merlot enjoyed, pontifications with friends, and memories created. I have enjoyed working through some significant client challenges, helping them right the ship out of the storm, and of course beating Loyd at golf is always a memory worth cherishing.

We have experienced a year filled with some challenges with hurricanes, flooding, fires, shootings, and political unrest. However, we have also seen a year of exponential growth in our economy and record highs with the stock market. Industries, that just several years ago were flailing, are now thriving. Technologies continue to develop new and innovative ways to work and live. And entrepreneurship and home ownership are attainable.

I often find myself working clients “out of the dumps” with the 24-hour news cycle. Too often, we are faced with only the messages of negativity, and all that is positive is being lost. It is for this reason, I challenge us all to spend some time reflecting this holiday season on the silver linings and uplifting events we have experienced in the last year.

For example, with mother nature being a force to be reckoned with this year, one of the most amazing outcomes our clients and I witnessed, was communities coming together. Strangers helping their neighbors, businesses helping their communities and non-affected individuals and companies banding together to help. We may not all have the same opinions and beliefs. But what we all do when it matters most, is care for and take care of our communities and our people..

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Dr. Merlot’s Perspective: Changing Face of Leadership

Loyd and I have not had the opportunity to get together as much as I would like over the last several weeks. Between our work schedules and the fact that he had surgery, not once, but twice, we have not been doing our regular golfing or commiserating. It does not mean that we have not been jabbing at each other whenever we get the chance, we just have not been on the golf course or having dinner where we can just sit and contemplate the problems of privately held businesses as much as we like.

Talking to Loyd recently, the subject of leadership came up and we reminisced about what “leaders” have looked like through the years we’ve been working with them. We could not help but think about how much the roles have changed from what was in the 70’s and 80’s what seemed like a “good ‘ole boy” style to where we are today. To clarify, when I say “good ‘ole boy” what I mean is business owners having power and influence through their relationships with their various sources that touch the business.

Today, that mantra of leadership has long since passed. We can blame some of it on the economic turn in 2008-2009, but all blame does not fall entirely there. The downturn did cause manufacturers and franchisers and business owners to face the hard fact that relationships, although important, will not sustain your business in a downturn. So, you could say that what we experience then has probably helped us prepare for what we are experiencing today, but it is not the most significant change we are seeing.

Working with second and third generation owned businesses, we run into a common theme of trying to run the business the way it has always been run. But what is taking place is a rapid change of leadership due to the expansive retirement of Baby Boomers. Combine this with the next generation of leaders that require leading and doing business differently. I like to call this a paradigm shift. Not only are we being forced to change the way we lead due to market changes, but we are being required to change the way we lead due to how the up and coming leaders wish to lead.

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As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee Report - Three Considerations for Ensuring Your Franchise Future

As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee Report - Three Considerations for Ensuring Your Franchise Future

A recent article, "The Coming Recession: What Lessons Can We Learn in Advance," made a simple, but significant point. We have recessions here in the United States. We don't always know when they are coming, or how long they will last, but one thing is for certain, they happen. And when they do, franchise owners who have not paid attention to historical trends or developed a strategic plan for the next few years can suffer.

The franchise industry is on pace to have one of its fasting growing years in history. In fact, the International Franchise Association reported in August that in addition to the number of franchise establishments increasing by 1.6 percent this year, the gross domestic product (GDP) of the franchise sector will exceed that of the total US GDP. With all of this growth, many owners may not be looking to protect themselves against an economic or consumer shift - or a natural disaster such as Hurricane Maria, Irma, and Harvey.

 

Read the complete article on the Multi-Unit Franchisee Website website

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As Seen On #AskNCM: How Do I Make My Dealership Successful?

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As Seen in Digital Dealer - Increasing Leadership Effectiveness: It’s Simple (But Not Necessarily Easy)!

As Seen in Digital Dealer - Increasing Leadership Effectiveness: It’s Simple (But Not Necessarily Easy)!

Think of the most effective leader you’ve known or read about? What characteristics made that person come to mind? Pick up any magazine, journal, or periodical and you’ll probably find one or more articles that talk about desirable leadership best practices and/or about becoming a better and more effective leader. Most of those articles make leadership sound like a mystical process that blends heart and head into someone who magically morphs into a super powerful, charismatic, influential, and bottom line human being. And the authors sometimes seem more concerned with whether a leader is good or bad than with whether or not the leader actually makes something happen.

Let’s take “good” and “bad” out of the picture for a moment. Instead, let’s focus on effectiveness and ineffectiveness. Can the same leader be effective and ineffective? Does it matter who’s being led? Do skill levels of the followers make a difference? Does individual willingness to follow make a difference?

Well, the answer to all four questions is yes. What comes first, however, is understanding what leaders actually do. In simplest terms, leaders use power and influence to produce results. Period. And everyone leads one or more someones, even if it’s only themselves. When led effectively, people and organizations grow. When led ineffectively, people labor and organizations can feel like a prison.

Read the complete article on the Digital Dealer Website website

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As Seen in Digital Dealer - Developing a Dealer-Minded Attitude

As Seen in Digital Dealer - Developing a Dealer-Minded Attitude

It is just too easy to not care. This was the keynote topic at a graduation a colleague of mine recently attended. In reflecting upon the focus on the commencement speech, and the audience – high school seniors, I realized that this is the same theme dealers are struggling with – how to get people to care.

More and more, what we hear from dealers is, “how do I get my people to care about the business as much I do?” Essentially, what they are referring to is, how do they foster a “Dealer/Owner-Minded Attitude” in their dealership.

The reality is it is very easy for today’s employees, and in even in some instances, our future leaders to show ambivalence regarding the impact they have on the organization or their own future. Often the root of ambivalence is fear – fear of failing, not being good enough, and/or not being chosen “seen” as a leader. And unfortunately, this is becoming common in the workplace, in part due to the generational diversity, but also in how culture has created a stigma of everyone gets a trophy. Therefore, this ambivalence, often comes across as a lack of caring – because without care, there is no failure or rejection.

Read the complete article on the Digital Dealer Website website

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Dr. Merlot’s Perspective: Servant Leadership

The last discussion Loyd and I had revolved around leadership style. Specifically, we discussed the impact of those that manage from a position of power versus those who manage with personal influence. Today, businesses may hire employees, but what both the business and employee wants are to be team members. Therefore, a paradigm shift is taking place as it relates to managing people in a way that motivates and inspires.

In comes the practice of servant leadership. If I was in the grip of the grape with Loyd, I am sure he would tell you that servant leadership is how we work together. He believes very much that I serve him and that he serves me (and no, I am not just talking about the wine here).

Loyd had taken a few days off, which is a very rare occasion, so we took the opportunity to talk some smack on the golf course. On the 18th hole, just as I was taking a few practice swings, Loyd started to comment on my swing. Loyd had been riding my butt all day, so I could not help but look back at him in complete disgust. I was sure he was trying to flub me up because, since Loyd double bogeyed on 17, I was surely going to win by two strokes!

“Whoopsie, my bad,” Loyd let’s out with a devious smirk. I teed off, ball landed perfectly in the fairway and I started walking towards him with a confident swag and my club tightly gripped in my hand. Not knowing yet if I was going to smack him with it or not, he let out the question that was lingering in his mind. He mentioned our past discussions on leadership and wanted to know my perspective on leaders who miss the “servant” nature of leadership. Now I am intrigued.

After a few minutes, I responded to Loyd:

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As Seen in Park Press: Hitting the Apex

As Seen in Park Press: Hitting the Apex

In all aspects of life, it is not about the destination, it is about the journey. Racing is a great analogy to this, as well as, to the longevity and sustainability of your business. Like a racer, every race brings with it a different set of challenges, but all races have the same expectation. Winning. Not just winning one race, but winning as many as you can so your reputation is strong to garner sponsorships and your team is committed to helping you win.

A business owner is very much like a racer. You take special care to ensure your business performs well. This means building the foundation of the business, as well as establishing a team to support growth efforts to help your business thrive. How you invest in your team impacts how the business performs and defines how you are able to support your family, your team, and community.

Like that racer, you’ve spent many long days and sleepless nights making improvements, working relentlessly to be the best and to bring out the best in others. Fine tuning things to win, thrive and sustain. Not without sacrifice, your family has felt the struggle while sharing in the success, and failures. Still, there are risks present that whether you are on the racetrack or running the business, being prepared for what may come is critical to protecting all you have worked so hard for. As the business owner, this means not just looking at where you are today, but also looking forward, just as a racer does going in a turn, to ensure you have built a business that will not only be successful today, but for years to come, even if you are no longer involved.

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As Seen in NCM Institute - Think Like an Owner

As Seen in NCM Institute - Think Like an Owner

Ownership, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is the state, relation, or fact of being an owner. Often, those who feel ownership of something take special care and feel great responsibility for it. If we dissect the definition of ownership a little more, it does not necessarily mean that one must “own,” but rather, there is a mindset of being or acting like an owner.

This “ownership attitude,” or lack thereof, can be seen in many dealerships. Some leaders may not own stock in the dealership but have ownership in areas of strategic initiatives, team motivation and collaboration, and show emotional investment in the achievement of the dealership’s mission. On the other hand, some leaders show up, fulfill their responsibilities, and get the job done. However, if a better gig presents itself across the street, they don’t hesitate to take the opportunity.

Read the complete article on the NCM Institute Website website

 

 

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As Seen in Digital Dealer - Successors: Getting out of the Middle

As Seen in Digital Dealer - Successors: Getting out of the Middle

With more family businesses then ever seeking succession through the next generation of family leadership, a change to a multigenerational management structure is occurring with regularity all over the country. Owners are counting on the seasoned professionals who have carried the day to day operations of dealership management for the past 20 plus years through a conservative approach. Their experience and reliability are depended on to continue selling cars, maximize margins, and maintain customer relationships. At the same time, many dealers understand the industry is changing and as they groom successors, are capitalizing and embracing a move to a modern approach to dealership management that focuses on innovative selling, advertising, managing and capitalizing on the customer experience.

As this generation of successor candidates emerge, they often find themselves caught in the middle of the “way it has been” and “where we want to go”. It becomes a true challenge of maintaining conservatism and innovation. Who are successors supposed to be as they work to gain respect, earn trust, perform at the top of their class while continuing to be humble. The goal is to be the best so there is no doubt he or she is the next leader of the organization, but the task at hand is to fly under the radar to not step on the toes of those currently in charge. It is a daunting, nearly impossible and often very frustrating task for all involved. Unreasonable expectations accompanied by a general lack of functional and productive communication between the two sides generally leads to extreme frustration.

Read the complete article on the Digital Dealer Website website

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Dr. Merlot’s Perspective: Leading from a place of Position vs Personal Power

I knew it was not going to take long for Loyd to get me back for my, ehhem, outburst the last time we spoke. How was I to know that he had the client on speaker, while golfing? Thankfully, the client did not seem offended as he ended the call with a little trash talk in expressing I am a better golfer than Loyd, which probably sent Loyd into golf orbit. I suspect Loyd has been practicing his game, since I was on my way to join him for a round while I was in Orlando.

Even though, Jack our client seemed fine at the end of our last conversation, I still couldn’t shake the feeling my Dr. Merlot “straight talk” had potentially offended him. Normally, I don’t care much because truth is truth and people need to hear it, but since I talked so freely not knowing Jack was on the phone in addressing Loyd’s question last month about “Is enhancement of personal lifestyle reasonable motivation for growth?” I was certain I had stepped in it somehow. This made me reflect more on a topic we are seeing more and more when clients are focused on building teamwork. What has become increasingly clear, especially with the multiple generations in a workspace, is the impact of tone and communication and how it relates to strong leadership.

Before Loyd could get his firs t-shot off, I thought this might be a good topic to dive into, while also offering myself up as the sacrificial token in a means of saying I was sorry. For the next eighteen holes, Loyd and I discussed how management style impacts people, attitude, recruitment and retention and overall culture of the business. Loyd also asked me to express my thoughts on leaders who try to rule from a place of positional power. Needless to say, this conversation took up the majority of our golf round, and could have continued into the dinner we had later that evening.

Loyd and I first focused our discussion on managers who “rule” from a place of positional power. What I shared with Loyd is it’s a touchy subject. It requires leaders to identify their style, and in most cases, make adjustments because positional power, or influence, is commonly a factual or implied superior role. We see it directly with owners, department managers, bosses, older siblings, or parents. It is, in simple terms, a “power” position where the leader uses their title or standing to influence those around them, and it often leads to malicious compliance.

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Dr. Merlot’s Perspective: Growth of Lifestyle Motivation for Business Growth

After an interesting golf game with Loyd, I was left contemplating why business owners often look at reasons other than their existing or potentially enhanced lifestyle when it comes to evaluating business growth. In the case of our conversation with Jack last month, Loyd and I had the opportunity to share with him why growth matters, even if the business is doing well. It is an easy area of confusion. If your business is in a good spot, you are making money, your people are happy and your bank account can sustain a future for you in retirement, why care about growth? A very simple answer is - life changes in a moment. What may look like is going well today, may in fact change in an instant. Therefore, if you are not constantly looking forward and trying to achieve more market share/growth, the lifestyle that you may wish to lead long after you have left the business, may not be a reality.

So, then we must take a look at motivation and understand as business owners, what is our real motivation to not only be in business, but to take on risk and continue to strategically grow and enhance the business to sustain the future? For some, it is likely to give back, develop people, contribute to the community, build something – which ultimately is to build a legacy.

Irony. Loyd happen to give my office a call as I was sitting here pondering this thought. I picked up the phone and answered, “Hey there, scratch golfer, to what do I owe the honor of your call?” With a slight chuckle, Loyd did what he does best. Without a hello, he simply asked me, “Is enhancement of personal lifestyle reasonable motivation for growth?”

I am not going to lie. I about fell off my chair because it was like he was in my head, and here I was thinking, I was the shrink in the relationship! I was not going to let Loyd one-up me, so I responded with,

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As Seen in Digital Dealer - Think Big

As Seen in Digital Dealer - Think Big

When starting out in business, most do not naturally look forward to the future and ask, “What do I want my legacy to be, and who will fill my shoes?” Rather, as entrepreneurs, we look at how we can get a business up and running, be profitable, and hopefully live a rewarding lifestyle. It is not until we are looking at what “next” looks like that we start to consider what we want to leave behind. And often, by the time we are looking at what’s “next,” we find ourselves a few steps behind the curve in planning for an effective leadership transition.

Even for those that are ahead of the curve in planning for “what’s next”, there is often a fear of failure. The fear that no one can run the business like you do causes many to get stuck in a rut, creating blinders to untapped resources and obstacles towards development of next generation leaders. Yet today, dealers have exponential opportunity to properly identify and develop their future leaders. To do this, however, you must embrace your vision, build out a leadership transition plan, and position the right leader for success to one-day fill your shoes.

Read the complete article on the Digital Dealer Website website

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Dr. Merlot’s Perspective: Motivations and Strategies for Business Growth

Loyd and I found ourselves both with a Friday free from client travel, so we decided to meet for a round of golf. I always love an opportunity to talk some smack to Loyd about his golf game.

We were rounding the turn to move to the 10th hole and ran into a friend of ours, Jack. We took a minute to catch up, giving updates on family and business. As Loyd and I were about to pull away, Jack asked if he could ask us a quick question about his business. Jack was scratching his head, so I could tell he was really struggling with something. In short, Jack had been in Board meetings the previous day, where most of the conversation focused on strategic planning and growth. Jack’s business had a strong customer base, reputation in the community and product/services. To him, he felt everything was great and his mentality was focused on sustaining success, but his Board members were more focused on growth. As such, Jack felt at odds with his Board and was struggling with the direction of the strategic plan. Other than a date confirmed for the next Board Meeting, there was no resolution or next steps identified at the end of the day. Knowing our backgrounds, Jack asked:

“If everything is going well, why is business growth so important, other than to fill someone’s ego or make more money? I need a compelling reason to take on the risk."

I opened my mouth to speak, but Loyd beat me to the punch.

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As Seen in NCM Institute - Generational Tensions: 4 Barriers to Automotive Leadership

As Seen in NCM Institute - Generational Tensions: 4 Barriers to Automotive Leadership

Ensuring the future success and sustainability of a dealership is not based solely on operational knowledge and efficiencies. In addition to creating robust processes, identifying and developing future leaders is critical to building sustainable dealership value. But first, you must overcome the leadership barriers that sabotage your goals..

In the past, when someone took on the position of “dealer,” it was assumed employees would fall in line and follow the owner’s lead. Today, with up to five generations working together at the same dealership, this expectation doesn’t hold true. Instead, good people check out or leave after a transition in leadership if they don’t feel respected for their contributions and see opportunities for growth.

Read the complete article on the NCM Institute Website website

 

 

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As Seen in Digital Dealer - A Sad or Celebratory Day?

As Seen in Digital Dealer - A Sad or Celebratory Day?

Some people may skip this article because they consider they take pride in not sweating the small stuff. After all, there are a great many consultants and gurus who consistently preach the message of “don’t sweat the small stuff…and, by the way, it’s all small stuff.” Good for them; they may have become successful by following that counsel. If you are one of those fortunate souls, congratulations.

If you are having trouble expanding your market, keeping people productive, growing your bottom line, and building lasting relationships with family members, clients, customers, vendors, and strategic partners, then you may want to consider sweating the small stuff. It’s the small stuff that makes the difference.

Read the complete article on the Digital Dealer Website website

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As Seen in Automotive Buy Sell Report - Cultural due diligence an important step in a dealership buy sell

As Seen in Automotive Buy Sell Report - Cultural due diligence an important step in a dealership buy sell

If you are in a growth spurt fueled by mergers and acquisitions, here is a story that is worth your time. On a recent flight I sat next to someone who had just moved to a new position within a different auto dealer organization. As we talked about his decision, he made it clear that he left because his company had been acquired or merged with a former competitor. “It all seemed like a wonderful opportunity before the deal took effect. Then reality set in, and after about six weeks I put myself on the market. I could hardly stand what the new dealer company was doing with and to our customers, to those of us who had helped our former company grow, and to the culture we had and respected. We just weren’t us anymore!”

To some, that may sound like whining. Perhaps it was, but as I listened to this story it began sound more and more like a case of solid financial due diligence with little to no cultural due diligence. There is no way to predict how this will turn out in the long run; but if my flight companion’s company was purchased in hopes of also acquiring additional talent and other non-financial resources, someone is going to be disappointed. If your auto dealer group’s growth strategy relies mostly on acquisition, here are some Cultural Due Diligence considerations that bear your consideration.

Read the complete article on the Automotive Buy Sell Report website

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As Seen in Automotive Buy Sell Report - Cultural due diligence an important step in a dealership buy sell

As Seen in Automotive Buy Sell Report - Cultural due diligence an important step in a dealership buy sell

If you are in a growth spurt fueled by mergers and acquisitions, here is a story that is worth your time. On a recent flight I sat next to someone who had just moved to a new position within a different auto dealer organization. As we talked about his decision, he made it clear that he left because his company had been acquired or merged with a former competitor. “It all seemed like a wonderful opportunity before the deal took effect. Then reality set in, and after about six weeks I put myself on the market. I could hardly stand what the new dealer company was doing with and to our customers, to those of us who had helped our former company grow, and to the culture we had and respected. We just weren’t us anymore!”

To some, that may sound like whining. Perhaps it was, but as I listened to this story it began sound more and more like a case of solid financial due diligence with little to no cultural due diligence. There is no way to predict how this will turn out in the long run; but if my flight companion’s company was purchased in hopes of also acquiring additional talent and other non-financial resources, someone is going to be disappointed. If your auto dealer group’s growth strategy relies mostly on acquisition, here are some Cultural Due Diligence considerations that bear your consideration.

Read the complete article on the Automotive Buy Sell Report website

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As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee - Mapping Out The Road To Success

As Seen in Multi-Unit Franchisee - Mapping Out The Road To Success

The only thing that we can rely on to be constant is change. The political environment is forcing rapid change like we've never seen before. No question that technology continues to evolve in a way that forces us to embrace it or simply get left behind. Demographics are changing with a record number of Boomers who are set to retire in the next few years, causing anxiety for many about who may be their future leader..

A change in leadership brings with it, a distinct change in style. Everyone is unique with their own personality type that impacts inter-office relationship dynamics, how departments operate, as well as how the organization goes to market. There are differences in tastes, motivators, expectations of employees, and even what one views as success or failure. These changes in styles and leadership are going to become more abundant as newer generations develop and move into leadership roles in the workplace.

Read the complete article on the Multi-Unit Franchisee Website website

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As Seen in Digital Dealer - Business Growth Comes from Sweating the Small Stuff

As Seen in Digital Dealer - Business Growth Comes from Sweating the Small Stuff

Some people may skip this article because they consider they take pride in not sweating the small stuff. After all, there are a great many consultants and gurus who consistently preach the message of “don’t sweat the small stuff…and, by the way, it’s all small stuff.” Good for them; they may have become successful by following that counsel. If you are one of those fortunate souls, congratulations.

If you are having trouble expanding your market, keeping people productive, growing your bottom line, and building lasting relationships with family members, clients, customers, vendors, and strategic partners, then you may want to consider sweating the small stuff. It’s the small stuff that makes the difference.

Read the complete article on the Digital Dealer Website website

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