Is This a Career?
Years ago I had the honor to be introduced to a gentleman who would change my life. He was Robert Worthington, President of Royal Oldsmobile in Stone Mountain Georgia. Bob as many knew him (I always addressed him as Mr. Worthington) had a commanding way about him. He was proud of our industry and the success of his dealership.
His pride did not come from what he had done, but rather what his managers and employees had accomplished during their years with Royal Oldsmobile. You see Mr. Worthington was one of those rare men who believed in mentoring and coaching. Do not get me wrong, he drove his managers hard and himself harder. He expected 100% the moment you walked into the showroom floor to start your day.
When I expressed an interest in the industry, Mr. Worthington was quick to point out the hard work and long hours it would take to build a business. Did you notice I said “business”? Robert Worthington would let you know from the start that this was your own business, your success or failure rested completely on your own shoulders. Yet the potential was without limits.
Believe it or not, I had to endure at least seven interviews with several managers before I could even be considered for a position as a salesperson. I had to take a primitive personality test, spend a day on the showroom floor watching how business was done, and be interviewed by several of the senior salespeople on why I was even considering the automotive business.
Once I was accepted, I became part of a rookie team which had to attend training at an offsite campus in Birmingham, Alabama. After three weeks of training, I was assigned to a manager by the name of Mark Rotruck who was to mentor us over the next year as we hopefully moved from rookie to seasoned professional. Mr. Worthington would direct us to a local gentry shop to get our suits, ties, and shoes. We had to have our hair cut to mirror the classic IBM look of the day and had to pass inspection in our dress as well as the way we kept our offices. It was not just a job, it seemed as if I had entered the Army by way of the car business and expected to stand tall as I learned my trade.
You might be wondering why I am traveling down memory lane here, sharing this rosy view of yesteryear. Well on a recent tour of several dealerships in my local area, I noticed how many of the salespeople did not treat this position as a possible long-term career. During our brief talks, it was voiced that they did not even see this as a business opportunity.
Now I realize it has not been easy to work the showroom floor for some time now. Reduce margins, limited inventory, and the Internet have all played a part in changing the face of our industry. Yet we still have professional individuals in some of our stores who are treating this as a career and making a respectable living.
I know that when I got started, we had double-digit interest rates. I do recall times when we had no traffic at all, but what we did have were managers and business owners that supported us and somehow guided us through those times. Looking back on it now, I realize how lucky I was to have such a wonderful base of leaders who not only shaped my outlook about this industry but also taught me how to respect the career.
Rick Wise currently has the honor of working with MarketSource to bring best practices to a select group of Ford Retailers. (this was first posted in 2010)