Why ‘The Way We’ve Always Done It’ May Not Be the Path to Your Goals
In our youth, most of us are eager to learn. We yearn to become more than we currently are. We see those older than us, ahead of us on their journey. We see what they have accomplished and realize we don’t yet have the tools needed to achieve the same in our lives and careers. Just like the child who falls below the “you must be this height to ride this ride” line, we want to grow so we can go on our own fantastic adventure.
We want to catch up, and we’re ready to take in what we need to learn to become what we were meant to be.
But then a funny thing happens to many people. Once they attain a certain level of success, that desire to learn and grow stops. People get comfortable and lose that burning need to advance. Worse, they start to think that they already understand everything of importance; if they don’t know it, they don’t need it.
My Theory of 5 mentors instilled in me the exact opposite attitude — people should never stop learning. Once our minds are full of “certainty,” there’s no room for anything else. Once we stop growing and becoming better than the person we were yesterday, our days of success are ultimately limited.
How many auto dealers and managers have lost ground — or their business — because they refuse to change? “That’s the way we’ve always done it” is not the epitaph you want on your dealership’s gravestone. Refusal to entertain new ideas in business, or in life, limits us in two ways:
We become afraid to make mistakes. The fear of failure is often behind our refusal to examine ourselves and our business practices. If we’ve been successful doing what we’ve been doing, the idea of changing that formula of success seems foolish. After all, when we try new things, the chance of initial failure could be much higher, so why should we?
Because we have to.
Compare consumer behavior today — or even before the changes that the pandemic brought — to those of buyers from 10 years ago. Do they do business the same way? Do they have the same demands? Absolutely not. If we don’t keep up with our customers and give them the options that they expect, they will find a dealership that will. How far do you think “the way we’ve always done it” mindsets will take us in this ever-evolving marketplace?
We stop growing. Innovations — that next, great idea — happen because we’re open to possibilities. Maintaining any thriving business demands close attention to detail every day, but it also benefits from “outside the box” thinking. If you can stand out from a crowded field by employing cutting-edge marketing, inventory, strategies, sales approaches or any other activity, you owe it to your team, your customers and yourself to make it so.
We can gain new insights from 20 Groups and other successful dealers and managers. Many of our younger team members will also have great ideas — ways to reach younger shoppers and bring in new generations to our store. If we’re known for listening to new thoughts and being open to challenges to “the way we’ve always done it,” they’ll be eager to share these with us. If, however, they know we’ll shoot down anything that looks like it might be untested, they’ll keep their ideas to themselves. Those ideas will either die in silence or be used by our competitor when that team member leaves us for greener, more progressive dealers. Remember that the best and the brightest want to work with companies that are growing and continually focused on growth and opportunities.
A lesson successful businesspeople have taught me is that pain is temporary; the knowledge we gain is permanent. When we fail, we learn lessons — we often learn better through failure than we do through success. Those lessons inform our future actions, and ultimately fuel our successes. Do we bet our business on each and every untried action? No! Always weigh the risk versus the potential reward. Our business, however, will be much more productive if it’s not stagnant.
One of the great things about the auto retail business is that our manufacturers and OEMs are fanatic about sharing how we compare to the same brand almost daily and certainly on a weekly, MTD and YTD basis. This allows us to always know our rankings with units, CSI, service absorption and more. Because of this, we can measure the effectiveness of new ideas and strategies quickly and with great accuracy, limiting our risk. A wise and successful mentor once said to me, “Nothing is good or bad until compared to something else.”
Let’s look around our dealership and our lives and see what will be improved. No one is perfect, and acting like we are is a weakness that will undermine all we’ve done and all we aspire to do. Think you know everything you need to know? Think again.