As I write this I am simply drained. I have just spent two intense days in Las Vegas. You all know how cruel that city can be.
The people at my own table were often hard on me. I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. I didn't feel I was smart enough to play at this particular table.
The sweat was dropping with each new round. I was counting the minutes until I could relax…at the blackjack table. My meeting with CFOs of some of the nation's most successful multi-franchise dealership groups was almost over and I felt the pressure easing.
Yes, rubbing shoulders with some of the smartest people in the car business can be intimidating. The knowledge in that room was unbelievable. It validated what I've believed for years: only the best make it in the car business. I was a sponge soaking up everything I could from them.
A CFO from California is relatively new to the car business. He continuously expressed how the complexity of the car business exceeded other industries in which he's worked.
In listening to his contrasting the demands of the car business to other ventures, I realized how much I take for granted the CFOs of our dealership clients. They work long hours (though not one of them complained about it or even mentioned it) and show a deep commitment to the dealer principal and each employee of their organization.
That they took two days away from their busy schedules to try to get better at what they do, not for themselves but for their dealership group, is commendable.
These CFOs deal, sometimes on a daily basis, with such diverse areas as loss control, F&I exposure, DMS contracts, personnel testing, manufacturer relations, employee retention plans, opportunities with eBay Motors, hostile workplace risk, sales rewards, drug testing, IT personnel adequacy, predictions of hardware lives, predictions of software lives, real estate management, employee fraud, consumer fraud, salesman pay plans, management pay plans, staff training, the Safeguard Rule and the Privacy Rule of the Gramm Leach Bliley Act. The list goes on.
They offered up resources they found on the road of hard knocks, on the Internet, from consultants, from books, from seminars, from each other and from just plain savvy.
They were eager to learn from one another and even listen to my feeble suggestions. I felt like a dwarf (please no comments from those of you that know me) among giants.
I looked for commonality among the group members and I believe I found it. While some were older and some much younger than others; some from the North and some from the South; some from the East some from the West; some male and some female, they all shared a common passion for the car business.
That was evident in everything they said and did.
Those of you who have read Jim Collins' book, “Good to Great,” know how important passion is to the success of any business. That type of passion was more than obvious with the CFOs at the session I attended with them.
I thought, gee, if as an outside CPA, I took these people for granted, how much more are they taken for granted within their own dealership group.
I hope that each dealer principal gives them the appreciation they deserve, and that that same feeling permeates the entire organization.
Don Ray is a senior member of the George B. Jones Dealer Services division of Dixon Odom, a national accounting and consulting group for dealers. He's at 901-684-5643 and [email protected].