Thirty years ago the media said demeaning things about me and fellow new-car dealers. I saw and heard myself portrayed as an enemy of the people.
Even my government's officials publicly announced discoveries of sensational but uncorroborated statistics of fraud and deception by my fellow dealers. Ambitious consumer advocates had a heyday with our reputations, using “rip-off” as their battle cry! My cup of bureaucratic regulations ranneth over.
My children questioned the retailing system that had sustained them from grade school through college. They asked me guarded questions about my business principles.
They quoted consumer advocates who never had the responsibility of a job or meeting a payroll. For a brief time, I was suspect because they had heard me use the word “profit,” and profit is an obscenity, sayeth some in the media.
The strength and pseudo-idealism of organized labor became a public endorsement of my alleged greed and exploitation. Their profile of bigness and power is somehow immune from the crosses I bear for the same ingredients.
Some new-car dealers were guilty of stretching the rules of ethical practices, but after my personal half-century experience as a new car dealer I can attest to the ethical qualities of the more than 20,000 U.S. franchised new car dealers.
What then is the similarity between the outright thievery perpetrated by certain CEOs now under the legal gun, and what is the long-term danger when the entire populace gets out their broad brushes and commences to label all CEOs as evil, when, only a few are guilty?
I remember the times my wife and I attended social gatherings with new friends and she would caution me to avoid any conversations regarding my career as a new car dealer. The moment it was learned I was one of those, other guests would literally line up to relate horrible experiences they and their friends had with dealers.
I am responsible for the well-being and security of my employees, their families, and to all who are my suppliers and customers. My position is a lonely one, for as the captain of a ship, I must not fraternize too much lest I lose my leadership image. My decisions will not please all those who are dependent on them, for I must always insure the security of that which provides for the majority. Feelings about family, religion, and country are not unusual for I love them all.
Ego motivates me. Empathy creates a search for harmony. Pride seeks respect from all I touch and responsibility garners security for all who depend on me.
I wish to be judged fairly on my own merits, and that I may not be capriciously and diabolically exploited by those with ulterior motives. Also, I wish to be judged on my actions, and not the mud-slinging of self proclaimed crusaders.
My talents are honed and tested each day in the competitive market place, which has created, for Americans, the highest standard of living in the civilized world.
American industry has the strength and conviction to endure the barbs against the guilty, but I am wary that public opinion will exact a heavy toll on the dreams of enterprising entrepreneurs.
So, don't exaggerate the shady CEO issue in the same way new-car dealers took a lot of undeserved flak in the 1970s and 80s. Punish the guilty, but not the industry.
I am good for America. In fact I am a manifestation of its dreams and purposes.