He's Back Home in Memphis

Hello again. My last regular Wards Dealer Business column appeared in the May of 2005. Since then I retired from Dixon Hughes PLLC, moved from my home in Memphis, TN, took a position with DCH Auto Group as their chief financial officer and relocated with my family to New Jersey. New Jersey's nickname the Garden State is apt. It's a beautiful state as you get away from the urban areas. But like a moth

Hello again. My last regular Wards Dealer Business column appeared in the May of 2005.

Since then I retired from Dixon Hughes PLLC, moved from my home in Memphis, TN, took a position with DCH Auto Group as their chief financial officer and relocated with my family to New Jersey.

New Jersey's nickname “the Garden State” is apt. It's a beautiful state as you get away from the urban areas. But like a moth to flame, I've been drawn back to my hometown and extended family in Memphis where I recently took a position as senior vice president with AutoStar.

AutoStar and its publicly traded parent, iStar Financial, are based in New York City, but my office is in …you guessed it Memphis!

So having seen the retail car business as a CPA with Dixon Hughes, a CFO with DCH and now a banker with AutoStar, what word of wisdom might I relay to you?

Execute.

Of course, this is nothing new. Ram Charan and Geoffrey Colvin wrote a Fortune magazine article in 1999 entitled “Why CEOs Fail.”

What was the reason given for this failure? Yes, a failure to execute.

Many people would suggest the biggest failure of CEOs and other top executives is a lack of vision or strategy. Studies prove otherwise.

Charan and Colvin wrote:

“Yes, strategy matters. A good, clear strategy is necessary for success, but not sufficient for survival. So look again at all those derailed CEOs … They're smart people who worried deeply about a lot of things. They just weren't worrying enough about the right things: execution, decisiveness, follow-through, delivering on commitments. Are you?”

They offer a self-test on 5 signs of CEO failure. It's applicable to modern-day dealers. See how you do.

  1. How's your performance — and your performance credibility? Of course you have to deliver results, but you're unlikely to do so if you haven't developed performance forecasts for the next eight quarters, not just the usual four. You should have ideas now for changes you may have to make six to eight quarters out.
  2. Are you focused on the basics of execution? You should feel connected to the flow of information about your company and its markets. That includes regular, direct interaction with customers and front-line employees. Are you following through on all major commitments from your direct reports? Are you listening to the inner voice telling you whether these things are going well or badly?
  3. Is bad news coming to you regularly? Every company, even the most successful, has bad news, usually lots of it. If you're not hearing it, are you letting the trouble build? The information you get should force you to take competitors seriously.
  4. Is your board doing what it should? That means evaluating you and your direct reports, asking for information about your markets, and demanding a succession plan-but not formulating strategy (your job) or trying to manage operations.
  5. Is your own team discontented? Top subordinates often start bailing out before a CEO goes down.

As you consider the results of this self-test, what picture is being painted in your mind's eye? Is it a picture of success or of inevitable failure?

If it's success, then to you I say “congratulations” and urge you to instill that “can-execute” culture throughout your organization.

If the picture on your horizon is that of doom, cheer up. Execution leadership can be learned. But it must never be abandoned.

Learn more about it by reading the referenced Fortune article. I also recommend Larry Bossidy's book, aptly titled “Execution.”

Maintaining a culture of execution has no end point. And oh yes, its sure is good to be home.

Don Ray is a senior vice president with AutoStar and can be reached at 901-907-0134.

Questions or comments about this column? Send us an e-mail at [email protected].

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