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Keith Shetterly

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The Good Ol' Boy Network (TGOBN)

The Good Ol’ Boy Network (TGOBN) of the car business limits us in how we apply experienced and/or capable people, how we run our dealership’s business, and in how we approach women in this business for everything from ownership, to manager spots, to sales positions.  And, by doing all that, it limits our success.  And our profitability.  Let me tell you my own experience with the car business TGOBN, and then I’ll address the point I’m making on limits.

I came to the car business in my mid 40’s (I’m now 56) with experience ranging from owning my own business, to Fortune 50 Consulting, to several years at Microsoft, IBM, and Compaq.  I entered the sales floor, as perhaps many do, because I had a financial issue—I had a cash flow problem with my own business, and so I was making an effort to offset that slowdown.

I was privileged to work with several great salespeople who were happy with me until I started selling #1 consistently.  Eventually, they came back to liking me, but what really happened next was inevitable:  I knew so much about sales and marketing, and the dealership group’s attention to marketing and the Internet was severely lagging.  They couldn’t run a marketing program in any coordinated fashion to save their lives.  I tried to help, but I ran right smack into TGOBN:  I couldn’t possibly understand the car business!  And the people they had running all the marketing and Internet were just fine.  Really.  After all, the owner knew them all very well, how could it be otherwise??

And so I sold lots of cars and left to my business when my cash was right again.  The main store’s GM called me a few months after that, though, and he said “I get it even if others don’t.  I need your help in a BDC with phones and Internet; can you come back and help me?”  And so I did.  And a shout-out to my old GM, Mike, by the way:  Thanks very much for that!

He and I worked together and took the BDC—even back then—to running 40% of the dealer’s vehicle retail business.  I eventually moved on to an eCommerce position at a large group for several years, then to consulting, and for me the rest is history as they say: I’m now with a vendor, but I still have all that experience to bear, both inside and outside the car business.  Plus I qualify now for some level entry into that TGOBN.  Who knew??

Though that’s still not true with everyone who considers me and who I am, because I’m not twenty years in this business making all the same mistakes they are making (if not direct business mistakes, then business-limiting mistakes because they are still TGOBN-oriented).

So, what are a few of the most common TGOBN limits that hurt dealership success?  First, that experience outside the car business cannot be any strong help to a dealership; second, that running the dealership AS a business, instead of by TGOBN “relationship decisions", is not possible nor profitable; and, third, that women are never, ever part of TGOBN.

Yeah.  I said it.  Women are limited by TGOBN in the car business.  Still.  Even in 2015. I’ll write more on that in a minute.

First, what I see for TGOBN relationships that hold back their business success is perhaps best given in questions:  Who knows a GM who buys a random direct mail piece because his buddy at another dealership “killed it” and sold “fifty cars” from it last month?  Or has seen the management clearing-out that happens with some GM regime changes?  Or still sees print advertising spend over digital because the GM has a long-standing relationship with the local newspaper?  And so on.  Exactly.

And back to women, then, to wrap up, and so I’ll ask some more questions:  How many women GMs and managers are there?  Why do lots of capable women leave the sales floor?  Why do the ones who stay do so well and yet cause such jealousy?

TGOBN, that’s why. For all of that and more. I see more women than ever, but there’s still TGOBN. And you know it. And more than just women are affected by it.

For success, we need experienced, capable people with new ideas; we need to run our dealerships as businesses, not as clubs; and though we have improved some, we still need more women in sales, management, and ownership. 

And we lag on all these because of the limits of TGOBN, both in business practice and in attitude.  Removing that limit will do more for long-term dealership success than any new efforts on Internet, Social Media, Reputation Management, etc. ever will alone—simply because those are all really most successful when change for business success is really embraced.

And the car-business TGOBN hates change.  Have you noticed?

So did the dinosaurs, perhaps, and they are now encased in rock.  Don’t be a TGOBN fossil and miss modern success and profit.


By Keith Shetterly
Copyright 2015, 2011 All Rights Reserved

(This article is a re-write and update of one that first appeared in 2011.)

James Klaus
Great Post Keith! Thanks for sharing. I sure wish you were wrong.....but you are not.
Jillian Marchewka
This is really refreshing! Thank you Keith for believing in us women and new ways of doing things!
Keith Shetterly
Thanks James and Jillian. TGOBN . . . well, it really hurts both people and dealerships. Hard to beat, but it can be done. :)
Roger Conant
Just caught this, Keith! You KNOW, I KNOW you are spot on!
Roger Conant
If I'd been here at the time...I would have been the first to comment! How does the oft used phrase go..."It's about time!" :-)

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