It happens to us all. A proud parent sticks a cell phone pic in your face or shoves their stroller into your ankles and asks, “Isn’t my baby is cute?” We want to be honest, but don’t want to hurt their feelings. We say, “unbelievable!” or “words cannot describe.” But we really want to tell them, “Your baby is ugly.”

Consulting with automotive retailers is often no different. A general manager or owner invites me into their dealership, and I ask the qualifying questions to understand what they need.  I am there because they know they need help.  Still, those who are married to the “way we do things ‘round here” can suck the oxygen out of the room with “how beautiful his/her baby is”. So, I often ask myself “why am I even here?” The answer is always the same – to learn.

The bottom line is this – leaders know there’s an opportunity they are missing. Maybe they cannot figure out just where that opportunity is without the help of an outsider’s view. Maybe they want to manage their current processes better, albeit processes that often are broken or stuck in a time warp.  Maybe the oxygen thief is still wearing plaid and penciling with a four square. There are several reasons I find myself in a room of parents’ justification, but most importantly, fear of change often gets in the way of hearing and embracing the hard truths about what is and isn’t working.

I know this — our business changes so rapidly that if I do not keep up with current knowledge and trends then I will be left in the dark. It’s a full-time commitment understanding the way most successful dealers in the world do business.  Since my company works with many of the most successful performers in our industry, one would think it’s an easy task to stay in the know. It is not. So how can anyone expect a dealership employee who is constantly in the middle of the day-to-day business operations to keep abreast of the changes occurring in the market?

My dealer partners include many of the best owners, GMs, and GSMs in today’s market, and they seem to manage new information well and adapt to the constant changes swiftly. Additionally, they teach me. More importantly, they are okay when you tell them how ugly their baby might be. I’m just as okay learning about my ugly kid. The bottom line is that we learn, grow, and change together. After all, isn’t that what a successful partnership is built on – belief and honesty? To be successful, we must be honest with one another, and both believe in that trust. Take risks fearlessly – that includes being prepared for answers that may not be exactly what you wish to hear.

How ugly is your baby? Should I tell you the truth or should I just say “unbelievable?”

Sell ‘em all!

– Tony Ziegler