Some of the most productive and well run automobile dealerships can be found in small town America. They rely upon repeat business and a good reputation among a finite population. Word of mouth information, both good and bad, spreads quickly in this environment.
The success of one particular small town dealership was highlighted in a recent article [see: Rick Kranz, “Family handles tough guys, tough times in 1-car store,” Automotive News, January 11, 2010, p. 20]. The Chrysler dealership that Mr. Kranz profiles has been in the same family for 67 years. When asked about the factors that underlie his success, the owner responded, “You have to take care of the customer and be fair and honest. I have never forgotten that.”
The dealer emphasized the importance of being kind to everyone. Then he reminisced about one of the more interesting episodes in his long career. One day in the middle of a blizzard a man ran into the showroom and told the dealer that his wife and children were stranded in their car a mile away. Instantly the dealer and one of his mechanics hopped into the dealer’s tow truck “and rescued the stranded family.”
Shortly after this event the dealership began receiving purchase orders from a large utility. For several years, the utility purchased 300 to 400 cars from this small town dealership. It turns out that the man whose family had been rescued by the dealer was the chief vehicle purchasing agent for the utility which had been purchasing all these vehicles. Even though the purchasing agent was driving a Ford during the blizzard, he did not live in the small town, and he was not a customer of the Chrysler dealer, the dealer went out of his way to help a family in need. As a result, the dealer was rewarded many times over with enhanced revenue, aka appreciation.
End note: Be gracious with the fruits of your success.