There’s a perception that someone has “arrived” when he or she reaches the position of CEO. However, having just marked the completion of my first year as FordDirect’s CEO, it might surprise you to hear that this job wasn’t a destination for me.

Once I arrived, I just wanted to keep moving.  I don’t think being CEO is a seat as much as a vehicle that allows greater access to resources, talent and business insights to drive innovation.

The past 12 months have been phenomenal. Dealers increasingly are embracing digital marketing to boost dealership traffic. We are growing rapidly, both in rewards and challenges.

Rewarding because dealers value us as a trusted advisor. Challenging in that there are so many opportunities in the digital space that we must evaluate and focus quickly. But that’s a good problem to have. 

I can appreciate the important role that conflicts and contrasts play in FordDirect’s success. I don’t think it’s necessarily my job to reconcile each and every one.

With problems often came surprising opportunities. When questions were brought to our attention, we identified a solution. Follow-up questions occasionally came up, although I’m happy to report more often the proposed solution solved the problem.

To accept and embrace the dichotomies of business can be the path of least resistance that enables us to move forward and focus on what’s next.

For the current and next generation of business decision-makers, I’d like to share some lessons learned on the job these past 12 months:

  • It’s human nature to want to ride a wave of success, but managed growth is critical to long-term viability and continued expansion. Digital services for dealers have taken off, and so many consumer activities are transitioning from offline to online.

    New players on the dealer market are challenging the traditional dealership model. With all of this movement, it’s crucial that we remain focused on our strategic direction, allowing the marketplace to guide us but ultimately having firm control over how (and how much) we grow.
  • Talk less, listen more. Nothing makes you smarter than admitting you have a lot to learn, so I actively seek out the insights and experiences of others. An example of this is the collaboration between FordDirect and dealers in developing an innovative Web-based ordering system.

    Our team’s original concept was redefined based upon dealer feedback on functionality. Dealers welcomed me into their dealerships so that I can approach solutions from an end-user perspective. Had I been talking this entire year, I really would have missed out.
  • Intangibles drive tangibles. Invest in time to build trusting relationships with customers, partners and your staff, and you ultimately will increase the speed at which you conduct business and capacity for growth.
  • Develop your team. People drive your business. They are your company’s biggest asset. Often your job as a manager is to provide the vision and then to remove barriers to enable staff to get there.

    No one will stay in their job forever, so providing growth opportunities, learning experiences and development training ensures the long-term success of your company. 

I’m thriving on these lessons and all the competing dynamics of this industry – the rewarding obstacles, the small victories and even the successful failures – because I know that, even as CEO of this exciting company in this thrilling business environment, I’ve only just begun.

Stacey Coopes is CEO of FordDirect, a joint e-venture between Ford and its dealers.