One of the reasons I love the car business so much is its competitiveness on so many different fronts.

Internal competition exists with our sales personnel, technicians, service advisors and others. Every month presents a new opportunity to perform better internally versus our teammates and externally versus our competition, both same brand and different brand, in terms of volume, net and market share.

Our challenge as dealer operators is to continually improve, looking beyond ourselves for ways to do that. “People seldom improve when they have no other model but themselves to copy after,” said Irish Playwright Oliver Goldsmith.

I had a unique experience recently. Four members of a 20 Group I've worked with for a number of years brought their management teams together for an intense 1s½-day session.

It began with all personnel in a common meeting. Then we went into breakouts for fixed and variable operations. In a typical in-dealership management meeting, we speak of certain members' performance and try to explain what measures they employ to realize their results.

In this meeting, the frontline managers, the ones making things happen, were describing and discussing their techniques. Then something happened.

Right in front of me, I saw denial removed. Let me explain. Often, at these 20-Group sessions we dismiss a certain successful dealer's performance as being due to anomalies such as an accounting glitch, fewer dealers in his or her market, competing dealers not advertising below invoice or whatever. In other words, “My market is different. That's why our performance isn't equal to or better than theirs.”

In this meeting we got past that. We got past the excuses and started exploring areas where there might be a performance deficiency. Better-performing members were asked in-depth questions regarding their progression to this level. The rewarding part was watching one high-performance manager counsel another with the goal being to enhance the volume or net of the other.

The aftermath of this meeting is that these four-dealership teams from four totally different geographic areas are now communicating and ultimately challenging each other weekly and monthly to raise their performance levels. Such counseling and idea exchanging can measurably improve an organization's performance.

Training is a passion with me, but prior to investing time and resources in training, we need to create a desire. That's somewhat more challenging.

Desire can come from many sources, but one of the best ways is to explore the competitive nature, which resides within most of us in this industry.

It's up to you, the dealer principal, to stretch the minds and possibilities of your management team. Stress their ability to grow and encourage their participation in raising the organization's bar.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “One's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.”

A couple of more memorable quotes:

From Ronald E. Osborn: “Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.”

From 19th-century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli: “As a rule, he or she who has the most information will have the greatest success in life.”

Provide your staff with as much good information as feasible and then prepare them for operating at the next level.

From each member of the NCM family, our best wishes for a happy holiday season and a new year filled with peace, love, happiness and prosperity.

Good selling!

Tony Noland ( is the president and CEO of NCM Associates, Inc.