Here's an old Chinese proverb that makes a lot of sense: “If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.”

In my 40 years in the automobile business, I've never seen the challenges we are facing today. The changes we are experiencing now are fundamental and the end result will shape our future automotive retailer model.

For the past 18 months, I've encouraged you to right-size your business and to take a hard look at each individual dealership expense. From numerous conversations with dealers, I know many of you have taken the tough actions necessary to reduce your overhead to be more consistent with the actual, or realized, gross-profit production.

As a part of the right-sizing initiative, I think you have identified certain personnel in whom you have confidence. These are the personnel that will not only help get through this difficult business environment and lead your organizations, but also are the ones you have chosen and who have accepted this challenge to prepare your organizations for the future business model.

Each work day, we are receiving an education in one form or another. But is this hands-on education really accomplishing all that's needed and as quickly as needed in today's business environment?

Irish playwright Oliver Goldsmith wrote, “People seldom improve when they have no other model but themselves to copy after.” This is a quote I often use when making presentations about the virtues of 20 Group membership and the benefits associated with providing your personnel with source for a continuing education.

I can't even begin to tell you the numbers of dealers and managers who have commented on the value they receive not only from participating in the formal meetings and seminars, but from conversations with, and learning from, other members and attendees outside the formal meeting during breaks, or while sharing a beverage after meeting hours.

To an extent, the message in this article is potentially self serving since NCM has been providing 20 Group services for 61 years and continuing education classes for more than 10.

But to a greater extent, it is intended to encourage you to not overlook the tangible value your organization will receive as the result of your personnel receiving the dedicated, department-specific education that will help them prepare for their future and yours.

One benefit I've personally experienced when sending my managers for training is their willingness to share their new-found knowledge and processes with their peers. Not only is this a vote of confidence for the managers, it sends a message to other employees that we are willing to invest in them and their future.

Peter Drucker said: “Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes.” That sums up my point. By continuing to invest in improving your personnel's knowledge, the entire organization will improve.

For the continuing education programs NCM offers for dealership professionals, go to www.ncm20.com.

Good selling!

Tony Noland (tnoland@ncm20.com) is the president and CEO of NCM Associates, Inc.

Questions or comments about this column? Send us an e-mail at Dealers@wardsauto.com.