It was great seeing and having a chance to speak with so many dealers, managers and vendors during the recent National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention.

I thought the event would take on a different tone this year because of the turbulent position this industry finds itself in.

The tone indeed was different. But I gladly experienced a “we-can-do-it” attitude from almost each person I spoke with.

This isn't a surprise since we are in the car business, and a major part of our job description is figuring out ways to succeed in adverse or challenging times.

Most everyone has now right-sized their organizations for today's business climate. While economists promise modest relief during the second quarter of 2009 and slow improvement as we move toward year-end, I don't believe any of us are structuring or running our businesses based on that supposition.

Instead, we have to figure out ways to be profitable and how to grow in this environment.

One encouraging experience for us was the number of dealers and managers asking about our training programs, a.k.a. Bootcamps.

About 12 years ago, Jeff Sacks and I, knowing there wasn't a concise and comprehensive training program to provide education to our future retail leaders, embarked with a new program, the General Manager's Bootcamp.

We take great pride in the fact that, several hundred graduates later, our program has made and is making a positive difference for dealers all over North America.

Since then, we have added many other comprehensive, department-specific Bootcamps to provide continuing education to, and assist managers in, growing their business profitably.

Today, there isn't a single department manager that can't attend a 2 ½ to 4 ½ day course and then return to their dealership and begin implementing positive actions based on the education they received from instructors and fellow class participants.

Is this article self-serving? Yes, in a sense, but not only because NCM offers these programs. I can honestly say nothing makes me more proud than to watch these students develop. I see the difference they are making not only in their individual dealerships, but in the industry.

I realize each of us wants to run our businesses more efficiently, and cost-cutting is a No.1 mantra. But how can we accomplish this without continuing our education and learning how to identify the changes that need to be made and, most important of all, how to implement these changes?

On the job training is certainly valuable, but it can only take us so far, especially in today's climate. Remember Tom Peters' famous quote, “If you think training is expensive, try ignorance.”

So, in closing and continuing in the education vein, I would like to share three quotes beginning with one from one of our 20 Group Members:

“A 20 Group is a dealer's only ongoing education at our stage of the game. Our group does a great job keeping us on track so we may constantly look in the mirror and improve our business.”

“People seldom improve when they have no other model but themselves to copy after.” Oliver Goldsmith

“As a rule, he or she who has the most information will have the greatest success in life.” Benjamin Disraeli

Someone at the NADA convention said, “We're just trying to get to the other side.”

But let's not forget that when we get there, we will need the best and most educated personnel on our team. The people with the most information and the ability to put that information into practice will be the winners when we reach the other side.

For more information on our training (Bootcamp) curriculum, please visit ncm20.com and click on the training tab.

Good selling!

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