A LOSING DEALERSHIP BECOMES A STAR PERFORMER under new management. The people and facilities are relatively unchanged — except for its leadership.

An average sales department becomes a team of superstars with the audition of a new manager and new leadership.

A ho-hum parts and service operation begins to buzz with enthusiastic productivity with a change of management.

An ambitious and energetic offspring joins a “successful” dealership and proceeds to increase sales volume and profits.

There's probably not a dealer in the U.S. who hasn't witnessed these scenarios in one form or another.

They occur with varying degrees. Yet, there are countless numbers of potentially excellent dealers who wallow in mediocrity simply because they do not recognize, or know how to search for the winning spirit in themselves or in their managers.

Pro football fans are keenly aware of the value of a top quarterback. The Pittsburgh Steelers were awesome with a healthy Terry Bradshaw. Bob Griese led the Miami Dolphins to many last-ditch important victories. The Denver Broncos have become mediocre without John Elway (who incidentally became a very successful Denver car dealer). The upstart New York Jets won the first AFL Super Bowl from the heavily favored NFL Baltimore Colts because quarterback Joe Namath convinced his Jets teammates they could win.

The will to win exists in every aspiring new car dealer. This explains why — with a modicum of training and experience — they can achieve so much in the beginning. Problems begin to appear when the dealer's desire to win begins to wane, and this invaluable asset is delegated to untrained and unmotivated managers.

A young, aspiring new-car dealer began his new venture just before a tough economic recession hit. While his neighboring dealers met regularly for lunch and complained about business conditions, the young man busily nurtured his new dealership. He ended the year with a decent profit.

When asked about his success, he replied, “I didn't know I was supposed to lose money, so I made it!”

Unless a dealer is an active member of a 20 Group, and is subjected to regular peer examination and pressure, it is easy to fall into the mediocrity trap.

Becoming blinded by the trees while looking for the forest is an occupational hazard for many dealers.

Unless they keep their focus with help from seminars, outside consultants, and attendance at industry conventions, their perspectives may become dulled and influenced by mediocre managers and substandard competitors.

Several years ago a respected personnel consultant recommended dealers mock fire all their managers and then interview and rehire them as they would new employees.

Each manager assumed the role of a job candidates whom the dealer interviewed, asking about goals, aspirations and attitudes. Though it was a “game,” it dramatically changed a lot of personnel impressions and evaluations.

Another valuable exercise for preserving the winning spirit is monthly forecasting of income and projected expenses.

Forecasting, and then maintaining strict daily control, will curtail promiscuous and non-productive spending. It will also enlighten dealers and managers as to how unnecessary expenses can gouge into profit.

Forecasting income also can create a winning objective if it is done responsibly. To be effective, the forecasted numbers must be perceived as attainable on more than just a hope and a prayer. Courage and commitment are the benchmarks of a winning forecast.

Managing to win translates into setting objectives which stretch the operational process beyond the comfort zone, then committing to reach or surpass those goals. It is like an athlete who trains by increasing his goals and body endurance in order to achieve higher excellence.

Winning organizations never look back. Nor are they satisfied with status quo. Once they get the first exhilarating rush from higher achievements, nothing but upward movement will ever be accepted.

The retail automobile industry contains many talented persons who are average players because they lack an attitude to win. Conversely, the industry has its share of lesser talented people who are nonetheless stars of the game because winning is the only thing they will accept.

Nat Shulman was owner of Best Chevrolet in Hingham, MA for many years.