Jump Off the Train

This has been sitting in my Draft folder long enough so it is time to post.

The most common response to anything negative in our lives is to ride the N(egative) train as long as we can, searching at each station we come to for someone to commiserate with us and agree how bad we have it. Soon we have gathered together all of the poor souls we meet along the tracks and have filled the N train cars with gloom and despair. Listen, you can hear sayings like, “Why do things like these always happen to me?” and “It seems like I take one step forward and two steps back.”

Whether you are the conductor or a passenger you can stop the train and get off, but dont believe for a moment it is easy. Trains gain lots of momentum and once they are under way they are hard to stop, but the N train is a little different because negativity builds speed and energy exponentially so sometimes it is not about trying to stop the train, but learning how to jump off the train without getting hurt.

If you are surrounded with negative people in a negative place and dont have the capacity or authority to change the situation dont be afraid to jump off the train. It usually hurts when you hit the ground but there is usually some kind of pain when you make a change, but trading pain for a fresh start is worth it.

Showing Up

There is a direct relation between success and showing up. Showing up wont guarantee a win but not showing up almost always means you are going to lose. I have always thought that if I wanted to be dedicated it meant I needed to be obsessed with whatever, never taking days off, working all day every day. As I get a little older I have begun to realize I was right all along, if you want to be a success at something it means there are other areas of your life that are going to suffer, so get over it.




Generational Fracture

It has always been that older people blame change on younger people and younger people blame lack of progress on older people. While there has always been separation between older and younger generations the generational fracture that has occurred between Baby Boomers and Millennials seems to be more pronounced and talked about than between other generations.

In business, managers, mostly from the Baby Boom, are writing books, articles and social media posts regarding how hard it is to hire and manage those Millennials. Experts are talking about how to redesign, re-engineer the entire hiring, training, and retention process in a way that Millennials will want to come to work. Type in “how to recruit millennials” and you will see 414,000 results in Google.

Is it true that there is a Generational Fracture between Millennials and other generations? Could it be that there is not a millennial problem but a bunch of bad managers and recruiters? I think so. #generationalfracture


It is All About the Content

Every post from social media experts seems to boil down to those six words so apparently Content is King. This lesson needs to be learned by salespeople as well as social marketers.

Marketing studies indicate that 71% of customers that purchased automobiles said they bought because they liked their salesperson (Kershner, 2008). I believe that statistic to a point (my debate teacher always used the phrase, there are three kinds of lies, lies, damned lies, and statistics). I think the failure in that logic is the reason why the customer said they liked their salesperson.

Old guard sales trainers spent (and spend) hours and hours with new salespeople explaining how to find common ground with customers by asking questions about family, kids, work, etc… which is all good information and can be extremely useful during the sales process, but here comes the but. The fact that you found out what elementary school your customer attended is probably not the reason that they say they like you.

Customers like efficient, knowledgeable, competent salespeople, regardless of where they went to school or their background. We have now circled back to our point, Content is King. The question whether a customer liked their salesperson does not dive deep enough, the question could be turned around to say, did you tolerate your salesperson because they were knowledgeable and respected your time even though you were from different background?

All of those soft questions about background and family are great when worked in throughout the process but only after you have demonstrated to your customer that you are a professional salesperson that understands their needs and knows how your products will satisfy those needs.

My point, finally, is that salespeople need to concentrate more on having specific content in their presentation that will appeal to their customers. Spending time learning screen resolution or mounting options of televisions, horsepower or safety features of new cars, or features of whatever it is you sell is time well spent.

You want to make money, right? You want to consistently produce for your company and family, right? You will only be successful if you understand that content is king and spend the time to create specific and pertinent content for your customers.

Kershner, Jeff, 2008, https://www.dealerrefresh.com/dealer-showroom-floor-sales-statistics-and-percentages/

Training for 2020: Automotive Armageddon

The year 2020 is on the horizon, and along with it are huge changes for the automotive industry. In 1987 the rock group R.E.M. released a song with the main lyrics “It’s the End of the World as we know it.” That song will be the anthem for the automotive industry over the next three years.

The issues that will force the changes in the car business have been building for years; the continued resurgence of subprime financing, the reappearance of large factory incentives, increased vehicle leasing and the lengthening of finance terms.

With customers increasingly “upside down” this trade cycle may be the last that many customers can follow the normal two or three years between trades. With this in mind the year 2020 may become the year where the auto industry marks a low sales mark worse than 2009. How will dealerships stay relevant and more importantly open? The sad truth is that many will not.

Dealerships and employees must begin today training for 2020. That training must include modern networking methods, inventory planning for the new market, and rethinking how marketing ROI is viewed. An even more difficult question for dealerships is how to begin staffing now for 2020 because the unfortunate truth is that the employee roster in 2020 will only contain 10% of the same names as today.

Correctly hiring people over the next 24 months will be a water mark for dealerships; only those dealerships that choose employees wisely will be around to celebrate 2021.

#trainingfor2020 #hiring #cardealership #dtcarguy

Theory versus Reality: Automotive Product Specialists

I have long supported the idea that the traditional  role of the automotive salesperson is under siege and will soon be replaced; first by a legion of hourly, retail refugees and then by whatever online, kiosk, or other platform that finally cracks the car transaction as a service secret code.

I will admit I was wrong, at least about the first evolution.

Automotive retail giants have tried the product specialist position, someone that is not a salesperson, with limited success and failure. I thought that this shift would be successful because that is what customers wanted. Customers want salespeople, many times they need a salesperson to help guide them to a decision in a way no hourly product specialist could do.

The problem with the specialist is that because of increasingly complex rebate and finance structures and the burden of state and federal regulations a vehicle sale is a very complicated process. Just like a real estate purchase a vehicle purchase takes professional representation in most cases. 

What people do want and deserve is a more professional sales experience which can only be provided by skilled and trained salespeople, not product specialists.

Are you Ready to Sell?

Salespeople are typically an easy group to distract is a statement I debated about writing at all. The point of the post started out being that small things that you, as an owner or manager, never questioned were working with processes in place may be the reason you aren’t as successful as you want to be. 

That seems like a great place to start a post, especially after discovering that in our organization people that should be able to process credit cards can’t always because they don’t always have access to the terminal. Crazy, right? Wait, this is the crazy part and why I say salespeople are easily distracted. The way I discovered our logistical issue was by walking in and discovering a salesperson with a string tied to a broom handle trying to open the door to reach the credit card terminal. He had a sale and was not going to let a locked door stop him.

So when I say salespeople are easily distracted I say it to emphasize the importance of removing every obstacle between your people and the sale otherwise your sales team may spend there day with broom handles and strings. 

Culture Cultivation

Talk about corporate culture all you want, if the owner doesnt start the culture it doesnt start at all #trainingfor2020

I have a plan to write this entire blog one Linkedin post at a time.

I dont know the technical definition but in my mind the culture of a business equates to a body’s DNA because it is the core of what we are, with the exception that culture can be changed, but that change usually comes with casualties #trainingfor2020

We Make It Harder: Your Company’s New Motto

Everyone says it, regardless of the industry, “we make things harder then they have to be.” In the automotive industry we feel like the process should be simple: buy cars, get customers, sell cars. In the restaurant business we map out the process: buy food, prepare food, get customers, sell food. Every industry has basic goals that can be boiled down to simple statements. So why do we produce so many documents and flowcharts, why do we write so many mission statements and revised organizational plans? The answer is as simple as business should be: people are involved.

I visited a restaurant last weekend, the name of which includes the word wings, as in chicken wings. I was there for that reason, it was time to enjoy wings. Guess what the wing restaurant had run out of? Yep, no wings to be had. I am quite sure that when the founder of this restaurant started out his plan was simple: buy wings, cook wings, get customers, sell wings. Do you think that he ever thought that anyone that bought one of his franchises would need to be told not to run out of wings? No, and in reality the franchisee probably understood the concept but the store manager or assistant manager did not. That may not be accurate, they may have understood the concept but because they were dealing with the minute by minute problems that come up when managing anything they just forgot or miscalculated; hard to know why but the lesson is there for us all.

Never make the process harder than it has to be. When the business begins to add employees and grows there have to be processes created to ensure the necessary functions are done. A process is a clearly defined, measurable, repeatable and written guide on how to do something. Once a process is in place it has to become ingrained into the culture of the organization and every employee involved must know, understand and follow the process.

When an owner or manager of a company says in exasperation, “Why do we make this so hard?” the answer is usually because someone does not know or is not following the process (assuming there is a process). What happens next may determine the fate of the business because if the exasperated owner or manager simply makes the statement and does not take the necessary steps to teach and enforce the process that manager or owner has failed. Every failure creates complications and soon creates a culture that may never be fixed.

Business may not be quite as simple as buy wings, cook wings, get customers, sell wings but with simple processes strictly enforced it is possible to have a business that feels as simple as it should.

Coca-Cola Marketing

Coca-Cola is the greatest iconic brand that the world has ever known.  Coca-Cola has name recognition in every country and its products are sold worldwide under various kinds of political environments.  Although the coca-cola company is considered a success by most in recent years sales have flattened and the corporate culture has been characterized as being “dysfunctional” (Foust & Byrnes, 2004, p. 76).  There are several issues that continue to plague the corporate giant and that must be addressed before the company can increase growth that will match its past history including product lines, corporate culture, and marketing.

The Coca-Cola brand is successful which leads to the fact of why it is not able to sustain the explosive growth of profits and expansion that was enjoyed during the last century.  One of the issues that has been a factor in the leadership of Coca-Cola is the worry that any major changes that are made would spoil the overall success of the company.  The Board of Directors has many members that are not proponents of change and so this has been reflected in the choices and tenure of recent CEO’s.  In the years from 1998 to 2005 the board had “installed one CEO, ousted him, and installed another so inexperienced that he needed constant shoring up, and finally, after a very public search that found no outside takers, named a third—a retired Coke executive who had been passed over for the top job [before]” (Hess, 2010, n.p.).  Even those that were known for being able to make sweeping changes in parts of the Coca-Cola system seem to wilt when faced with the powerful Board of Directors. 

Former Chief Executive Officer, E. Neville Isdell, made his name with Coca-Cola by helping to expand into new markets in Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe.  During his time with Coca-Cola previous to being named C.E.O., Isdell was known as someone that took gambles and was open to new products and mergers (Foust & Byrnes, 2004, p. 80).  Once Isdell was named C.E.O. and was faced with the reality of changing the culture and the board he became less of a vocal agent of change, being quoted as saying the way back to the growth of the previous decades is simply a perfection of the process, not a new process.

The turmoil in the corporate offices is a major roadblock to an effective marketing campaign.  When a plan is in place to market a new product or go after a new market there must be a commitment by the company to support the effort.  When an executive creates a new campaign or is targeting the launch of a new product the support of that campaign or product may erode if there is a change in management.  Strategies that have been laid out and executed may fall by the wayside during a change in management which can lead to a workforce that feels unsure of the direction the company is taking.

Coca-Cola faces a declining market for their core product as more people are seeking products that are viewed as healthier. The opportunity that Coca-Cola has before it is in the expanding market for water and fruit drinks.  Coca-Cola has seen this change on the horizon for many years as was seen in an article in 2006, where it was noted that, “In response to concerns about healthier lifestyle choices and seeing a drop in consumption of their colas, the major beverage giants-Coke and Pepsi-are quickly switching gears and products” (Harden & Fletcher, 2006, p. 18).  Coca-Cola also has opportunity for expansion into geographical areas that it has little or no market penetration.

Coca-Cola’s marketing strategy suffers from having great concepts that are introduced and then abandoned.  A product that has been advertised as a healthier cola product, Coca-Cola Zero, has battled through advertising changes that seem to take the product in different directions.  A visit to the website devoted to Coca-Cola Zero shows a very well designed, social media friendly site with content that has not been updated in three months.  The Coca-Cola Zero website is focused on a theme built around winter sports and sweaters even though it is the middle of summer.

Although the marketing surrounding Coca-Cola Zero has been inconsistent the product itself has been a sales success story for the company.  Although sales of carbonated soft drinks “fell 3% in 2013, according to Beverage Digest. That marks the ninth straight drop. Coca-Cola Enterprises, one of the world’s biggest bottlers of Coca-Cola products, has seen strength in Coke Zero and energy drinks. Sales of Coke Zero, which has no carbohydrates and no calories, grew by double digits in three of the past four quarters” (Demand Strong, 2014, n.p.).  The idea behind the product is to appeal to young male adults that feel diet products like Diet Coke are less masculine and so a product such as Coca-Cola Zero is a superior choice.

Coca-Cola has felt the necessity during the past two decades to consider creating new innovations and new advertising methods to attract new customers and retain old customers.  It has come to the point where new innovations will change the cola industry and become the basis for new advertising.  The idea of finding new ways to deliver customers a carbonated soda but with new “formulations could potentially serve as the basis for future advertising efforts for both companies, while providing shelter from health critics and politicians who blame soda for the nation’s obesity epidemic. The negative attention has hurt sales: Soda consumption continues to fall. Last year it declined 1.2%, which brought the category to 1996 levels, according to Beverage Digest” (Schultz, 2013, p.12).  The formulations have to have some natural basis in order for them to aid in the company attracting those that are looking for healthier drink alternatives.

Coca-Cola understands that in order to meet the demands of new consumers they must find ways to eliminate the things that are being used as a basis to reduce cola consumption.  Coca-Cola’s competitor, PepsiCo “is in the late stages of developing a “taste modifier” that would essentially fool taste buds into thinking they are getting more sugar than delivered. The ingredient, which is called “S617” and still requires regulatory approval, would theoretically allow for PepsiCo to lower the amount of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup in full-calorie beverages such as regular Pepsi, while keeping the same sweet cola taste. Coca-Cola, meanwhile, continues to experiment with steviol glycosides, which are the sweet, calorie-free extracts from South American stevia plants” (Schultz, 2013, p. 12).

During Coca-Cola’s search for an overall marketing identity they have turned to many different agencies and executives to provide direction.  One of the line of experienced executives that faced the fire of running the marketing side of Coca-Cola was Mary Minnick.  Minnick was appointed in March 2005 as Executive Vice President of Marketing, Strategy, and Innovation.  Minnick served at her post until February of 2007 when she left the company after being passed over for the position of Chief Operating Officer (Mary Minnick, 2007, n.p.).  When she came to power in 2005, Minnick was known for sending chills down the spines of the genteel company’s marketing ranks, challenging long-held convention at the Atlanta beverage giant and sending back to the drawing board agency work designed to revive the brand’s iconic status.  Her no-nonsense, risk-taking approach is already winning over investors. ‘Feathers need to be ruffled at Coca-Cola,’ said Bonnie Herzog, beverage analyst for Citigroup’s Smith Barney. ‘It has desperately needed shakeup for a very long time’ “(Macarthur, 2004, p. 34). Minnick was determined to steer Coca-Cola into a new creative direction and also to move towards the production and marketing of non carbonated beverages.

Minnick attempted to move the company in a direction that was not anywhere it had gone before.  She championed considering the reasons that people would buy Coca-Cola’s beverages instead of classifying them simply as cola and other types of drinks.  According to Minnick, if a company could anticipate the needs and desires of customers then that company would be the beverage company that would be the leader in the industry.  People want to consume beverages that satisfy thirst but also address issues like mental renewal and health and beauty (Cravens & Piercy, 2009, p. 567).  A company that understood those reasons could introduce products that addressed those needs without having to search for the right products.

Although there have been issue in the company, according to the reported financial statements of Coca-Cola the company still is profitable and growing.  From 2009 to 2013 the company actually increased their overall equity by eight billion dollars (Coca-Cola, 2014, n.p.).  There has been an increase in debt, however the overall ratios of the company seem strong.  The other major player in the beverage business, PepsiCo, Inc., has also experienced growth over the same period according to their financial reports.  PepsiCo has nearly doubled its overall assets over the period from 2009 to 2013 and has experienced profit and growth during that period (PepsiCo, 2014, n.p.).

Coca-Cola is one of the most successful brands and corporations in history.  There is no question that the strength of the brand will continue to support sales volume and will provide a basis for any future decisions to be made.  There are certain decisions that must be made by the company in order to continue the recent growth of the company.  Much like PepsiCo, Coca-Cola needs to understand the importance of diversification, simply relying on carbonated soda is not enough to ensure continued growth.  Developing new products that focus on less sugar and emphasize health benefits that can be used to attract new customers is absolutely necessary.  Finally, there must be a cohesive marketing plan that is agreed to by management and then completely carried out and only modified when absolutely necessary, not simply when there is a change in management. These issues must be addressed if Coca-Cola is to continue as the leader in the beverage industry and continue to experience growth and profits.












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