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Business Management

Every day is New Year’s Day

Like New Year’s Eve evoking resolutions, our economic discomfort has awakened many dealers to the need for a crash-diet.

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Every year for as far back as I can remember, I’ve practiced the same ritual with the chiming of the New Year’s bell. With the best of intentions and a gung ho attitude for success, I count down the last seconds of the previous year and set the tone for the next twelve months by lying to myself. And, while I’d love to say that all of my resolutions (many of which were boasted loudly to people who would later realize my failure) were made in drunken haste, I have to admit that many of them were well thought-out goals that I simply couldn’t, or wouldn’t, later achieve.

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Those who know me well will testify that I’ve proclaimed noble goals such as donating more time to help others, to make more money and to write a book (while I did release my debut book in 2008, that particular resolution was in 1997). One year, I even looked at the stomach protruding from my otherwise lanky frame and decided that I looked like a pregnant walking stick; that was the year I vowed to lose 20 pounds, but ended the year by gaining another ten.

My point is that for many of us, New Year’s resolutions are not a good idea. Granted, at the time we make them, resolutions seem to be perfectly achievable. We’re psyched with the energy of the festivities and a feeling of invincibility enshrouds us, making us believe that we can accomplish any goal, climb to any height.

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The fact is that while the timing and energy seem to fit so well at the moment, life eventually gets in the way. Many of us are in no shape to begin a new regimen the next morning, and therefore we begin our new year by procrastinating, which is a hard habit to break. Some will stick with the new goal for a few weeks, a few for a couple of months, but eventually that beer looks so refreshing, that cigarette so calming, that Hostess Cupcake so enticing … well, you get the picture. Add in the stress of the slow season in our industry — right at the time that we’re supposed to be starting new habits — and it’s easy to see why resolutions so often fail.

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As I’ve said before, as with life, so goes business, and this phrase is never more applicable than it is in this situation. In 2008, sales for most powersports dealers were, for lack of a better term, crap. Lately, many dealers have been falling back on the habits that they should have had all along — watching the numbers closely, cutting costs, trimming fat, renegotiating with vendors and limiting inventory. Like New Year’s Eve evoking resolutions, our economic discomfort has awakened many dealers to the need for a crash-diet.

Unfortunately for many, the awakening came too late. I personally was saddened to hear from a fellow dealer forced to leave the brotherhood this past fall. I spent quite a bit of time on the phone with him, trying to help him through his decision and discussing his options. Ultimately he admitted that he’d gotten fat by failing to watch the weight of his dealership on a consistent basis. It was hard to listen to his story, since I know how easy it is to develop bad habits in good times. My friend helped me to realize that being disappointed in the economy is one thing, but having to be disappointed in your own lack of performance is hard to live with. It’s always tough to see one of the nice guys go down.

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Business is a roller coaster. Developing and maintaining good habits keeps us healthy and more immune to the colds and cancers of economic strife. While cutting the overhead in a downturned market is paramount to business survival, we should also be kicking ourselves for having so much excess overhead to cut. It represents bad conduct during the strong market times.

Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not one to preach, since my doorstep wasn’t so clean, either. This sudden disappearance of willing and able buyers made me realize just how much excess I had at my dealership, as well. Ultimately we were able to trim quite a lot of the fat that never should have been there in the first place. I was shocked at some of the things I’d been overlooking, and I fully intend to remember that feeling.

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You know, it seems heartless to think of it this way, but economic fluctuation is simply the process by which the herd is thinned. Like a lion chasing a herd of gazelle, the less healthy ones will fall and ultimately the food — or, in this case, the available customers — will be distributed to a stronger herd.

I am still planning to make a resolution this year, but I’ve decided to really make this one count. This year, my resolution is to treat every day like the dawn of a new year and every quarter like the start of a recession.

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