The Biz of Pacelinebiz

Turning things on end to achieve results!

Archive for August 2015

A Business Lesson Learned From Car Shopping

leave a comment »

Good Riddance

Good Riddance

Earlier this summer I decided to replace my old car. I was not looking forward to the shopping process since it is a big decision and I expected unpleasant sticker shock since I last bought a new car in 2009. I discussed this issue with several people and a friend suggested I try CarMax. After hearing about their no-haggle approach to selling used cars I thought I would give them a shot.

My wife and I spent a couple of evenings looking at several cars and test drove a few but never were able to strike a deal.  I enjoyed the salesman and the no pressure approach but it didn’t work out in this case for us to do business with them. We ended up with a new vehicle and so far are very happy with our decision. That is not the important part of the story.

The important part of the story just occurred to me a few days ago, almost two months after we got our new car. I realized that even though CarMax had all of our contact information they never once followed up to see why we never bought from them or if we were still looking. An email or survey could have been generated at no cost to see what we liked or didn’t like and why we did not buy from them. At the very least they could have gained some information that could have been useful to them.  We were actually very close to making a deal so I would assume they knew we were serious buyers and not just entertaining ourselves.

The business lesson from this situation is to ask for feedback when you fail. It is important to learn from your mistakes so you do not repeat them. The more I think about it, I am actually shocked that a publicly traded company the size of CarMax would not have a system in place to survey people who did not buy from them. If they are surveying people who did make a purchase they are surveying the wrong people.  My friend explained to me that CarMax has an extensive data analytics department and that our instance was not something that was out of the ordinary to require a follow up. They likely knew the reason why we did not end up buying. Even if that was the case I would have thought that the salesman would have wanted to follow up so he could gain data for his benefit.

In your business, I suggest that you take every chance you can to get feedback not only when you do something right but especially when you do something wrong.  Unlike CarMax, a small business owner must rely on individual customer feedback.  That is where you have the biggest to gain. Improving your weaknesses will almost always give you better results than improving on your strengths. It is the low hanging fruit!

Have a great week improving your weaknesses.

Jimmy Sad Eyes Turns 40!

leave a comment »

 

 

Still Got It!

Still Got it!

 

Jimmy Sad Eyes is not there yet but in early December he will be 40 years old in dog years. Since he is a rescue dog we do not know his exact date of birth but we estimate that it is in mid March 2010. Using the dog to human age converter of 1 human year is equal to 7 dog years that put his 40th birthday about eight and half months after mid March. I think we will celebrate on the first weekend in December.

Since he will be hitting the big four – oh I sat down with him recently and talked about his life and what turning 40 means to him. I hope you enjoy a rare glimpse into his life:

Me: Jimmy, I will cut to the chase. In a few months you will be turning 40, what are your thoughts as you reflect on your life as you hit this milestone?

Jimmy: First of all; my 40th birthday is several months away so I am guessing you needed a topic for your blog and decided to use the Jimmy Sad Eyes card.

Me: Yes, you got me on that one, but let’s not change the subject.

Jimmy: Okay, fair enough.  Sure, it does sneak up on you – you know; the age thing. I haven’t thought too much about it but it does make me realize that I am not a puppy anymore.

Me: Very true Jimmy but you are still cute.

Jimmy: You got that right; I don’t look a day over 20.

Me: Have you noticed that you are feeling the effects of getting older?

Jimmy: Sure, I am really having a hard time going on runs with Grandma that are longer than 8 miles. 8 miles is my limit now and I am not as good with the heat as I was just a couple of human years ago. My recovery time has gotten longer too. I really feel it in my back the next day.

Me: What about your outlook on life, any changes there?

Jimmy: Not really, I am the same for the most part. I don’t bark at little kids as much or at new things in the neighborhood but that is mostly because I am saving energy. I am still as ticked off but figure it is not worth the effort. I guess I pick my fights now.

Me: Really, so this is the kinder, less “rage-a-holic” Jimmy we are seeing?

Jimmy: You could say that.

Me: (I knew this was a loaded question but could not resist) Does this mellow attitude extend to the bad dog? [The bad dog is his arch nemesis down the street who has tangled with Jimmy and lost by the way and the grudge remains strong]

Jimmy:@!%BARK!! *&##$%!BARK!!

At this point the interview was over as I suspected it would be as Jimmy ran to the window and barked and growled. Some things never change – even at age 40. Have a great week.

Written by pacelinebiz

August 24, 2015 at 9:25 am

The Tools Of My Trade

leave a comment »

Meet the team

Meet the team

 

I launched this Blog almost six years ago on September 7th, 2009. Look for my six-year anniversary special in three weeks on September 7th. I haven’t worked out the final details but I will either have a free car give away or a scathing report about my feelings for the General Motors car company.

In the six years I have been writing this I have not given you an insider look at the tools of my trade. I am sure many of you are lying asleep at night wondering; “what does he use to Turn Things On End To Achieve Results!” Today is your lucky day. Below, I have assembled a short list of the essential items I need to make my magic happen. This is only a partial list due to the proprietary nature of my critically important work. You may find the list surprising.

  • Coffee and lots of it. As I have mentioned previously, I like an occasional dash of cinnamon in my grounds for a special treat and to ward of diabetes, heart disease or some such thing. I read it once in Prevention magazine so it must be true.
  • Plenty of corny jokes that I think are funny but no one else does. The secret is to tell them a lot so that the people laugh when you repeatedly tell them. They are not laughing at the joke but at the fact that I think it is funny. At least they laugh and that is all that matters – right? They are laughing with me I tell myself.
  • Donuts and pizza. Not necessarily together but it is not a bad combination. I find that if you get donuts or pizza for a client they laugh a little harder at your corny jokes.
  • High quality, butter-soft .7 millimeter lead for my mechanical pencil. Nothing can throw off my mojo more than hard lead. Not only does it affect the legibility of my writing but the feedback I get back in my writing hand sends a hateful message to my brain. It is hard to work with numbers when you are full of rage caused by bad lead. I am dead serious about this. A soft writing surface is also important. I like using an old desk calendar to achieve the optimum feel.
  • A 12 inch or longer straight edge backed by cork to deter slippage. Some people call this a ruler but it is much more than that. A good straight edge aids in detecting anomalies in financial data. How can I work if I my eyes are darting between lines? Are you with me?
  • Music is essential to maximize efficiency and for creating white noise to block out distractions. My choice for music is a blend of the classic rock I grew up on, mixed in with country, folk, jazz, 70’s funk and even a smattering of classical.
  • A good eraser. I prefer the Pentel click eraser I first used when I was cutting my teeth in a small accounting form in my home town. I have 2 blue ones – one for home and one for away games. I have had these for longer than I can remember but would not mind getting a new red one like I had decades ago but somehow lost. I miss “Red” and think about him every time I am in an office supply store and see a red one sitting on the shelf. You are never supposed to leave a man behind. He was a good eraser and that is all I am going to say about that.

I guess that is all I am willing to share. Have a great week.

 

Written by pacelinebiz

August 17, 2015 at 9:46 am

Observations While Sitting In Traffic

with 3 comments

117 degrees is hot

117 degrees is hot

My work travels have taken me into the city of Atlanta quite a bit this summer. The work is good but getting there and returning back to suburbia can be a challenge. It is a 31 mile commute that generally takes 90 minutes. I will save you the calculation; that is about a 20 mile per hour average. Since I spend so much time at a dead stop or crawling at a slow pace it allows my mind to wander and to observe things I might not see when going the speed limit. Below are a few of my thoughts:

  1. The world can be divided into to two types of drivers – Lane jumpers and smart drivers. The smart drivers have realized either through experience or the philosophical acceptance of not trying to change that which cannot be changed to stay in their lane and enjoy themselves despite the circumstances.
  2. You can be a lane jumper one day and a smart driver the next so don’t hate the other type of drivers for tomorrow you may be one of them.
  3. Patience is a virtue but virtue is overrated.
  4. “Wake up dummy!” Rumble strips on the side of the road are really far apart when you experience them at 10 miles an hour instead of at 75.
  5. A mile is a long way when you think about it – especially at 4 miles an hour.
  6. There is a lot of trash along the side of the road. Don’t litter!
  7. Automatic transmissions and air conditioning should not be taken for granted. Stop and go traffic in 100 degree heat could be intolerable without it. Can you imagine how much road rage incidents would increase without it?
  8. Helicopter traffic reports are useless. I have realized the only thing they are good for is to notify you when a road is closed due to an accident. Other than that, it is the same thing every day. Just like the weather report in San Diego – it never changes.
  9. Rain can add 50% to your commute time.
  10. It always feels good rolling into your driveway at the end of the day especially when Jimmy Sad Eyes is sitting at the window happily greeting you.

Have a great week.

A Light Bulb And A Business Lesson

with 2 comments

It's Not You, It's Me

It’s Not You, It’s Me

I recently had a problem with my car.  I was driving to the Silver Comet Trail near my home to ride my bicycle and at a stop light a lady got out of her car and informed me that my stop lights were not working.  I made a mental note to add that to my ever-growing to do list and I thanked her and went on my no longer merry way.

When I got back from my ride I put a note on my bathroom mirror to call for an appointment to get my lights fixed.  This is the part of the story where it begins to get interesting.  I remembered that this car had a recall that arrived in the mail a few weeks prior.  I also remembered that I had saved the recall notice in case I needed it.  I found the notice and it read that it was for a brake lamp malfunction.   “Eureka”; I said to myself.  It was all beginning to make sense.  My lemon was becoming more lemony but the manufacturer was right on top of things.

I dropped off the car at the dealer and explained my problem and how it might relate to the recall that I received.  They got all my pertinent information and suggested several possible maintenance items I might want to get taken care of while it was in the shop.  They suggested maintenance items required per the maintenance schedule provided by the manufacturer at the relevant mileage interval.  I politely* declined their suggestion for an air filter, oil change and spark plugs since none of this was needed. According to the sticker on my window, the oil change and air filter were done less than 1,000 miles ago and the spark plugs were changed 10 months ago and last for about 100,000 miles.  The service department was very well-trained in increasing the value of the upcoming transaction and were seizing on the opportunity that the manufacturer’s recall presented to squeeze out some additional revenues.   I guess I should give them credit for trying to implement their strategy.  I actually had to sign off that I was declining the suggested services.  I left and waited for the call that the car was fixed and ready to be picked up.

The call from the dealer arrived and I went to pick up the car.  When I got there I signed the paperwork and the car was retrieved for me.  As they were backing the car up to the door for me I couldn’t help but notice that the brakes lights still were not working.  I was crestfallen at this development.  I might have even been a little angry.  I quickly pointed this out and it was decided that I would leave the car and return the next day when it was fixed.  They apparently simply went through the motions of doing the prescribed recall work and did not check if that fixed the problem.

There are several lessons that can be learned from this failure by the dealer.  The first is how can you train your staff so well at sales techniques but fail so miserably at delivering quality work?  If they would have had a system in place that had a step in it that asked if the repairs performed corrected the problem and the technician checked to see if my brake lights were working, this would not have happened. It sounds simple to me.

The second problem is a related one.  The dealership was successful in having their sales tactics implemented – they are getting the behavior they want. I assume it is because they are rewarding sales through a compensation system. The dealer is not getting quality work from its technicians and they either are not adequately rewarding quality work or they don’t care about quality work and have no incentives for technicians.  They also may have poor hiring practices for service technicians; inadequate training or maybe the technician just had a bad day or was in a hurry.  This was, after all, a single incident and not a thorough review of a large sample of transactions so I cannot make a blanket statement as to what is the root of the problem.

The last lesson I want to discuss is the focus the dealership had increasing the bottom line over the experience of the customer.  In the long run how can you be successful if this type of incident is a regular occurrence?  Too many companies are focusing on what they want and not on what the customer wants.  A better balance is needed between aggressive sales tactics and the needs of the customer.  In my case I was auditioning this dealer for future repair work and for the inevitable recalls I will have to get corrected.  They did not pass the audition.  Just like my bad experience at the car wash earlier this year, they had an opportunity to make a positive impression but blew it. Please don’t make the same mistake.

Have a great week.

* I am lying here, I am almost certain I was not polite but rather I was firmly terse, at best, but it is my story so I was polite for all who don’t read footnotes.

 

Written by pacelinebiz

August 3, 2015 at 8:01 am