Change — whirlwind or not — a part of flourishing
Hal Ethington, Columnist
April 23, 2014
Filed under Columns
Twenty years ago my associate Kris Denos and I were laughing our heads off. We had just gotten off the phone with two young men who had developed a non-accounting accounting system. No journal entries. No posting. No debits. No credits. How silly could that be?! They had thrown out the book, come up with the idea of letting the computer just add up all the detail each time you needed a total, and they dared to call it “accounting.”
And we — two longtime accounting professionals — were astonished that they would even use the term accounting. How could you account, without making a journal entry? How could you prepare a balance sheet, when you didn’t balance anything? How could you run a set of financials without having an audit trail to prove each number?
But we are not laughing any more. Those two young men, whoever they were, were way ahead of their time. We just didn’t recognize it. And over the past number of years — as we have gravitated to the same path — we find ourselves doing exactly what we then found so laughable: A better way to marry computing with business transactions to produce the classic balance sheet and income statement. It doesn’t matter what is under the hood. The end result looks just as good as any done with summarizing journal entries, and the results are completely auditable.
OK. It took us a little time, but we learned. It is hard to throw out what you know and adapt to new ways. But the hard truth is, if you don’t do it, you will soon find yourself hopelessly out of date. And your customers will be the first to notice.
You can’t automatically notify your service customers via text or email that their bike is ready? Your special order parts sit on the shelf waiting for pickup as you search for stamps to mail the postcard notification that they have arrived? Your website still shows only two sawhorses supporting an “Under Construction” sign?
You look silly. And hopelessly outdated to every potential customer who wants to check you out before actually walking in your door.
You can never step into the same river twice. Change is constant. But it is not seen or felt until we are forced to compare ourselves with others. Ed Lemco walked into my store almost 40 years ago and instantly recognized that I was an “old-fashioned” dealer, as he put it. I did not have a sales team. I had no F&I. I didn’t desk deals, and there was a hangtag on every bike.
What was I thinkin’?
But I just didn’t know. And it was a whirlwind of change that brought me into the modern world.
These were my thoughts as I sat in a meeting here at Lightspeed recently. The product managers were discussing the move of our many dealers to our fourth generation of hardware and software (P System, Unix, Windows and now Linux). This has been in process over many years, and we were getting down to the last dealers who remained on the older system. We wondered why these last few were so reluctant to move, and what we could do to encourage them to make the change. We knew the many benefits of the newer system, but convincing the “hold-outs” to change was proving difficult.
The conversation moved to the major changes in our past: fiche finder, price tapes, multi-database, cloud hosting, parts locator, Internet data delivery and more coming every day. All of these things providing tools that today we could not operate without.
I thought of a meeting held about 25 years ago. I was teaching a class in a local hotel. At the last minute, I decided to show this new thing called “The Internet.” I was psyched about it, and thought it would be interesting to the dealers.
So, I somehow put together a 100-foot phone line, ran it down the hall, plugged it into my machine and threw it up on the screen. Cool, I thought.
But one dealer didn’t think it was so cool. As soon as he figured out what I was doing, he stood up and loudly said: “Hal, if you are going to show any of that #%^* Internet stuff, I’m leaving. Nobody has ever sold anything there, and nobody ever will!”
I backed it down, shut it off and tried to save as much face as I could. It was not my greatest success.
And now? Of course. The Internet is where that dealer conducts a large share of his business.
You can’t step into the same river twice. And if you…
can’t instantly see the five closest dealers that have a part you need,
are waiting for a new price-book to arrive with fresh pricing,
are typing your parts orders into a DCS system,
are not giving loyalty points on each purchase,
don’t have a clue about your customer’s purchase history in your store,
can’t quote a trade from the parking lot,
can’t tell what each parts counterperson’s average ticket was for yesterday,
then I’m sorry.
That river you stepped into has moved on. You think you are in the same water, but you’re not. This river is in constant motion. Change happens every morning before you even put that key in the door. If you’re not reading the trades, if you’re not attending the shows, if you’re not in a 20 group, if you’re not a part of your state association, you are not in the loop. And you will soon be “outdated,” and not even know it.
Your job is to stay current. In every way. Do it.
Hal Ethington has been associated with the powersports industry for more than 40 years. Ethington is a senior analyst at ADP Lightspeed. Contact him at Hal.Ethington@adp.com.