(Note: This is a lengthy opinion piece, with lots of links for factual support. Reader discretion is advised)
A few months back, when I wrote the post the Way We Have Always Done It, I talked about processing sacred cows into delicious beef entrees. Actually, I meant it to be a call to action. Nature tells us, if you don’t adapt, you die. Likewise, if you don’t change your business model to reflect changing markets, you will eventually disappear.
The same can be said for the people who make up those businesses. From a human resources standpoint, the optimum hire from 30 years ago simply doesn’t exist anymore. You don’t have to crack open a book to realize that, since the Great Depression, every subsequent generation has changed radically from the previous one. Think about that for a second. Whether it was being drafted into a war, rock and roll, space travel, computers, designer dru..clothes, dual career households, video games, or the sharing economy, it’s getting harder to identify with those who came before us. Square peg? See round hole.
It’s high time that we stop bitching about people not wanting to work. There, I said it. I will freely agree that the previous generation of car sales professionals weren’t afraid to put in the hours. Days starting at the local greasy spoon drinking a couple pots of coffee, twelve hours at the store, then rounding out the night at the neighborhood watering hole, were all just part of the job. Then the local coffee shop went on life support (along with all of its patrons), three drive-through cafes popped up near the Buffalo Wild Wings, and Tinder just locked the door to the tavern. The world moved on, and the patrons disappeared. Just like the kids who didn’t know their mom or dad because they worked all the time.
We can no longer expect to hire people like us. Just because we know the value of a dollar, are willing to put in endless hours, and suffer while not being able to plot our next move at our desks, doesn’t mean that anyone else is ever willing to do that again. You might remember Dustin Moskovitz’s name from the film the Social Network (AKA the Facebook movie). At 31, Moskovitz finds himself #50 on the 2015 Forbes 400, with an estimated net worth just shy of $9 billion (yeah, a real slouch). He was so appalled by a New York Times article about Amazon’s work culture , that he wrote a very heartfelt essay regarding the diminishing returns of over worked employees. Turns out the work/life balance isn’t just for Liberals. It’s a refreshing read from someone who could’ve retired to Monaco years ago, but still chooses to work. Maybe we should take a hard look at the yields of our work ethic.
The people on the other side of the car business have changed, as well. Much has been written about the subject, so I won’t thrash that dead horse. I will say this, though: No amount of complaining will change the fact that Generation Lay Down is buying its last car. All the cool word tracks and sales techniques will disappear with them. All the “if I could, would you” will become moot. Those dealers who say “I don’t sell the most, but I make the most” will have a showroom full of hot air and cobwebs. In the meantime, that wimpy order taker…you know…the weak stick who has never heard of Joe Girard, just bought his third dealership. Everyone is supporting him.
We simply cannot ignore the macro-demographic and lifestyle changes that are taking place every day. According to the Census Bureau, urban populations are growing, with over 80% of the population living in a metropolitan area. The massive influx of immigrants will alter an already more diverse generation. Millennials are not buying cars or homes nearly as fast as previous generations. Hell, they’re not even getting married. They aren’t purchasing the same brands you grew up coveting. You might want to search the showroom for the August/September 2013 issue of AARP magazine for a nice comparison. The FACT of the matter is that these changes are going to take place, with or without our approval. Father Time doesn’t give a shit.
Instead of complaining about the younger generation, why not move to accommodate them today? Evolve the work schedule while there’s still the luxury to do so. Develop mutually beneficial processes and tactics while the aging techniques can still generate revenue. Ease the dress code policy (along with the tattoo, haircut, and piercing policies). Consider more salary with bonuses and less commission. Stop berating them daily about how things used to be. It’s not their fault. I mean, honestly, what do you have to lose? When the rollover customers of the past move onto the next dimension, who is going to take their place? Moreover, when 40 Car a Month Sandy drops over after eating her last Big Mac, who is going to take her place? With 100% certainty these people will cease to exist. If you are building a business that will not carry on after you are gone, then just close shop now.
The time to change was yesterday. If you are going to live in the past, at least learn from it. Make your business future ready by accommodating those who will come after you. Or, disappear like your former clients. It’s totally up to you.