Soloflex.  NordicTrac.  Bowflex.  Treadmills.  Stationary bikes.  P90X, California Beach Bodies, Tae Bow and all the rest.

The singular, pervasive marketing message behind all of these?

“NOW is the time to start making the change you want,” etc.

If you want change, how bad do you want it? Most people who want change – and have the disposable income – will happily throw money at a solution.  Of those, some will clear an area of their home, assemble the equipment, and pour through the instructions and videos.  Some of them will try it out; and of those, a few will even do the recommended work – consistent, correct, and long-term effort using the program to get long-term positive results (though even those “individual results may vary”).  There’s a constant paring-down from those who want, to those who will, and in fact, do.

But it’s all geared toward “taking action now” in order to make broad changes for the better, for the future.

When is the time to prepare for eventualities, though?  The contingencies; as it were, the “Plan B”?

For nearly 1.5 years, so very many of us have been simply reacting.  No one could have guessed or predicted what has befallen us as a nation.  Nation-wide loss of employees, leading to loss of production, leading to loss of deliverables, leading to increase in prices for what is available, leading to a loss of buyer confidence, leading to – in many cases – business closures.

In my experience talking to dealerships across the country, I have found one thing to be true about the automotive industry, and especially so regarding work trucks and vans – there’s always a shortage somewhere in the supply chain.  There’s always some logistical reason that orders won’t be fulfilled as planned; there’s always something that will delay some deliveries to “sometime next year”. 

In short, there’s always something to keep dealerships from being able to have what they want.  But I’m talking about what is needed…

I’m reminded of the fable of the Grasshopper and the Ant.  The Grasshopper spent the summer singing while the Ant has worked tirelessly to store up food for the winter.  When winter comes, the Grasshopper finds itself dying of hunger and must beg the Ant for food. 

Reaction, rather than planning, comes at a price of humility and the possibility of being told ‘no’.

It might be worth looking at what the dealerships who are more than just surviving are doing. 

From the conversations I’ve had with those dealerships, two broad truths have surfaced: 

  1.  Good relationships keep businesses afloat
  2.  Close is better than nothing at all

Relationships take time to forge and maintain, and sometimes they’re exceedingly difficult.  But when dealerships continuously pursue strong relationships with other dealerships (local and otherwise), they expand their pool of opportunities.  Rarely can one call another out of the blue and simply get the trade or wholesale deal they need straight away.  But, as with any relationship, trust and risk-willingness invested over time yields more “Yes” answers.  Inventory that once was desperately hoarded like a dragon to its pile of gold becomes a tool that can help both parties build together. 

Close is better than nothing at all.  Used inventory that doesn’t quite hit the mark – but fills the floor – becomes sales with understanding customers – understanding business owners – who are being hit just as hard, and are grateful to keep their business running rather than hearing flat “No’s”.  Most of the dealerships still doing well are doing so by continuing to keep their floors stocked with used work trucks and vans – often from multiple OEM’s. 

Is any of this possible right now?  Can you just *snap!* and make this happen?  Well, no, but that’s the point of the fable.  It takes time and other resources just to prepare for lean winters that we know are coming – how much more for the ones we don’t?

There is help to grease the gears.  Some providers that support dealership sales and operations saw which way the wind was blowing early on.  They have invested in your opportunities to build these new relationships amongst each other.  There is a VAST amount of inventory – new and used – sitting stale on other’s lots.  

What’s required?  A willingness to build new relationships (and triage old ones), and a willingness to keep the floor stocked with a bit more Used trucks and vans.  Again, it’s a whole lot easier to keep customers by selling something that – while not perfect – is close to the mark, rather than having to simply say “no”.  This isn’t an immediate solution – relationships are work, and take time.  Much like the Grasshopper and the Ant, it takes a lot of time and concerted effort to make contingency plans viable for the lean winters.  Keep planning and working for what you want, but if that’s just not happening for you, start now to build the backup fleet – and friends – that you may need later.  It’s not easy to start, but it keeps the businesses running and families fed.  You’re not alone. The help is there, just ask.