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The Good Ol’ Boy Network (GOBN) Limits Dealer Success

The Good Ol’ Boy Network (GOBN) of the car business limits us in how we apply experienced and/or capable people, how we run our dealership’s business, and in how we approach women in this business for everything from ownership, to manager spots, to sales positions. And, by doing all that, limits our success.  And our profitability.  Let me tell you my own experience with the car business GOBN, and then I’ll address the point I’m making on limits.

I came to the car business in my 40’s (I’m now 52) with experience ranging from owning my own business, to Fortune 100 Consulting, to several years at Microsoft. I entered the sales floor, as perhaps many do, because I had a financial issue—I had a cash flow problem with my business, and so I was making an effort to offset that slowdown.

I was privileged to work with several great salespeople who were happy with me until I started selling #1 consistently. Eventually, they came back to liking me, but what really happened next was inevitable: I knew so much about sales and marketing, and the dealership group’s attention to marketing and the Internet was severely lagging. They couldn’t run a marketing program in any coordinated fashion to save their lives. I tried to help, but I ran right smack into the GOBN: I couldn’t possibly understand the car business! And the people they had running all the marketing and Internet were just fine. Really. They knew them all very well, how could it be otherwise??

And so I sold lots of cars and left when my cash was right again. The main store’s GM called me very shortly after that, though, and he said “I get it even if other’s don’t. I need your help in a BDC with phones and Internet, can you come back and help me?” And so I did. And a shout-out to my old GM, Mike, by the way: Thanks very much for that!

He and I worked together and took the BDC—even back then—to running 40% of the dealer’s vehicle retail business. I eventually moved on to an eCommerce position at a large group, and for me the rest is history as they say—I’m now an independent consultant (, but I still have all that experience, both outside and inside the car business. Plus I qualify now for some entry into that GOBN. Who knew?

Though that’s still not true with everyone who considers me, because I’m not twenty years in this business making all the same mistakes they are making (if not direct business mistakes, then business-limiting mistakes because they are still GOBN-oriented).

So, what are a few of the most common GOBN limits? First, that experience outside the car business isn’t any strong help to a dealership; second, that running the dealership AS a business, instead of by GOBN “relationship decisions", is not possible nor profitable; and, third, that women are never, ever part of the GOBN.

Yeah. I said it. Women are limited by the GOBN in the car business. Still. I’ll write more on that in a minute.

I already covered the GOBN’s reaction to experienced and capable people when I wrote about my own entry into the car business. What I see for GOBN for relationships that hold back their business success is perhaps best given in questions: Who knows a GM who buys a random direct mail piece because his buddy at another dealership “killed it” and sold “fifty cars” from it last month? Or has seen the management clearing-out that happens with some GM regime changes? Or still sees print advertising spend over digital because the GM has a long-standing relationship with the local newspaper? And so on. Exactly.

And back to women, then, to wrap up, and I’ll ask some more questions: How many women GMs and managers are there? Would a successful woman ever get online as a dealership Marketing Director and write on an automotive professional blog site (using both their personal name and their dealer’s name) in angry posts, some containing profanity (see the thread here)? Would even my actions there be done differently? Why do lots of capable women leave the sales floor? Why do the ones who stay do so well and yet cause such jealousy?

GOBN, that’s why. For all of that and more.

We need experienced, capable people with new ideas; we need to run our dealerships as businesses, not as clubs; and we need more women in sales, management, and ownership.

And we lag on all these because of the limit of the GOBN, both in business practice and in attitude. Removing that limit will do more for long-term dealership success than any new efforts on Internet, Social Media, Reputation Management, etc. ever will alone—simply because those are all really most successful when change for business success is really embraced.

And the car-business GOBN hates change. Have you noticed? So did the dinosaurs, perhaps, and they are now encased in rock. Don’t be a GOBN fossil and miss modern success and profit.



By Keith Shetterly,
Copyright 2011 All Rights Reserved

Views: 553


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Comment by Keith Shetterly on January 31, 2013 at 7:38am

Criss, being in the GOBN isn't wnat I want for you, either. I simply want to call out the practice that can, and does, limit dealership success.  Thanks!

Comment by Cathy Nesbit on January 31, 2013 at 7:36am

@Criss nailed that! I 100% feel the same.

And another thought, I know there are some women who want break into the "man world", but I'd say most of us are making our own way as women.

A woman who is doing a good job being a woman doesn't ever really need to raise voice or "be a bitch".

I work in a dealership (like I said before) full of women. We are busy getting stuff done, wearing heels & taking care of business.

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Comment by Criss Castle on January 30, 2013 at 9:09pm


Your view is very interesting and one that is quite common. Let me share with you another view; one that might surprise you. I don't want to be in the Good Old Boy Network; I am a woman. I prefer to be treated as a lady and don't ever intend to partake in GOBN activities. I will attend functions as the date of a GOB, but not to BE one. 

Many women want to be with the men doing men things, but really, who wants to do that stuff when you are really not wanted? I much prefer to be the lady. I am a huge fan of the following:

I prefer not to open any doors; in fact, I often pause to wait for the gentleman to open it for me. 

I prefer not to get my car from the parking lot in the rain. 

I prefer not to do heavy lifting of any sort. 

I prefer to sit in the passenger seat when a man is present to drive. 

I prefer tell someone what I want to eat and have it ordered on my behalf. 

I prefer to wear dresses and heels. 

I prefer to have clean language used in my presence, or at least the apology for the lack of it when it occurs. 

I prefer to be nice to people I do business with and in return experience the same. 

I prefer not to have my hand shaken like it's an arm wrestling match. 

I prefer to have chairs pulled out and held for me. 

I prefer to have assistance with my coat. 

I prefer to be a lady. 

I don't think being a woman has held me back. In fact, I choose certain paths because I am a woman and I reap the benefits of being a girl. 

Men are men. That is never going to change. And why would you want them to change entirely? They would be unhappy and the women around them would be miserable because of it. 

I am a senior level manager for our organization and make decisions and recommendations and actively participate in conversations that lead the direction of the company. My opinions are respected and sought after.

But there are some things I just don't feel are the proper place for me and the GOB's on this network know what I am referring to. And there are conversations I just don't want to be a part of; I'm not a guy.

I was raised by my father and I am 4 years younger than one brother and 4 years older than the other. I think a lot like a guy does in respect to rationality and logical thinking, but I'm a girl and I am a nurturing person. In fact, I am often referred to as the "mother" of the sales team, who are referred to as "my kids," even when they are my age.....because I take care of them and look out for them. It's in my nature to do so.

I don't feel limited. In fact, I work directly for the owners of our company and have the luxury of being at a different dealership with a different profile of customer and of sales team members and service team members on any given day. My strength is not only in operations management but also in being diverse and flexible enough to manage multiple markets, multiple brands, a diverse workforce and highlighting the advantages of each store and managing the short comings and correcting them at each location, all as different as they may be. 

I don't feel short changed in the slightest bit. The opposite is quite true; I feel more confidence is placed in me than I have experience for, but I always come through because I love to be successful and I love to be the best with our resources and I'm naturally drawn to where I'm needed and appreciated.

I don't want to be in the GOBN. God made men and women different. And thank goodness for that! It's alot more fun being a lady! 

So maybe the GOBN holds some people back, but knowing that it exists and understanding its complexity makes it very advantageous for me personally. 

Comment by Keith Shetterly on January 30, 2013 at 6:52am

Alexander, for what it's worth, I've lived long enough to see exactly what's happening here in our business happen many times in other verticals.  It's not theoretical.  It's very, very real.

Comment by Alexander Lau on January 30, 2013 at 5:39am

Tom, does make a very good point, look at Hillary Clinton. Labeling of 'bitch' also tends to come from other women, the hypocrisy of it all, eh...? My wife does it all the time.

Yes, job placement by nepotism, but what about ownership by nepotism. IMO, that's the bigger problem of the two.

Again, why would a successful dealership change the culture if it's already working...? Depends on the dealership, you can't just make blanket statements on "change" and expect it to fly universally. The 'Law of Uniformitarianism' doesn't hold true in the business world, to use another geologic science reference.

Comment by Keith Shetterly on January 29, 2013 at 8:53pm

Thanks Tom!!  

Comment by Tom LaPointe / CarChat24 on January 29, 2013 at 8:26pm

LOVE THIS, Keith - I worked for many years in the military with women and now in the car biz, and my significant is a bank manager. I think it is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT for women to navigate ANY INDUSTRY with a strong leadership personality, lest they be labeled in very unkind terms. If you or I are enthusiastic and strong-willed about policies and procedures, we are 'stern' or 'strict'. Possibly an ass, but generally not if diplomacy is used. However, a woman with the same strength of personality as I will get labeled 'bitch' (or worse) within minutes of making a request.

I also have the deadly accuracy of your point about GOBN being harmful to business. I think all industries have their NIH(not invented here) mentalities, but do dealers and even dealer group execs have any idea how job placement by nepotism or GOBN hold back their businesses?

Then they wonder why it is so hard to change culture...

Comment by Roosevelt Gist on January 29, 2013 at 4:30pm

Lack of diversity limits growth.

Comment by Rob Melone on January 29, 2013 at 8:04am

Many of my colleagues have heard me say many times "The things that go in this industry would never be tolerated in other industries..."

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