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From the Trenches - Remembering Johnny Walker


It was 1978 in Ohio and I was a new car salesman.  I was selling Chrysler Imperials and New Yorkers at a time when there was an energy crises.  It was tough and I would not last long.  But I learned something during that short time in the car business.

There was a fella, much older than I, but younger than I am now.  His name was Johnny Walker (I do not lie). He could walk away from a deal and sell a car.  He was my hero, my idol.  He was the number one salesman at the dealership and he took a liking to me. 

I was really green at the time, greener than a green pea.  I tried hard and got some big commissions from “beginner’s luck”, what is truly innocence.  I felt powerful.  But I noticed that 50% of our walk-ins asked for Johnny Walker.  He would sell them without trying.  He would walk away if they gave him a hard time.  And they would chase him to make a deal.

We were on a draw at that time.  Sometimes I wouldn’t make my draw and old Johnny would open his wallet and peel off a fifty, hand it to me and say, “Don’t worry about it.” He knew I had a wife and little one at home and he knew I would try hard to sell the next car.  He wouldn’t let me repay him.

One day, we had the opportunity to just talk.  I asked him why so many people came in asking for him, many who had never met him.  He said only one word, “Reputation”.

And that is what I learned. 

I was fired that December, right before Christmas, along with almost all the other sales staff, except Johnny Walker.  I never saw him again.  It was approximately 15 years before I would get back in the car business, but to this day, I’ve never forgotten Johnny Walker.

I’ve always understood, since that day, that reputation is everything.  Today, when the Internet has made it possible for your worst nightmare to come true due to ONE unhappy customer, we also have the opportunity to become Johnny Walker on steroids.

Think about it….

Views: 302

Tags: Management, Reputation, SEM, SEO, motivation, sales


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Comment by Tom Gorham on November 22, 2011 at 5:17am

Thank you Ryan, that's a great compliment. I appreciate it!

Comment by Ryan Leslie on November 21, 2011 at 4:19pm


I've started checking in on an ADM just to catch your articles. No bologna. You are extremely talented. I really appreciate your easy, common sense, delivery of a mission critical item that some are currently struggling to grasp. You made it... simple. Thanks.


Comment by Tom Gorham on November 21, 2011 at 4:04pm

Clifford, you are absolutely right.  I agree with you every step of the way and I've the same experience.  Thank you!

Comment by Clifford VanMeter on November 21, 2011 at 8:53am

True, there are a few, a very vocal group, but just a few that you can never please. I've found that with most just listening to their problems and making an effort to resolve them goes a long way.

We had a bad review just recently on Facebook. Very negative. I responded to her right away and I listened to her problem. As it turns out the problem really wasn't with us, but was a specific known mechanical issue with that make and model of car. We dealt with it and she amended her comments. I responded publicly to her public criticism. Without arguing or pointing fingers and we were seen to do good by everyone following the exchange.

Yes, you will get the occasional j******, but in every case I respond publicly and try to work with them. If they continue to be a j****** they are seen to be acting like a j******. When that has happened I've even had other customers weigh in and call them out for being unreasonable.


Clifford VanMeter

Marketing Coordinator

Express Auto (


Comment by Tom Gorham on November 21, 2011 at 5:41am

Thanks Ray.  Consumers are paying attention.

Comment by Ray McGowan on November 21, 2011 at 4:55am

Tom, you hit the nail on it's head.  I couldn't agree more.  It's hard today keeping a reputation with online reviews even when you bend over backwards.  There are a few customers that are never satisfied.  But for the majority of buying consumers, they "do" appreciate someone that keeps their commitment and word.  You have nothing if your reputation isn't in check.  Thank you for posting a great article.

Comment by Tom Gorham on November 20, 2011 at 6:44pm

Thanks Jim, Reputation is and always has been everything.  But what many people don't get is that it is now what will drive or deprive your dealership of customers.  Social Media is word-of -mouth advertising.  In the past word-of-mouth advertising was valued, but now because of Social Media, it is not a wishful thing, but an imperative thing. 

Comment by Jim Radogna on November 20, 2011 at 6:28pm

Nice story Tom. A great reminder of something that should be obvious but is often forgotten - "reputation is everything".

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