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"This is a Dictatorship, not a Democracy".. Ugh!

"A Dictatorship.  That's How the Business Works!"

Yuck... These words came spewing out the mouth of a Senior Executive Manager at a struggling car dealership who asked for my help in evaluating his Management team.

"It's what?", I said with a hiccup-style chuckle in the back of my throat (a long time bad habit when I hear ridiculous comments)

"A Dictatorship!", he said (no chuckle).

"What's that mean...exactly?"

"It means I hire people to do the job I've hired them to do.  And when they don't get that job done, they gotta go.  I pay them WAY too much to get these piss poor resultsI"

"What does that have to do with it being a Dictatorship?"

"It means if they'd just do what I tell them to do, we'd be selling 400 cars a month right now.  I used to sell more than that with only 20 guys".

I said, "Fair enough.  So give me all the stuff on what you tell them to do.  I mean both the Managers and the Salespeople. That should tell the tale."

Sure enough, the "stuff" he'd tell people to do had more to do with his expected results, and much less to do with workable, achievable, and relevant strategies for TODAY's business environment. He'd say, "Keep calling 'em back until they buy or die", and, "Get your salespeople to contact everyone they know and see who would be willing to trade if the deal was right", and other old adages of the car biz.  It DID tell the tale.

Even his "hired guns" of experts, gurus, and event-speaking "pros" allowed this poor, but well-meaning fellow to continue with his toxic and damaging "Dictatorship" culture.   

It took two full days of conversation, 2 meals out, and a "French Connection Style" car chase all the way to his house. He blew up when I compared him to a Gorilla throwing his feces around a cage. It was meant to break him of his current beliefs.

Afterwards, he knew I meant well.

The fact was, is that his sales were WAY down (dealership-wide) and he was rightly frustrated.  He worked for the dealer group for a LONG time and couldn't see the facts through the fog.  He was spark to the fire (and the gasoline when trying to put the fire out).

And then finally...he got it.


The essence of great leadership in car dealerships, TODAY, is executing a structure of Management that involves Coaching, Training, Mentorship, and Analytics.

The mentality of "Move the Metal" is like a limping Gazelle running from a Lion on the Serengeti.  Sure, you can MASK this mentality in Social Media "Speak", CRM systems, and Internet leads, but the Lion is still gonna eat you.

Coaching involves that area of managerial focus which compels both the "Coach/Manager" and "Team member" to collaboratively define individual motivations, targets, objectives, and/or goals ...and then agree on a pathway and timeframe for the "Team Member" to reach the agreed-upon milestones.

People have MUCH MORE AT STAKE in achieving their own goals as opposed to achieving yours.  Makes sense, right?  It should.  That's how YOU work best, too!

Training involves the specifics of the "How-to", yet doesn't fall prey to the "Lecture" approach which bores the crap out of most everyone in the world!  Interaction and the challenge of LIVE, ever-changing, conversational and mechanical dynamics...that's the ticket!


Mentorship involves providing individual guidance to those with "ladder-climbing" ambitions across the much wider spectrum of Leadership principles, strategies, tactics, and methods ...while COACHING them towards MASTERY in their current dealership positions.


Analytics involves a smart, yet balanced approach to managing the "numbers" and "measuring tools" in order to best support YOU and ALL team members in fulfilling each person's fullest potential.


Piece of cake, right? 

Hell no!  It takes hard work, smart work, and full commitment to adaptation and growth of your dealership and your own career.  The good news?  The payoff is extraordinary!  Gratitude, Gifting others, and Building a much more Successful Legacy of Success!

Views: 778

Tags: auto, car, coaching, dealership, dealerships, management, managers, managing, paglia, ralph, More…sales, tips, tom, trainers, training, vann


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Comment by Brian Bennington on February 12, 2014 at 5:32am

Come on, guys.  Let's quit being so sensitive and "have a piece of fruit."  Just to be fair, I reread Tim's post about the "brilliants" and how they'll shy away from the car business when they're exposed to, for want of a better description, a "dictatorial" management style.  Even Ralph would have to agree (and he did) that can happen, but the way Tim stated it, it sounded like they'll either move on in disgust or leave because they'll have a better chance of being a "billionaire" doing something else.  (Really Tim, there could be other reasons than those.)  And, when you mention your father has been a successful dealer for over 45 years and you worked for him for 21 of them, that's a "double edged sword."  The upside being you were wired into a dealership about as good as it gets and undoubtedly got some great experience; the down side being every one who knows it will attribute most any views (positive or negative) or success you have to that "background."  You best learn to live with it.

Being a son of an owner isn't always a "bed of roses."  I'm well aware that working for a family member can be a pain in the ass.  I worked for an owner who got so frustrated with his dad, he took a job out-of-state at another dealership and only got control of the family operations when his father died prematurely.  And, there are many many "second generation" businesses of all kinds ran by unhappy owners whose only reason for being there was "big buck" security or an "offer they couldn't refuse."  I don't know exactly where you fit in there, or if you do, but obviously Ralph sees your background as a defining experience and said so.  The only way you can "escape" it is never mentioning it to anyone in the business.

Then there's me.  Maybe you don't know what I do, but I AM A VENDOR, TOO!  I'm extremely proud of it because, from what I've observed, I'm the only vendor in ADM representing  "Relationship Centered Marketing," producing a service for the past 20 years I developed from doing it for myself for over 20 years before that.  For what it's worth, I guess that qualifies me as "self-made" which, with $3.75, can get me a Starbucks anywhere in the country.  You may have misunderstood I was selling "retail," because I always see everything posted on ADM from a rep's point of view.  I guess, in my heart, I'll always be a retail rep.  My business started when an owner I sold for saw how successful I was selling his vehicles to my previous customers from other dealerships and my expertise at churning out referrals, and asked me to do for all of the reps what I was doing for myself.  This will probably surprise you Tim, but I do what I do because I love it and the romance it involves, not because of the money.  To chase a job or career, primarily for the money (like, to be a "billionaire"-Ha!), is a soul- destroying experience.  Let me say that again....  A soul-destroying experience!

Of note, I've been asked numerous times to take dealership management jobs, but never accepted, even when I was asked to step in as a GM for a dealer who requested it, knowing he was dying of cancer.  He told his son, who offered it, I was the smartest, most honest guy that ever worked for him.  (A nice compliment, but I still didn't take the job.)  I loved that store as the reps there were the funniest, most seasoned (and slippery) guys I've ever worked with.  Surprisingly, doing a quick poll during a sales meeting, I was the only one (including all of the management) who'd never been in jail.  Another time, after listening in while I closed a "two Lincoln deal," my fellow reps were "so impressed by my sales prowess" 3 of them standing behind my customers (an older couple) simultaneously dropped their pants and with bare asses, "mooned" me.  (Not the classiest place I worked, but definitely the most fun.)  Of note, what I do sells lots and lots of past customers and referrals for my clients, and does it with a outstanding ROI and without using price as a selling tool.  I'll leave hustling new customers with a zillion forms of "IT alchemy" to my fellow ADM members.  (Just the number of "Internet chat merchants" in ADM confounds me.)

I reread Ralph's post, too.  It was good, but it should be.  He's been doing it longer than anyone and he's our "Fearless Leader."  And, part of that job is to be the "Head Cheerleader" for the car business, and everything "digital" in it, with the view that everything is great and getting better.  You wouldn't want him any other way, and he definitely knows how to defend that position.  (Confidentially, I know one of the dealers Ralph listed and, from what I've heard, the place in not quite as "inspirational" as he thinks.)  So be it, but it doesn't discount the fact that you and I would have never "met" if it wasn't for his conceiving and creating ADM.  As to his "denigrating" you or your "legacy", I don't see it that way.  You and I are friends and you know how much I admired your "Three Reasons" post, but don't you think you may be a little over-sensitive about this?     

Comment by Timothy Martell on February 10, 2014 at 10:30pm

Ralph, while I'm sure the tone of your response to my post is great for getting attention on Facebook, it is writhe with all the out of context political spin of an MSNBC newscast. You suggest that my assertion singles out only bad dealer management style and further assume (WOW really? BIG MISTAKE) that my own experience in retail is the basis for my post - WRONG.

My assertion was that a worst case scenario would end in disgust, but a best case scenario would lead them to ultimately leave the retail space as EVERYONE (except Brian) on this thread has done! The simple truth is that the vendor world offers far more upside and a much higher ceiling than does auto retail. Thats not an opinion, its a fact. Compare and contrast the percentage of vendor billionaires to auto retail billionaires. Game, set, match my friend.

Based on Tom's assertion about the future billionaires, I don't see auto-retail as a first choice for someone with such lofty goals. I never said it was a bad profession, merely that a vehicle that offers a general cap of 300k-500k is not the place a future billionaire looks to find his opportunity for success regardless of an old boys network or the most progressive leadership offered. Lastly, Ralph, there are over 20,000 dealers in the USA, your anecdotes about 1,000 dealers you've worked with in no way represent any meaningful data about what is or is not prevalent. And I would be shocked if you are honestly asserting that each of those 1,000 dealers consisted of progressive thought leaders exhibiting no stereotypical or bad habits.

Perhaps you shouldn't skim particularly if you are going to denigrate someone's family legacy and approach to business... truly poor form Mr. Paglia. 

Comment by Tom Vann on February 10, 2014 at 3:57pm

The banter has been good...and Ralph's latest post is a reality "Sledgehammer" ~ Awesome!

Here's the quickest path to the VSM FREE SALES TRAINING site...

Click Right Here :-) 


Comment by Brian Bennington on February 10, 2014 at 12:53pm

My my, Tom, as interesting as this post is, it's hard to believe you've had less than 500 views.  I'd bet it would be a much bigger number if, say, everyone in your "screaming manager" photo was naked.  But, when I see that our leader Ralph has taken time to respond twice, you just know your blog is a "cut-above."  (Of note to Ralph, you've managed to cause a "flair-up" of my "BD" [biography dysfunction], the 2nd time it's happened in this same post.  I ran your numbers of the dealerships [1,000] you've "worked in" over the past 33 years, and figuring a six day work week, it comes out to a little over 10 days per dealership.  How the hell do you do it!)

Granted, you're considerably more intelligent and savvy than me, but it's still mighty intimidating considering I've only had a total of 14 clients in my 20 years of doing relationship centered marketing.  As Tom and you both appear to get a lot more done in your 24 hour days, a post from you both about how you manage it would be beneficial to those of us trying to maximize our time.

In regards to your efficiency, it reminds me of the stats I ran when I was looking for wife #3.  Having failed in my first two marriages (good girls, but R&R was a marriage killer), I discovered I could be involved in several (3 or 4) "staggered" relationships at the same time, as before I could get a "solid read" if any had a future, it took an average of two months.  (To see what a woman is really like, you've got to get past the "honeymoon.")  When I met my third wife, who at the time was married, I saw her as much as I could and, because she was a much better match for me (I knew it was love when she told me she saw "Star Wars" 11 times at the movies), she "rose to the top" and has been my wife of 28+ years.  Which brings up the question of if you can get past the "honeymoon" with a dealership and witness their "true colors" in only 10 days.  The first dealership I worked at, the GSM confided in me that they never wanted any tentative new hires to meet the GM because he was such a jerk.  (His words, not mine.)

I love posts like this, that move beyond reality into the philosophy of the "truth" of the business. Unfortunately, I'm a "meat & potatoes" kind of guy, so it's damned near impossible for me to arrive at any new conclusions based upon the insights and overview of others, primarily because I haven't "walked in their shoes."  And Tom, "thumbs up" on The Eagles, Tom Petty, The Allman Brothers and David Bowie.  But, when was the last time you heard a classic radio station play any T-Rex?  I do want to remind you that I most definitely want to read your "FREE SALES TRAINING COURSE."  Please don't make me have to beg you for it or, as we use to say, "I'll be on you like last year's underware."   (Just kidding!)

Comment by Ralph Paglia on February 10, 2014 at 9:54am
In regards to Timothy Martell's last comment; I disagree with Tim's assertion that America's best and brightest will inevitably either not be attracted to the car biz, or if they get a job in a dealership will soon leave in disgust. I've been privileged enough to have worked in well over 1,000 dealership facilities across North America over the past 33 years, thanks to my years as a consultant and trainer, so my perspective is based on a fairly good sample size. I agree with Tim that there are dealerships where what he describes could, and would occur... However, not only are there many dealerships where America's best and brightest could thrive and be the platform from which their success is launched, there are dealerships where the culture and leadership is so conducive to entrepreneurial spirit and creating value that the opposite effect occurs... I know this to be true because I have witnessed these great dealerships on a first hand basis. There are too many great dealerships which have the opposite effect on their new hires than what Tim describes to list them all, but let me mention just a few of them:
Rick Case Honda in FL
Ken Grody Ford in CA
Ancira Auto Group in TX
West-Herr Auto Group in NY
Cavendar Toyota in TX
Melloy Nissan in NM
Power Ford in NM
World Hyundai of Matteson, IL
Germaine Auto Group of OH, FL, AR
Courtesy Chevrolet in AZ
Findlay Auto Group in NV

As I stated, there are many more of these types of dealerships and organizations than the few I listed off the top of my head, where people that are not normally attracted to the car business manage to get themselves hired, and then thrive at a level where their success stories are launched and they become highly successful in either the auto industry or something connected to the car biz. I have seen and participated in far too many powerful success stories that originated in America's car dealerships to accept what Tim describes as being the prevalent situation... I've hired college students at my dealership who went on the become senior executives at car companies and successful entrepreneurs, such as the creator of Mazda's Retail Revolution and several successful authors and well known auto industry speakers... I have seen on a first hand basis where young people come on board with a dealership that has such a dynamic and positive culture that there entire outlook on careers in the auto industry changes to the positive and they go on to become inspirational success stories of their own...

I know the auto industry has a lot of room for improvement, as Tom Vann certainly describes well, but for Tim to believe that his own first hand experience working in a dealer group run by his father is either typical or the predominant dealership culture is simply unrealistic. I have seen too many opposite types of dealership environments and work places to accept a wholesale conclusion that all dealerships suck! I have seen too many incredibly powerful, upbeat, inspirational and personally rewarding places to work that also happened to be a car dealership, to accept that this positive impact cannot become more widespread or even the prevalent American dealership work place environment... So, let me just say that for every dealership that is run like a dictatorship or Siberian Labor Camp, there is another where employees thrive, create value and self fulfillment and go on to reach their own success potential. I believe in this enough to have recruited my own family members into the car business and not regretted doing so... I also see people like myself, Danny Alkassmi, Richard Bustillo, Tom Vann, Kurt Maletych, Joe Webb, Eric Nichols and yes, even Tim Martell along with hundreds of others who have grown up in the car biz and become success stories in their own right.

So, lest we toss the baby out with the bath water, let's recognize what a great business we are in and committ ourselves to amplifying and spreading what we do right at the same time in which we self criticize and reach for making our industry a better place to work and reach professional fulfillment.
Comment by Tom Vann on February 10, 2014 at 5:36am

Hey Brian!  I KNEW I should have just said "T. Rex" or the "Spiders from Mars"! :-)

I really DIG the conversations surrounding this POST!

I probably should have highlighted the paragraph when I mentioned that younger generations "perceive themselves to have far more choices..."  Self-perception is often-times different than the truths of others.  Fair enough?

The magic (and mystery) of Coaching, Training, and Mentorship is that it forces the leader to scrap his/her own agenda and focus more on the targets, objectives, and goals of the individual.  The POSSIBILITIES of personal success grow geometrically when people have clarity on how their targets/goals become PROBABILITIES ...and it doesn't work when trying to beat it into their heads.

We're on the same page (heck, writing the same book) when it comes to how younger generations perceive themselves and their lives the way they do.  Whether we're right or wrong, they are who they're determined to be!

WE will succeed and achieve FAR greater results for our businesses and ourselves when becoming the coaches/trainers/mentors of these YOUNGER FOLKS, as opposed holding on to the dictatorial management methods based on control, threat, and fear.

As far as the "BRILLIANTS" being attracted to Auto Retail (Hey Tim!), I believe that would only be TRUE if we as dealers only "stick with what we know", meaning, that auto retailers don't advance their leadership and business methods. 

Auto retailing allows any individual to be engaged in one of the most important moments in the lives of their clients...buying a car!  You get to hear great stories, share you wisdom, make an impact in your community, be creative, earn a very good income, and build some very good lifelong friendships.

This sounds like a DYNAMITE career to me!

~~Can we agree on The Eagles?  Tom Petty?  Lynyrd Skynyrd? or The Allman Brothers?~~

Comment by Brian Bennington on February 9, 2014 at 10:56pm

Hold on, Tom.  These last comments have definitely changed the trajectory of your original blog. I don't see this as some "generational gap" between younger and older reps in how they like to be handled, as people are inherently the same as they've always been.  Some are likable, some less so, but all are still "captive" of the age-old principles of admiration and reassurance.  In every business and personal relationship, everyone wants to be admired and reassured as much as they always have. Consequently, the deep-down traits of a good leader haven't changed.  Looking at the culture, what you say might be true.  If nothing else, the popular music of today convinces me there's a generation gap, but in reality, many of yesterday's musicians are hotter than ever because the young like them.  (By the way, you liking "Foghat" explains a lot.  I'd be much more impressed if you liked "The Moody Blues" or "Yes" or "Genesis" or "The Four Tops" or "The Temptations."  Anything but "Foghat"!)

Having spent the 60s and early 70s of my 1st career playing R&R in a genuine working-all-the-time-for-respectable-money band, I was upfront at the biggest cultural explosion of the century, when you figure that prior to that, teenagers had no culture at all other than emulating their parents.  By the 70s, all that had changed.  Where a guy dressed up just like his dad (suit & tie) for his Saturday date in 1960 (as witnessed by any episode of "Father Knows Best"), in 1970 both he and his date dressed totally different, and more importantly, thought totally different.  Talk about change, from my "on stage" vantage point, the biggest event of the 60s wasn't going to the moon, it was the invention of the birth control pill.  It was a landmark in women's freedom, and still is, as I'd bet there hasn't been a decrease in the desire to have sex.  Looking at the "Big Picture," people really haven't changed.  Or, as was phrased so beautifully in the theme song of the movie Casablanca, "The fundamental things apply, as time goes by."

As to "far more choices & far more freedom," from my life experiences you're way off the mark.  No one I've met has enjoyed their choices and more freedom than I have.  A good example being able to buy a new Pontiac GTO when I was 18, updated every 10 to 12 months by some of the hottest, yet average-guy affordable new performance cars Detroit has ever made.  As to "far more listeners," that's only if you believe everyone is listening, and that "listening" is most often dictated by the listeners' personal agendas. This generation does have a helluva selection of entertainment and communication venues and matching tech equipment, but when you're talking "personal freedom," aren't there times when you like to be "out of touch"?  (I'd bet big money you and every one reading this has let a call or message go to your mail box more times than you'll admit.)  I couldn't possibly have had the fun I had if I was 24/7 cell phone available.  And, with all of the new venues comes a big "They're a consumer, so let's sell 'em something" target for your back, free with every new smartphone.  If anything, this generation is a lot more suspicious than my generation, and the greed, spin and ever increasing BS of today's society gives them plenty of reasons to be.

Believe me, I can tell you don't like the "Dictatorial" management style, and given the choice, I don't like it either.  You remind me of Diogenes with his lamp, "looking for an honest man," but in your case, "looking for an honest leader."  The only problem I can see with the newer generations are their parents, who deliberately, yet massively unsuccessfully, try to shield them from everything.  Thus, the foundation of what your describing about them and their inability to "commit" might be summed up by "forced immaturity."  You might be more realistic if your one-line conclusion wasn't "The younger generations aren't bad...just different," but instead, "The younger generations aren't bad...just immature."  And, the number of instant billionaires you mention is so small as to be irrelevant to anything.  Ops, I almost forgot that any good "Motivationalist" such as yourself likes to get them in the picture as someone to aspire to, even though they're often as unhappy as the next guy.

We're still friends, aren't we? 

Comment by Timothy Martell on February 9, 2014 at 7:52pm

With all due respect Tom, I think the "BRILLIANT's" you mention are never going to be attracted to auto-retail. Those that are will either be immediately discouraged by the old boys network, or like me, they'll have a ton of success in a short time and realize very quickly how capped the ceiling is in auto retail for the truly talented and end up in the vendor space like us.

Why would the next billionaire want to be capped at $300-$500k/year? And don't sell me on becoming a dealer principal, because you need to risk far too much for far too little. And for anyone reading this that doesn't know me, bear in mind that 2014 marks my father's 45th year in a business that I spent 21 years in myself before becoming a vendor.

Comment by Tom Vann on February 9, 2014 at 6:18am

From a Salesperson's standpoint, "Dictator-Style" management CAN work for some. 

It worked for Brian Bennington and it works for Jerry Thibeau.  But look, we're a bunch of old dudes who grew up in a generation FAR different than the tow following ours.

Today's younger generations perceive themselves to have FAR more choices, FAR more FREEDOM to CHOOSE, and FAR MORE LISTENERS to their messages (Have you seen who's on top of the TOP 100 YouTube Channels?)!  And guess what...they're right!

Buddy, it was Foghat, Vanilla Ice Cream, Baseball cards, and Speed Racer for me.  Other than that we hunted Muskrat, rode 1st Gen Skateboards, and jigsawed wooden guns out of $2 plank wood.

Not today.  The younger generations became the FASTEST BILLIONAIRES EVER (while riding 2nd & 3rd gen skateboards), and each of 'em knew they could call the cops if the school principal pulled out a big wooden paddle (with holes drilled-in for better aero-dynamics).

Jerry mentioned the strength of the "Military" when it comes to "Dictator-Style" leadership.  Let's face it, the military has a captive audience can't leave without getting thrown in jail!

The younger generations aren't bad ...just different.

Our positions as Leaders of Dealerships (and Training Companies or whatever) demands that we TOO understand and grow with our ever-changing culture.  If Dictator-style management only works on the Jerry's and Brian's and Tom's, then we miss out on the BRILLIANT talents of those with different personality types, different skill sets, and most poignantly, those who have different cultural beliefs and ideas than those from the "older" generations.

And if we choose NOT to understand and grow in the way we LEAD, COACH, and MENTOR our newer generations of potential employees, we shall wither away like vinyl records, UHF TV, and Jiffy Pop Popcorn.

Comment by Brian Bennington on February 8, 2014 at 4:23pm

Gentlemen and, of course, gentle ladies....  Once again I find myself in the company of the finest, most dedicated and intelligent "car people" in the industry.  Actually, it's hard to imagine getting along without you.  Suffice to say, without ADM, it would surely be a lot more boring and lonely in this monastic lifestyle I live (and actually prefer).  

Jerry, it's good to read you again.  It's been awhile since your extremely stimulating and controversial "Halloween Horror" post, and I was concerned that Mike might have sent a couple of guys to "talk to you" with their "roscoes."  Personally, I'd love to find out exactly how that situation was resolved, if it ever was resolved.  I'm sure a follow-up post about it would be fascinating and enjoyed by all.  That is, if you're not suffering from some type of gag order.

And, Mr. LaPointe. Your comments about "leader, not a dictator" are probably, by definition, a tad more accurate than Jerry's definition.  Reviewing both terms, "leader" had so many synonyms, I couldn't list them all.  And, as to Jerry's usage of "dictator," I couldn't find any definitions of it that were positive.  When I read posts as interesting as this, which is nearly a trademark for a Tom Vann entry, I always try to read the authors' previous blogs and comments to help me understand where they're coming from.  Tom, I think, by nature of his worldly experiences in the business, tends to shade his opinions more caustically than most.  I like it, though, as I like a lot of "black" in my tutelage.  (As to the "Is my cocktails invite open to everyone?" question, Tom, the answer is it's only open to "the interesting people" and they know who they are....)

Spending way too much time contemplating this post, I've decided it's too vague, general and philosophical, primarily because everyone will arrive at a myriad of correct answers, based on their own experience-based perceptions.  Personally, I've never been bothered by a "dictator" type of boss, providing the situation (working conditions, money, etc.) was good.  That's because I've always "learned better" from a tough guy.  Plus, I made sure my customers were "my customers," and was never afraid of leaving (with as many of them as were legally permitted) if the situation went south.

Of note to Tom Vann:  Great post!  Now, don't get this wrong.  Looking at your story with my limited-by-nature marketing experience, I loved the way you stated a problem, came "Riding to the rescue," and then gave a rather superficial list of the traits of a good leader.  Honestly, it was a great story, and as you know, a great story often needs a hero, so why not you?  But, with the banter between Jerry Thibeau and Tom LaPoine, and this last post by Tom with a giant picture of Ronald Reagan (who truly was a great president), don't you think you may have gone too far?      

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