A car story with a dash of bashing bean counters.
2003 found me working for an aggressive car dealer, Steve, a rodeo bull rider, who was a cinch short of a roping saddle.
We had gone from a two lot operation focused on used pickups, stock and utility trailers and occasional livestock to adding a Kia dealership. At one point we had three Kia stores.
Steve got it in his mind to have offsite sales. Colorado regulations allowed up to five days. He had a motor home taken in trade he wanted to use for a mobile office. He hired a man with “experience” and the first sale was a near disaster. For my sins, he and the General Manager decided to put me in charge of the program, the “Roadshow” as it was called.
The challenge intrigued me. My one demand was no one could dispute my decisions. Only Steve, the owner, and the General Manager could counter my decisions. That took two days to resolve but I prevailed. Of course, I was expected to account for all expenditures. No problem.
Steve’s instructions were straightforward.
“Do it right, do it legal, don’t cut corners”.
Man of his word. In the next three years we held about 60 sales in 18 different Colorado towns. I spent north of two million of his dollars. In that time we probably talked less than two hours. All he wanted from me was, “It’s handled or, It’s not handled because….”
Now to the bean counter part. Our pace was two to three sales a month. I would hit a town, find a space to rent, arrange telephone service, arrange advertising, and reserve motel rooms. This placed a great deal of stress on the accounting side of the business as I needed to move fast. At our home store this was no problem. At our Grand Junction store we had a person who got outside her lane, questioning everything I did and slow walking the money.
Had a short meeting with Steve.
Me. “I’m supposed to be working for you. Right now I’ve got $8,000 of my own money invested in your business because your bitch running the books won’t cut the checks – thinks I have to get her approval first”.
Steve, with a grin. “I like that, your money in my business”.
Shortly he defined her lane. As the conversation was reported to me,
Steve. “Who’s fucking name is on this business?”
Steve. “Then who are your to question my instructions to the Tank? The Roadshow is another store and he is the General Manager.”
Should say at the home store as I entered accounting with a fist full of check requests Shirley would greet me with,
“No! Get the fuck out of here with your bullshit!”
She loved me! Always got my checks done within an hour.
After three years of the Roadshow we shut down. The Kia incentives dried up. Steve had me find used car locations. At one point we had five used car stores. I “supervised” the managers, i.e, herded the cats.
I ended up doing all kinds of weird stuff for Steve. He liked me because I always got the job done, and I never failed to account for every penny. He didn’t like that I could piss off half the state getting the job done but he always had my back.
He had a strong friendship with the President of Kia America who bought control of a remanufactured engine company when he left Kia. Got Steve involved in pumping up sales. Yah, guess who Steve put in charge of that!
Steve finally crashed and burned. Had to start all over. He is still out there plugging away and fishing. The man lives to go fishing.
Keeping a business on track from the financing side is a thankless task. I have the greatest respect for those who do it well. It is when they decide they also need to have control over other parts of the business that we part ways.