Used Car News recently asked several industry leaders their reading suggestions for our annual Summer Book Recommendations. You can check out their choices in our May 30 online print edition.

However, we had some additional suggestions that came in after deadline, so I wanted to include these as well because YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH BOOKS!

Pierre Pons, president of TPC management, emailed these great selections:

“Here are a couple of books in my recent reading: “The Ride of a Lifetime,” by Robert Iger, former CEO of Walt Disney Company

“Easily the most interesting of these post-CEO essays, that I’ve ever read – and I’ve read most of them,” Pons said. “Who doesn’t want to know the behind-the-scenes thinking of a Disney CEO.”

Pons also suggested Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun,” by Wess Roberts, which he called, “One of the all-time best management/leadership books ... right up there with ‘One Minute Manager and ‘Good to Great,’ and all the Jack Welch books combined.”

Pons said he was originally forced to read this since he was assigned to lead a discussion on the book for the Auction Academy’s Dallas session.

“This book has been ‘required’ reading for each of our seven Academy Classes (which means ... at least 100 others in our industry have read it).

“I would submit that each and every manager in our industry should pick it up and read it every two years (as that is our class rotation). Every time I read this book it has different meanings and lessons as I progress thru my career. It short, easy – and full of great bits.”

Pons also added two more Auction Academy picks, “The Hero Code” and Make Your Bed, both by Admiral William H. McRaven, a former Navy SEAL.

They are quick/ short insightful and super inspirational,” Pons said. “The author’s May 19, 2014, Commencement Speech at the University of Texas is something I make each of our Academy classes watch on their Graduation Session. It too is inspirational.” 

 

Cox Automotive’s Michelle Krebs recommended:

                Named one of the Best Business Books of 2021. 

Collision Course: Carlos Ghosn and the Culture Wars That Upended an Auto Empire,” by Hans Greimel and William Sposato.

She also offered a fiction series selection.

“I am also reading (and re-reading, in some cases) the Louise Penny series,” Krebs said. “She is a Canadian writer – I’m follow her on Facebook, which is fun. The crimes take place in and around a town called Three Pines in Quebec, Canada – closest city is Montreal.

“The center around francopone Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. The town’s characters are an interesting and entertaining lot. Amazon is making the first eight books into a series. Actor Alfred Molina will play Gamache, which is perfect. I’m trying to read at least the first eight books before the series starts.”

Cox’s Mark Schirmer, director of public relations, added his own choices:

“Last fall, I read Power Play,’ by Tim Higgins.  It is a good read and interesting look at the early years of Tesla (pre Model 3), but unfortunately it is really only the first chapter in what is likely a multi-book saga.  Higgins does a good job with what he has, but when he sat down to write it, the story was still unfolding. I hope he’s working on a follow up.

“Another interesting book I am reading right now is How I Built This’ by Guy Raz.  I am a sucker for origin stories and do listen to Guy Raz’s podcast of the same name.  And I always enjoyed The TED Radio Hour when Guy was the host.  The book is good – lots of lessons to be learned from some amazing startups. And failures.”

Thanks everyone for your suggestions.

Since I’m writing this piece, I can add one more that I didn’t include in the print edition.

I forgot to add a great book called, A Man at Arms,’ by Steven Pressfield. The author’s most famous historical novel is ‘Gates of Fire,’ about the 300 Spartans and their battle at Thermopylae.

But his new one is a story about a former Roman legionary. He is hired by the Empire to intercept a letter from a religious leader headed to his reportedly radical followers in Corinth.

It’s a story filed with history, courage, violence, war and faith, with an incredible ending.

Enjoy!

I don’t envy business and organizations that have to tiptoe through today’s culture and politics as they lobby for legislative and regulatory support.

Recently, I attended a dinner with a group of independent dealers who met with a local candidate for state office in Michigan.

It was an interesting experience. Dealers and their representatives in state/national associations have limited resources so they have to spend wisely.

In this case, the candidate made their pitch to the dealers. The candidate held a range of positions on different issues. But dealers focused in on specific issues that affect them. They might agree with a politician on many issues that have nothing to do with the car business.

But when it comes to shelling out financial support, it’s the bread-and-butter industry issues that hold a dealer’s attention.

This particular candidate had a couple of main issues they wanted to discuss, but dealers peppered the candidate with questions on the issues that mattered most to them.

In my time covering the industry, independent dealers tend to support conservative, free market, business-friendly politicians.

Of course, it makes sense to support lawmakers who support your industry.

Several lawmakers have a background in car sales, including Congressman Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania and Texas Congressman Roger Williams.

I attended a luncheon at a National Independent Automobile Dealers Association one year when Williams gave a keynote address. He was a dynamic speaker and fired up the dealer crowd. The checks rolled in.

Years later, I listened to Kelly address the NIADA at a dinner in Washington D.C. during the group National Policy conference.

But dealers will listen to and work with members of both parties to support their industry.

Democrat Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy – whose family fled communist-led Vietnam in 1979 when she was a baby – gave a great speech one year at NIADA’s annual convention.

She was the rare moderate in an age when the two parties are so polarized. 

However, Murphy announced she will not seek re-election this year as Democrats face an expected thumping in the mid-terms. 

While dealers and their trade associations need to be shrewd in how they spend money in politics, the lawmakers themselves also have a challenge.

Running for office is expensive and they need all the financial support they can get. Even if their causes overlap with dealers, the money helps in being heard.

I got to follow NIADA members one year as they lobbied on the Hill, visiting lawmakers on both sides of the aisle during their annual National Policy Conference.

As someone who loves to follow politics, no matter how ugly it can get, watching dealers sit down with lawmakers and their staff was a great experience.

In “The Godfather,” Don Corleone told fellow mafia leaders that drugs are “a dirty business,” though he might have been talking about politics.

But during an election year when the nation chooses who will make the laws, it’s the only business in town.

Bust Him in the Face

March 17, 2022

Believe it or not, the war in Ukraine reminds me of an automotive conference I went to years ago.

There was a booth in the exhibit hall run by young Eastern European women selling some product.

Talking to one of them, we got on the topic of Russia somehow. I didn’t know that she was Ukrainian.

This was one of the times when Vladimir Putin was flexing his muscles and she asked me out of the blue what I thought of Putin.

Again, at the time, I didn’t know if she was Russian or not.

But I reflexively said, “Someone has to bust him in the face.”

Her eyes opened wide and she shouted, “YES!” Then she went on a very long rant about Putin’s abuses.

Today the Ukrainian people are figuratively busting Putin in the face, though the defense of their country comes at an unimaginable cost,

I’m a longtime boxing fan, so one of the interesting stories coming out of Ukraine is the involvement of current and former prizefighters in the war.

Early on, Ukrainian brothers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, former heavyweight boxers, announced they would be fighting for their homeland.

The pair were both heavyweight champions at various times between 2004 and 2015 and dominated heavyweight boxing for over a decade. Wladimir is considered one of the best heavyweights of all time.

Vitali has been mayor of Kyiv since 2014 and has been regularly interviewed on TV during the war.

 But the Klitschkos are not alone.

Current heavyweight champion and former Olympic gold medalist Oleksandr Usyk (Ukraine makes some tough dudes) has also taken up arms against the invading Russians. A scheduled title defense this summer may be delayed. 

Another Ukrainian boxer Vasiliy Lomachenko – at one time considered the best boxer pound-for-pound in any division and a two-time Olympic champ –joined a battalion in Odesa to fight for his country. 

However, at press time, his trainers were trying to get the former champ out of the country to challenge for the lightweight title.

All this reminded me of boxing great Alexis Arguello, a champion in three different weight divisions from the mid-1970s to early 1980s and one of my favorite prizefighters.

I remember when Arguello, a Nicaraguan with matinee idol looks, challenged Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor for a title in a fourth weight division in 1980.

The epic battle in Miami saw Pryor stop Arguello in the 14th round in a brutal defeat. Arguello lost a rematch to Pryor and retired briefly.

At this time, the Contras were battling the Marxist Sandinistas in Nicaragua and Arguello went home to fight against the Sandinistas. I remember reading at the time that he saw a friend killed near him in a battle. I read that friends and family had urged him to return to the U.S. – that he could do more for the cause with his name through fundraising. He eventually took their advice.

But it says something that these men, who despite the riches and comfort that came with being the best in their sport, decided to risk their lives in defense of their respective countries.

Sacrifice, bravery, patriotism: We all need their example.

 

 

Our upcoming print issue (1/17/22), will include industry leaders making forecasts on what to expect in the industry this year.

Brave souls, all of them.

Making predictions after the two recent presidential elections and the spread of a global pandemic is the equivalent of shaking one of those Magic Eight Balls.

Now I know how weather forecasters and economists feel.

Who can predict anything anymore?

At this moment in history, where so much seems in flux, is it any surprise that gambling sites dominate the ad world right now.

Can you watch or listen to any program without one of those sports betting ads invading your headspace?

I come from a family where some members have wagered on stuff in the past and let me tell you, I couldn’t handle that lifestyle.

One, I don’t have a lot of money, so giving it away it would suck. And two, I’m very competitive, so the idea of losing, combined with a lighter wallet, is too disheartening for me.

Plus, you can’t predict anything.

True story. Me and a few co-workers used to pick NFL games for fun. The challenge was to pick a winner in every game each week, regardless of the spread, and to see who did best at the end of the year.

One year, one of the employees dropped out, so we instituted “The Coin.” In the employee’s place, we just flipped a coin for every game.

At the end of the year, The Coin won the contest.

That’s either pathetic or frightening.

Anyway, two things should come out of the craziness of our recent years.

No. 1, since everybody is so completely wrong so much of the time, this is the time to be fearless in predictions. Hey, no one expects you to be right anyway.

No. 2, however, is more important. We should have a sense of humility. We are in control of our own decisions – and that’s about it. 

The rest is out of our hands.

The industry lost a couple of special people recently.

Tim Swift, a past president of the National Independent Automobile Dealer Association, died last month at the age of 61.

Jan Merritt, a National Auto Auction Association Hall of Famer and former executive director of the Nebraska IADA died in October. She was 82.

I’ll start with Merritt, because I only had interactions with her during her time at the Nebraska IADA.

I only knew Merritt from her time at Nebraska IADA, I didn’t realize her deep history at NAAA and her connection to Bernie Hart.

When I met her at a convention more than a decade and a half ago, she was a quiet, unassuming lady. To be frank, she seemed like an aunt I’d see at a family reunion, kind of sitting in the background.

Then I spoke to her – and I realized how wrong first impressions can be.

Merritt looked straight at me, listened to every word I said and answered every question I asked.

And she taught me something every time we spoke.

Reporters often ask stupid questions and a lot of times it’s just because we don’t understand a subject and want to learn. (Sometimes, they’re just stupid questions).

Anyway, folks are afraid to ask dumb questions, but not me. I’d rather admit my ignorance upfront so I can learn,

Merritt never made me feel stupid and when a smart person doesn’t try to make you feel stupid, it’s a refreshing thing.

Jan Merritt was the humblest Hall of Famer you’d ever meet.

Unlike Merritt, I knew Tim Swift well. He and I regularly spoke, texted and emailed each other for years.

I hadn’t heard from him in a bit when I learned that he died, Like everyone, I wished I had been able to talk to him again.

Swift received a two-year automotive degree from Northwood Institute. He started his career in a dealership but later went into the auction business for many years. He was back at a family dealership in the years preceding his death.

Swift was the ultimate people-person, and he was what business books might describe as a “connector.”

He would introduce people into the industry, connect them with friends and colleagues and help everyone know everyone.

Swift also had the kind of the laugh you heard across the room.

That laugh saved me the first time I attended the Conference of Automotive Remarketing. I had started out in my job focusing on independent and buy-here, pay-here dealers. So, the first time I hit a remarketing conference, I knew no one. 

I’m not afraid of meeting people and talking to them – ask my wife – but I was in the wilderness that day.

Then I heard Swift’s laugh. I had met Tim through NIADA, so to learn that someone familiar was at the conference was a relief.

It was like spotting a beacon in a storm.

I found him and he went to work.

 He introduced me to everyone, vouched for me and helped create business relationships that helped me do my job.

Over the years, he offered me the inside scoop on industry news regularly.

Even his off-the-record and background info steered me in the right direction when there was news to be told.

Swift participated in many industry events. He acted as the ringman many times when ADESA would hold its charity auction at NIADA. He was a regular host at the World Automobile Auctioneers Championship and was always available to help the industry.

Alabama’s Henry Mullinax, another past NIADA president, knew Swift as a friend. He praised Swift’s contribution to the industry and described him as having a “big, ol’ heart.”

That was true.

I remember a photo from one NIADA event he was at. It was a photo Swift asked me to take.

The event featured a boxing theme. Then-NIADA CEO Mike Linn, a friend of Tim’s, wore a Don King-looking wig and he posed with Swift and ADESA’s Tom Caruso.

Swift wanted the photo because he, Caruso and Linn were relatively the same height – meaning, none of them would ever dunk a basketball.

Tim laughed about that, too.

I wish I could have attended one last convention with him.

I’ll miss Tim and I’ll miss our chats and his infectious laugh.

And I’ll miss his “big, ol’ heart.”

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