• Adrian Martinez

Leadership in Times of Adversity

By Phil Villegas -


In times of crisis, true leadership is revealed. During our current Covid-19 crisis I have seen some amazing leadership coming from many dealers. Dealers, operators, managers, and employees who measure up to the challenges the current marketplace presents, are individuals who choose to recognize the opportunities that lay ahead, rather than focus on the adversities the current market contains.

One item I have found particularly interesting with this crisis compared to the Great Recession of 2007-2009 is the inconsistency in performance from one dealership to the next. Even with same franchise dealers in the same market, the performance results are completely erratic. Unlike in 2008-2010 where we were seeing the pain of the economic conditions fairly distributed across the dealer landscape, this current crisis is highlighting that all dealers are not suffering equally. Rather we are seeing that select dealers within highly effected markets like New York, California and Florida are finding opportunities to thrive by comparison to other dealers in the same market.

Some dealers are showing greater resiliency in sales while others are observing strengths in service, and some have bucked the trend and have managed to thrive and improve on their market-share. While this information is still very fluid and anecdotal as we work through April, true leadership is being revealed in the process. This does not simply apply to how the dealer or GM is handling the crisis, but rather how individual managers and employees are responding to the circumstances. We are seeing firsthand where dealers with a strong service leadership are significantly mitigating what would otherwise be a steep revenue drop and are only seeing a 10-20% decline. We are also seeing similar manifestation coming from the sales department, with managers and BDCs rising to the challenge and holding the line against a significant drop.

Choices are being made. Some dealers, operators, managers, and employees are throwing in the towel in this market environment and are waiting for things to return to normal in a few months while others are making the best of what is in front of them. Over the coming weeks and months that leadership gap will continue to reveal itself and the impact of leadership decisions is going to have a lasting and resounding impact both in the near and long term. While some dealers see the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) as a lifeline to survive the next few months, some dealers are seeing the additional income opportunity this is creating by continuing to fight for revenue. I firmly believe that when we look back on this in a few years, those who chose to lead in this time will be still be thriving, while the others that chose to wait it out, will have likely exited the industry.

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