Nicholas Cage starred in the World War II  movie, Wind Talkers, about Native American Navajo tribe members who used their unique, rare language to transmit messages that the enemy could not understand. Other than making a few coins for the investors of the movie, the 2002 theatrical event was a disaster; bad acting, belittling of the Navajo as a warrior, and wrong portrayals of the use of the native language.  

The filmmakers did not do the research necessary to properly project the real “code talkers.” In fact, there were even “code talkers” dating back to World War I using the East Tennessee ''Volunteer" Cherokee Indians to relay messages in the clear that the good guys could immediately understand with another bilingual native soldier, without lengthy deciphering.  

“Code Talkers” exist today and are found communicating in our dealerships regularly. How, you ask? Well, if we answer the phone and it is our banker, and he asks, "Have you balanced your checkbook lately?" it is code for "You had better be making a big deposit today!"

If we have a tech come in and state that the unit his is working on is a piece of “excrement,” someone should pick up on the code that states he is struggling with this job and needs help. 

The salesperson's statement of how highly priced the products are or the unavailability of them is a verbal message of frustration.  

The parts department complaining of back orders, freight mishaps, wrong parts and high prices are signals that “all is not well” in Denmark, or wherever parts are coming from these days.

The customer who calls in and starts the conversation with "That tractor you sold me…" is a red-flag code that he is not the iconic happy camper who usually says “I have an issue with my tractor.”

When the bookkeeper comes to you, well, they are never happy so we will forgo this discussion.  

The easy job of managing a dealership is to keep everything and everyone working, talking, selling, and repairing in harmony … yeah right. 

We have discussed the internal forces of each department and how they inherently do not get along. Parts managers want inventory turns. Technicians want everything in stock and to never sell a machine to a demanding, nit-picking customer. Sales want 100% over-the-counter parts fill to satisfy the customers he’s sold to, a low cost of setup/delivery, immediate repairs and a lot of goodwill writeoffs. Accounting wants zero spending and big deposits.  

The peace pipe that needs to be passed around daily should be packed with code-deciphering from management and lit with communication that files the rough edges off irritations. The smoke that emanates should encourage teamwork to solve issues.  Management always has to be proactive and “Noli illegitimi carborundum.” (You’ll want to google that).     

An encouraging word to the tech who is stressed can build him up. Tell him how important he is in keeping these new computers and old rust buckets running as a vital part of the dealership team. Encourage the techs to suggest parts needed — in advance — to the parts manager and help them understand we don't have the money to make payroll AND have as many parts in stock as the manufacturer. Help the parts manager out by explaining to the sales guys and techs that he has a budget he has to live with, and he holds the key to a large part of the cash flow of the dealership. 

Breaking the code of discontentment is proactivity personified. Many years ago, I called a dealership, and the owner's son answered the phone. I asked him how things were going.’"Oh, we live from one crisis to another,” he replied. “We are either overdrawn at the bank or we are out of toilet paper. Where Dad is at any point in time is where the greatest issue is. Dad doesn't have ulcers; he is just a carrier.”

Try being a code beaker, not a code talker. Doing so will ease the drama.  

Until next time, wishing you smiles and prosperity…

Told from the perspective of an in-the-trenches owner/operator — Tim Brannon of B&G Equipment, Paris, Tenn. —  Equipment Dealer Tips, Tales & Takeaways shares knowledge, experiences and tips/lessons with fellow rural equipment dealerships throughout North America. Covering all aspects required of an equipment dealership general manager, Brannon will inform, entertain and provide a teachable moment for current — and future — leaders within equipment dealerships.



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