B.F. “Bev” Dolan, 1927-2018
B.F. “Bev” Dolan, one of the inventors of the E-Z- GO golf cars, died on Feb. 21 at the age of 90. Dolan worked with his brother Billy in the 1950s to develop the car and sold the business to Textron in 1960. He continued to run the E-Z- GO business, eventually serving as CEO of Textron from 1985-1991.
What can you learn from someone who described himself as a “neophyte in a neophyte business” and who helped double the sales of Textron to $7.84 billion annually? The Wall Street Journal recently ran a profile of Dolan and here are some of his business philosophies.
1. Find influencers.
Part of the reason the E-Z- GO gained popularity was because the Dolan brothers aggressively pursued golf pros. Find the influencers in your market where their use of your products provides a visible testimonial.
2. Know what drives you.
For the Dolans, the success of their product was more important than keeping the business a family-owned company. “Needing more financial heft to expand the business, the brothers sold it to Textron Inc. in 1960,” according to the story.
3. Acquisitions can bring exponential growth.
Add a timeline for how fast you want to reach your growth goals and consider acquisitions as one way to get there quickly. During his 6 years as CEO, Dolan more than doubled annual sales partly through acquisitions.
4. Require results.
This next practice is a brutal one and may not be a fit for your management style, but it’s a good lesson in terms of requiring your salespeople to deliver results. Here’s an excerpt from the story: “Describing his management style, Mr. Dolan offered an analogy: ‘The way to run a successful real-estate company is, you get 10 salesmen and at the end of every month the bottom guy is gone. It’s not a bad motivator. I think our people feel that pressure, and that doesn’t bother me a damn bit.’”
5. Look for luck.
Sometimes in life and in business, you just get lucky. Here’s a story Dolan told the Augusta Chronicle in 2002: “Nobody really foresaw what the golf car would grow into. We were neophytes in a neophyte business.” One early break came with the publication of photos showing President Dwight Eisenhower in golf cars. Capitalize on those authentic, surprise events and use them in marketing and public relations efforts. Social media makes it easy to share and keep your followers interested.
6. Keep it simple and delegate.
Hall Wendel was part of a management group that negotiated in 1981 to buy Textron’s Polaris snowmobile unit. According to the story, he recalled that Dolan chose to hold the talks at a bar near Textron’s headquarters, agreed to the terms within minutes and jotted them down on the back of a place mat. You are pulled in many directions during the course of your day. Try to stay focused on high-level decisions and planning if you are able, and delegate the implementation to others. If you’re a small dealership, seek out professionals, such as those who can take over administration tasks.
7. Love your work.
In 1987, he told The Wall Street Journal he typically worked 10½ hours a day. “I’m thrilled to death that I’m able to work,” he said. This lesson may be tough to apply if your dealership is struggling. However, there was a reason you entered the dealership world. Remind yourself of that reason during the long days ahead as the selling season kicks off. Dealer forecasts show that 2018 should be an excellent year for revenue growth — and more money coming in is one of the best reasons to love your work.