All my life I have heard the term or phase things are “going south.” As a young lad we thought the phrase was a good thing. Being a southun' boy, I knew certain truths. Going farther south meant better food, slower talking and less chance of freezing to death in the winter.  

We also all had relatives who moved north for jobs during the depression, and we knew the deterioration of cooking skills that resulted. Things like cooking tomatoes and serving the green beans and other veggies raw, among other culinary sacrileges. We also heard their language speed up and  the use of 'youse guys' instead of the proper y'all ensued. 

Later in life we began to realize the term was being used to describe a “not good thing.” Looking up the phrase “headed south,” one finds the illustration of sales on a graph taking a dip or going into negative territory. 

The term used after the civil war, or the war of northern aggression as we refer to it, means to go to a place that one does not want to be. Now let's put this in perspective. 

I had an ag teacher who sat at the knee of his great granddaddy who FOUGHT in the war (the 'r' is silent when we say it). You say no-way! Well, his G G Paw was 91 and was born in 1848, he lived to 1939 and my teacher was born in 1923. So, I talked to a man who talked to a man who fought in the Civil War — I am old. A late great columnist, Lew Grizzard, told the civil war story of General Sherman's trip to renovate Atlanta. The Braves were out of town, so the General got PO'd, burnt the city and headed east on I-20. The army bivouacked at Stone Mountain. There, as the sun set, they heard a rebel on top of the mountain start to yell all manner of verbiage disrespectful of the Yankee army. General Sherman summoned the best soldier, Swartz, from the 34th Minnesota and ordered him to “get that rebel off that mountain.” Swartz went up, then came crashing down — graveyard dead.  

"Give me 10 of my best!" he ordered and 10 from the 16th Ohio went up and one by one came crashing down, lifeless. Finally, “Get me 100 men” was ordered and 100 of the 72nd Massachusetts regiment went up and 99 came rolling down, deadly deceased. Then, ONE survivor of the 100, tattered and torn, bleeding out of every portage of his body, crawled up to the commander and uttered, "General Sherman, it's a rebel trick, thay's TWO of them up there!”   

Once again, I hear in unison, what does this have to do with a dealership's ability to be successful? Let me think for a minute. OK, in our daily battles we often hear things are going south. Well, they may or may not be whether facts or rumors are the basis. 

The economy and the ag industries are cyclical in nature. The sales charts go up, they go down, but they have always rebounded and head to the northeast on the charts. Being in business demands one has a war plan to outwit the competition, economy and keep those sales going in a profitable manner. Being a leader in the dealership means planning long term, short term and even daily. 

Our enemy is the attitude of “well everyone's down” so we circle the wagons. If we have extra time, do we do the extra cold calls, the demos, those dreaded special events? It may not pay immediate results, but it will tilt the graph line on the chart when it does start to bend. 

To quote my great, great uncle, Col Drywall Brannon (no kin to Stonewall Jackson), "You got to get there firstest with the moistest." He plagiarized that from another civil war general, I fear — a family trait. Uncle Drywall was a hero in the battle of Franklin where he had 2 horses and a Red Cross nurse shot out from under him and later went on to be a successful sheet rock manufacturing magnate.  

I hope y'all are all smilin'.  Next up is another story of the south, but until then — may you have miles of smiles and profits and a sales chart that doesn't “go south.”   

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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