At the time of this writing, it looks like college sports isn’t going to happen for many student-athletes and fans in 2020. This means no football for many raving devotees. Naturally, this has many implications when it comes to network and university revenue, let alone prospects for hundreds of students whose futures, in some way, depend on it. It’s the hand that they were dealt. There again, this is what college sports are all about. Blue Chip athletes come and go every single year. Yet, some coaches build dynasties by getting the most out of every single player, every single year, no matter what the talent level. It’s also like every car dealership in America.
As we’ve written countless times, turnover in automotive is extremely high. Based on 2018 data, the turnover rate at a dealership is 46% as cited by NADA, Cox, and Deloitte & Touche. For comparison, the average of all retail and consumer products is 13%. Although some faces stay the same for decades, the ordinary dealership has a brand new team roughly every two years. Accounting for red-shirts, dropouts, transfers, injuries, and early draft entry, the ordinary college team gets a refresh every four years by comparison. From a turnover standpoint, college coaches got it pretty darn easy.
From a team standpoint, though, college coaches (no pun intended) are in a league of their own. Unlike high school sports, where students are determined by district, and, let’s be honest similar socio-economic backgrounds, college teams are comprised of the entire spectrum of humanity. Every shade of poor inner-city, wealthy suburban, and working-class farm kid, with the only thing in common is that they were the apex predator in high school. It’s up to the coaching staff to take this constantly fluctuating group of individuals, of varying skill levels, and make them work as one cohesive unit. Every year, the best coaches transform these talented boys and girls into exceptional men and women, prepared to lead the next generation into the future.
The generations leading up to Gen X will probably be the greatest retail automotive workers of all time. Thanks, in large part, to four major wars and conscription, every decade produced hungry workers that were used to taking orders without question. They had seen enough awful things get perspective on what a bad day really was. Many had a certain zest for life because…well…they saw the alternative. But, the days of shaking the Baby Boomer tree for more workers are long gone. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Nowheresborough Manitoba or Nowheresville Mississippi, you’re already working with your best employees. After working with thousands of dealer personnel, only a few stores have a draft prospect. Most have roleplayers at best. More often than not, they have a fourth-round pick that worked their way into a hall of fame career. I don’t have a glimmer of confidence that it will get any better before there’s a viable alternative to the automobile. This is it.
That dose of reality is what college coaches go through annually. Losing the best player, missing out on the best recruit, all talent and no work ethic, all work ethic and no talent, household baggage, academically ineligible…all the same things that dealership management goes through every day. Do the coaches give up? Do they throw in the towel on their players? Do they tell the boards of trustees at the universities that they can’t work with these players? They don’t. They don’t even know how. Instead, they get creative. They build the skinny players up. They trim the heavy players down. They give players the opportunity to lead and follow those who don’t look like them. They switch players to different positions to maximize their natural strengths. They make every athlete the best damn version of themselves they can be. That’s what builds a winning team.
Just like legendary college coaches, dealership management can make the best of the team they are given. They can build confidence in the meek through role-play and video. Managers can trim responsibilities from the overburdened by delegating duties and trimming non-core tasks, instead of pretending 10% productivity at ten different jobs is OK. They can place the same importance on leadership skills as sales skills, giving those who have a strength for getting the most out of others, a natural and equal pathway to management. Managers can, and should, look for opportunities to maximize employee strengths, even if it means they shift those employees to a different department. Any dealership can take the players they’re given and make a championship team. It just takes planning, effort, and a never-say-die attitude.
A lot people are going to be watching re-runs of their favorite college football teams playing the most memorable games in the coming months. They’re going to wonder what happened to the guy high-stepping into the end-zone. They’re going to remark about the skinny red-shirt freshmen who ended up in the NFL. They’re going to get a flashback of the big-name coach who started at a modest program. They going to watch countless games where the underdog team, whose players come from towns no one has ever heard of, upset the juggernaut teams with Heisman candidates. They can draw inspiration. With making the most of the human capital available, any team can be comprised of champions.