Phillip C. McGraw, PhD, better known as Dr. Phil, was a clinical psychologist, and thanks to Oprah, is now best known as an author and entertainer. Although I never watched his show, periodically my wife would watch it on her days off. As I would pass by the living room to get a drink or grab a snack, I would listen to the show for a second, and then proceed to make fun of her for watching it. Digressions aside, nearly every time I heard Dr. Phil speak, he’d use one of his token catch phrases: “Get real!”, “How’s that workin’ for you?”, “What are you thinking?”, “I must have ‘stupid’ written on my forehead!”, and of course, “Have you read my book, (insert book name)?”. My all-time favorite, though, was when he’d belt out “IT AIN’T ABOUT YOU!”. Oprah sure knows entertainment.
As of late, my inbox alerts are increasingly becoming a ticker-tape dominated by the same few individuals and organizations. It’s as if the information they sought to share has somehow transcended them into some sort of oracle of individual knowledge. It’s no longer about sharing ideas or best practices, but about some sort of personal agenda. It’s as if the Internet departments of the world owe a tax to them, because all of the success is theirs. They think it’s all about them.
Although many dealer Internet departments are composed of progressive, new-school, people, there still remains one last vestige of the old school car-guy: excessive individual pride. We’re all guilty of throwing around a little hubris now and then (you need to establish credibility, somehow). Before there were magazines, blogs, and websites dedicated to the subject, everybody in the Internet department thought they were doing something unique and unorthodox. As more media attention was paid to Internet activities, no matter how awesome it may have seemed, it turns out most of us were doing the exact same things.
This isn’t unique to the car business. Throughout my experience working with startups, especially during the go-go dotcom era, many brilliant teams of people were working on the exact same thing. Whether it was custom pharmaceuticals, bleeding-edge computer hardware, or advanced networking, people were unknowingly racing against each other to come up with the next segment-busting, game-changing, money-making product. Many times it wasn’t until the patent was granted did the research and development teams realize their work was all for not.
Or was it?
What we fail to recognize is that our work as individuals contributes to the whole of our industry. Just because someone was the first to document their success certainly doesn’t make them the de facto expert on the subject, nor does it mean they actually did it all by themselves. (Though far too many are self-claiming themselves “gurus” with little to document their successes.) Often times, the second or third person/team actually perfects a discovery.
I don’t have to go much further than the ground that most of us are sitting on. Leif Ericson set up a small camp in Canada around 500 years before Christopher Columbus “discovered” the free world. We know the banks don’t close on Ericson Day. Columbus’ courageous journey led to the colonization of the Western Hemisphere, and that’s what we remember. Where would Columbus be without the King of Spain’s gold? Where would the King of Spain be without Incan gold? Where would the Incans be without Pizarro’s sword? What we do know is that all these people were knitted into the fabric of the history of the Americas.
After that somewhat boring history lesson, I’ll fast-forward to President Obama’s statement “you didn’t build that” from a recent campaign speech. He makes reference to our nation’s infrastructure, free market economy, and education system as the foundation for business success (probably more logically written here than what he was able to articulate off-the-cuff). Accepting this principle, I think we can all agree that without Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, Gottlieb Daimler, Thomas Edison, Nicola Tesla, Susan B. Anthony, Dwight Eisenhower, Rosa Parks, Tim Berners-Lee, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Dr. Phil, and countless others we could not do what we do every day. It took millions more to make the paper, ink, copper wire, concrete, and silicon wafers that made their successes possible. All of their individual achievements have meshed together, and have contributed to the transformation of future generations’ lives.
One person’s face dominating every banner ad you see, or filling your inbox full of promoted posts, or highjacking another companies research and presenting it as it was their own, doesn’t make automotive Internet sales great. It’s the Internet sales people and BDC agents that convert dyed-in-wool, negotiate-over-a-nickel, traditional car shoppers into fanatically loyal, go-tell-it-on-the-mountain, Internet buyers that makes automotive Internet sales great. It’s the thankless hard work, the after hours studying without reward, the holidays spent at a desk rather than the dinner table, and the month that still found a way to be finished from a hospital bed out of pure dedication (AND necessity) that makes Internet sales great. It’s understanding that it’s more than just showing up to work early, choosing to make your job a career, and willingly contributing to the body of knowledge. It’s being part of a movement that makes Internet sales great.
It’s time we leave behind the last remnants of the old way, and check our egos at the door. Let’s stop wasting our effort on endless self-promotion and overly-optimized self-indulgent posts, and ignore those who do. Let’s start giving credit where credit is due. Let’s stop engaging in pissing contests. It ain’t about you. It’s about us. Let’s build something great. Together.