Right before my 15th birthday, in the year 1990, I went and saw a movie at the local cinema. Until that date, I would have considered myself just a lover of movies. Most of my time growing up was spent either outside playing sports or inside watching movies, at home or in the theater. And then I took in a film (that I was probably too young to see, but was elusive and could sneak in anywhere) that forever changed how I feel about movies. In this movie Misery, Kathy Bates scared the crap out of me. And her performance as Annie Wilkes inspired me. That was the first year I had ever watched the Oscars because I just KNEW that the performance I had seen was one in a million. I’ve never missed the Oscars since and I’ve watched about every Best Picture nominee ever. Needless to say, Kathy Bates inspired me.
Okay, long segue short, only one time have I ever been inspired in a similar fashion. It was almost 4 years ago – circa 2007. That was at the first Digital Dealer Conference I attended. Corny, huh? No. I had been writing for Digital Dealer long before I ever attended my first Digital Dealer Conference – and I didn’t have the good fortune to attend their first conference in Nashville. You could say that my employer “hobbled” me from going.
But like James Caan in the movie, at the first sign for the next conference, I fought tooth and nail to go. I paid my own way and I never regretted the fact that I did. I may have been writing for the magazine and achieving solid numbers for my dealer group, but I was stuck in a small microcosm of reality. I was never able to see the big picture or feel the warmth from the outside world. I was trapped to learn on my own and discover on my own. Could being cooped up at a desk with little outside influence have made me stronger as an ISM the way it did for James Caan to be a writer in the film? Quite possibly. But it is only when I attended that conference where I realized the power of being around like-minded people who support each other’s efforts to succeed. When I returned from the conference (I wasn’t stolen away as my owner had feared), I had short-term and long-term goals for my store. I took endless notes and created an action plan, a series of steps to complete, to grow the department. I learned four things.
1) At the time, I was already far ahead of many others in my internet efforts and skills
2) I had still SO much more to learn and achieve before I could start to brag.
3) I realized that there are some great people in this industry who honestly desire to see passionate people succeed. Just because you may be overlooked/undervalued at the dealership doesn’t mean you won’t be coddled and protected by the DD community.
4) I saw, for the first time, the “big picture” and I built my goals around that. I no longer looked at month-to-month numbers, but long-term performance initiatives.
It was a confidence booster and a humbling experience all in one. The great equalizer. But more importantly, it was inspirational.
After seeing that movie in 1990, I began experimenting in front of the camera and on-stage. It led me to end up with a minor in Theatre at my college. Not because I was ever a “theatre geek”, but because I just found the art of acting…fun and inspiring. It is like playing pretend, but with unending commitment. Well, guess what? Our current state of affairs in automotive ecommerce requires the exact same commitment to experimenting and acting.
I hope you attend the 9th Digital Dealer Conference in Las Vegas and it inspires you. It could quite possibly invigorate you to strive for more from your department and yourself. Or, maybe, just maybe, it will have the same effect on you as it did me…. The Kathy Bates Effect.