They say that confession is good for the soul, and every once in a while people will offer a true mea culpa for things they regret.

Our most recent Q&A that was sent to dealers and posted in our last E-Watch newsletters brought forth one of the more sincere “Damn, I wish I hadn’t done that” admissions that I’ve seen recently.

The question to dealers was, “What are the keys to motivating store managers to attain that same high level of commitment, passion and drive that dealer-principals bring to work every day?” (You can see the responses we received in both the March 2013 issue of Farm Equipment and at

What prompted the questions was the growing numbers of multi-store dealerships that are proliferating the North American farm equipment retail business these days. The single biggest reason I’ve heard most often from dealers who haven’t become multi-store owners is because they couldn’t or can’t “find the right people.” And this is a legitimate concern.

As you can probably guess, there were at least two sides to the responses we received, depending upon who was answering the question. But it was the one from one dealer who admits to having made a fatal error when it comes to motivating people that really got my attention. Keep in mind his initial comment as it tells a big part of his story.

The dealer wrote, “I would like to stay anonymous since I am a store manager.

“The person who runs a multi-million dollar operation and is in charge of tens of millions of dollars in assets, many times lays awake just as much as the person with ownership of those assets. He has accepted a huge responsibility compared to other industry managers due to the size and dollars he must deal with. We are then expected to be one of the best salesmen in the dealership, know all of the rules and regulations of government and administrate human resources. As you can see, about the only thing we are not in control of is the financing of the dealership.

“I have in the past had partial ownership in dealerships, yes plural. I had two outstanding salesmen who were going to make more money than I took home as a salary, so I changed the commission schedule. Since I am just a store manager now, you can see that was one of my biggest blunders in my life. I knew within a couple months that I had made a grave mistake and lost both salesmen. The dealerships never recovered those high unit sales. I had limited their passion, their excitement and their drive for excellence.

“To keep an honest, hard working, thoughtful manager, you will need to put them in a position to share the good times and the bad. We understand cycles and just want to be treated fairly and honestly as this is what is expected of us.”

I’m sure this dealer responded for the same reason I’m addressing it here: to share with other dealers that, “A lesson learned can be a lesson avoided.”