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A Lesson From a Hot Dog Vendor

Given the current economic news, contradictions and uncertainties, I’m reminded of my all-time favorite business story, something I shared here about the time of the last recession. And while we’re not officially in recession, it’s worth sharing again in today’s mixed business climate.

It’s the plight of the “Man Who Sold Hot Dogs,” author unknown, and its lesson is worth considering in light of circumstances found in every dealership these days.

There was a man who lived by the side of the road and sold hot dogs.

He was hard of hearing, so he had no radio.

He had trouble with his eyes, so he read no newspapers.

But he sold good hot dogs.

He put up signs on the highway telling how good they were.

He stood on the side of the road and cried, “Buy a hot dog, mister.”

And people bought.

So he increased his meat and bun orders.

He bought a bigger stove to take care of his trade.

He finally got his son home from college to help him out.

Then something happened.

His son said, “Father, haven’t you been listening to the radio?

Haven’t you been reading the newspapers?

There’s a big depression.

The European situation is terrible.

The domestic situation is worse.”

Whereupon the father thought:

Well my son’s been to college.

He read the papers and listens to the radio, and he ought to know.

So the father cut back on his meat and bun orders, took down his advertising signs and no longer bothered to stand out on the highway to promote his hot dogs.

His hot dog sales fell almost overnight.

“You are certainly right, son,” the father said to the boy, “we are certainly in the middle of a depression.”

There’s no doubt that what we think and what we do today will dictate our success, or lack thereof, tomorrow, regardless of economic conditions. The man who sold hot dogs assumed someone else knew better. So without careful analysis and forethought, he decided to stop doing the very things that had made him successful — a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If there were ever a time to pause, identify and reflect on the things that have been keys to past success in the dealership, it is now. Analyze everything from major products to personnel, marketing promotions to customer relations efforts, messaging to management style. Nothing that impacts the daily successful operation of the dealership should be overlooked.

The goal is obvious. Unlike the man who sold hot dogs, listening to negative voices without doing your homework can produce a downturn regardless of circumstances. But taking time now to create detailed plans that can deliver continued success, regardless of the future economy, will do just that.

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