General Motors Corp.
"I Didn't Want a Victory Like This"

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May 18, 2009

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I want to thank the few of you who have emailed me over the past week or more. Even if you are anonymous, your fellowship and wishes meant a lot to me. While I've spent considerable time diversifying operations and being ready for the storm, it was still a scary month and week.

Media reports said GM would close dealers based on sales, customer scores, and dealership financial health. By grace of God and great employees and loyal customers, my store rates at the top (nationally) in all those categories. But the fear set in. Some nights were sleepless. Bankruptcy law combined with a government task force run amok meant that ANY dealership could be cut. The letters were to arrive today and my drive into work was tough. What would I tell my employees? Some of them have health ailments and there's NO way they could land in new jobs with proper benefits.

A few hours ago I got word that we WON'T be among the 1100 terminated dealers and a quick pizza lunch and announcement brought lots of peace to the 41 souls working here. (Not to mention me!)

Earlier today I get a call from a competitor. My dealership has usually beat him handily in sales volume and we've been rivals. He called me, told me he got a termination letter and asked me to visit him. I was surprised, but went nevertheless. The guy just wanted support, some balance. I went into his office, saw he'd been crying, I looked at his family pics and got teary eyed myself.

He's gonna go bankrupt.

All employees at his store saw the Fed-Ex truck and knew he'd gotten a letter.

With me at his side he told everybody the news. (It was his final call, but I advised him to be upfront with everyone today, and tell them that they need to find new jobs in a month or two when the dealership closes). Ironic that I, his rival, was at his side for all this. I saw the faces of the ladies (age 40-ish) who do his administrative work. They make about $17/hour plus benefits. I could see the fear in their eyes because they know, that jobs like that aren't growing on trees.

Back to the Dealer's bankruptcy. His bank will foreclose on his property with a balance of $4 million. I bet they end up selling it for $2 million one day.

I think of the government task force. How a bunch of people from college campuses and executive offices made these decisions. And yeah, there's MERIT to slimming down the dealer count. But courtesy of taxpayer funded bankruptcy, in just this ONE location:

30 jobs gone. 2 million in TARP funded loss at the bank. Commercial Real Estate values on his street depreciating.

Consumers? They've got one LESS dealer. One LESS competitor among dealers. LONG TERM this means higher prices to customers, due to dealers having bigger territories.

So here I am. I will continue to do okay through this economic time. In the end I'll have more territory, more customers and perhaps nicer margins.

I love to win. My team is used to victory. But I didn't want a victory like this. This is the first time where winning is painful.

God knows who else in town got axed today.