Brian Lowes (Mercedes-Benz Winnipeg)

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David Noël-Romas: Welcome to the Manitoba Business Podcast, featuring interviews with business leaders and entrepreneurs based right here in Manitoba. I’m David Noël-Romas. This episode is brought to you by my small business, Black Chair Consulting. We use social media to help businesses sell more. To find out about Black Chair, visit www.blackchair.net.

I’ve interviewed a few car guys by now. They’re all amazing folks. If you’ve been following along with each episode, you may be in find to skip this one because it’s another car guy. I will not do that if I were you. Besides being a kind, generous, and helpful person, today’s guest also has a knack for leading leaders and for explaining the process behind it.

Every growing business experiences the challenge of getting the right leaders on board and aligning their output, but how? There’s not easy answer, but today’s guest seems to have a cleaner take on it than anyone I’ve ever met. I got a lot of value over our conversation and I think you will as well. If you do, please tell your friends about the show. The show is available on all your favorite podcast platforms, including iTunes and the transcript of every episode is also available on our website at www.manitobabusinesspodcast.com. Now, without further ado, here’s Brian Lowes.

[to Brian] Brian, thanks so much for taking the time.

Brian Lowes: No problem. Thanks for having me.

David: How about we start by having you telling us who you are and what you do?

Brian: So I’m Brian Lowes. I grew up Edmonton, Alberta, kind of stemmed my entire life there. November 15, 2008, moved to Winnipeg, hadn’t been to Winnipeg before, and opportunity presented itself by a managing stake in a managing partnership in Mercedes-Benz Winnipeg. Put together the deal over eight months to a year, kind of thing, and yeah, moved to Winnipeg and I’ve never looked back. My wife and I moved here in, like I said, November of 2008. It’s been a great city. It’s similar to Edmonton in a lot of ways, and a lot of the ways that we like. It’s been a great move. I love it here.

David: Very cool. So it’s 2008, you said?

Brian: Yeah.

David: Cool. And what were you doing before that?

Brian: So for that, you know, my career started in the car business when I was young. I’ve always been a car guy. I’m the only child, and the benefit of being an only child is your mom keeps a shrine of everything that you did throughout, you know, from place to up north, right?. And even back then, you know, I would learn to color in Auto Trader, I would…you know, I even have the same painting on my wall and it was, you know, great.

First six or seven kind of thing in kindergarten grade one, they said, “Hey, what are you gonna do when you grow up?” And I would said, “I’m gonna own a building with cars to sell.” And, you know, it’s funny how these things tend to show up 30 years later. And in any event, that’s kind of the direction I went to and I’ve kind of…I’m a licensed mechanic, I have business degree as well. So I have a unique kind of perspective on the business. And that’s really helped me a lot. And that was kind of how I started. I got my mechanic license when I was going to high school and university, and that allowed me to kind of create some investments, which then allowed me to kind of, you know, leverage those when the opportunity came up to buy the store, and so on and so forth. And only, fast forward, 14, 15 years kind of thing and…

David: So were you working as a mechanic when the partnership offer yours or…?

Brian: No. So I was actually washing cars, oddly enough.

David: Really?

Brian: Yeah, initially. So, really, so I’ve started washing cars in 2002, kind of thing. While I was going to school, finishing my mechanics or my technician premise license and then, you know, by nature, the car business, it’s kind of “Trial by Fire,” and had an opportunity to basically do everything. I’ve driven a bus truck, I’ve been sales manager, I’ve been a used car manager, I’ve been a technician, I’ve been a service manager, I’ve been a service adviser, like, you name it, I’ve kinda, you know, kind of done them all. So as that happened, that started at least at a very small Hyundai dealership in Edmonton. And then the same group owned the Nissan store, so I moved to the Nissan store and that went well. And then they sold those two franchisers and windup buying Weber Mercedes at the time in Edmonton. And then enter general manager, and it kinda was the right time for me, and I put my hand up. I had a decent amount experience, I was 26.

David: Oh, wow.

Brian: Twenty-six, 25. So that was in 2007. And yeah, that was kind of my introduction to the Benz brand. And then from there, so I was the GM and then I was looking for other opportunities, and Winnipeg was underperforming store at the time, and so there was an opportunity here. And that was it.

David: Very cool.

Brian: Yeah.

David: Twenty-five seems pretty young for a GM, is that accurate?

Brian: I was one of the youngest, yeah. If not be, I’m just in the…and it was funny to the point where even…you know, I forgot to take my high school off in my resume, so that created some questions when I had to submit it. You know, it was a formality at that point, but it was interesting because it’s definitly kind of little bigger, right?. Oops. So, yeah. So it’s been the best and good.

David: Very cool. And so you came here and the dealership was having trouble?

Brian: Yeah. You know, it wasn’t much of this troubled as you can always, as one of those things, there’s lots opportunities to be able to capitalize on and, you know, create a brand within brand kind of thing, and really bring the Mercedes-Benz presence to the market place. And, you know, there was some ripe opportunities in terms of people and in terms of marketing. You know, there was a pant demand that I think that we were able to kind of unlock that and approach things a little bit different than we had in the past, and we created some success with it. And, you know, I would say the harder you work, the luckier you get.

And it’s one of the those things that before you know it, then, you know, you start sell some cars, and then you get to service some cars, and then those cars start to need parts and tires and brakes, and they start running into things, you know, those kinds of things. And it kinda comes off with a bit of a small ball effect. That’s really what’s happened. And you know, we’ve been able to grow our team from kinda 19 people to…we’ve got about 65 people here, and then I bought Focus Hyundai myself and multi-partners, bought Focus Hyundai and Focus Auto Body last year in August, so, you know, that added another 50 or 60 people. Yeah, it’s been good.

David: That’s incredible. Very cool. In terms of the partnership, I’m curious how that works. So you said that there was an opportunity to buy in here. Were your business partners already owners here, or did you guys kind of buy from previous owners or developed that?

Brian: Yeah. It was their family had been involved in it.

David: I see.

Brian: And, you know, one part of the family was looking to divest it. And, you know, these guys were, you know, had successful track records and were looking for…you know, I’m still had lots of room in their career to grow and, that was kind of how I bought it. So it worked for everybody, right? So I got approved with Mercedes to kind of run it, and it worked for them because they’ve got to kind of keep it in their family anyway they want. So it’s been a good new store.

David: Okay, very cool. So let’s dig into those sort of steps that you took to change the direction when you got here. What were some of the main sort of…I don’t know if we wanna call them problems, but what were there that were struggling, and what did you do to kind of turn that around?

Brian: You know, I’m really big on believing that people need to work on a business versus in it.

David: Yeah.

Brian: And I think that, you know, the car business is notorious for working in it because it literally doesn’t stop. All you need to do is go stand on our service desk for an hour or stand by our wholesale parts counter. And the phones, they just don’t stop ringing. And then consequently, you get sucked into working in a day-to-day, very transactional, very kind of means to an end, live and die by the end of the month kind of a situation, versus approaching it from a longer term view point where, you know, you can really make some long-term decisions that are gonna create some lasting change.

So really, I think that what I probably did was…you know, I had two things on my side, you know, I think that one of it was…and I’m the kind of guy that likes to roll up my sleeves and getting it and do it. You know, myself, my General Sales Manager, and my GM at Hyundai who was a technician at the time, you know, we have pictures of us shoveling the snow together, and that’s just how it was. And, you know, so it kind of…I earned my respect that way, so I was able to kinda be a part of the team. And then on top of that, you know, having been from a different market, I think that, like anything, sometimes you can’t see the forest through the trees.

And as a result of that, I think bringing a unique perspective to it and going, “Hey, guys, I think we shouldn’t go over here for a minute, let’s go this direction.” You know, I think the organization was a hungry for a leader, it was hungry for the leadership style that I had, which is a very kinda, “Roll up your sleeve, getting it, let’s do it. And let’s work hard, let’s play hard and see that happens.” So I think that was kinda the direction we took. You know, I spent a lot of time working on it. You know, so lots of leadership development things believed very strongly and trying to grow our people and, you know, our kinda mantra, if you will, is, “We build better people,” and that’s better husband and wives, and moms and dads, brothers and sisters. And I’m a big believer that as you develop the person, the business gels over that, you know.

I think, you know, when you show someone a better path, a lot of times, they take it. And I think it’s our ability to show and highlight that path, and then inspire them to want to take that extra thing, because it doesn’t come without partly a campaign, right? It comes with taking risks, it comes with hard work, it comes with a little bit of luck, and all those things. And, you know, so when the student is ready, the teacher kind of pops up, right? And so I think we were fortunate enough to do that. I think being able to work on the business allowed us to kind of chart the course as to the direction we wanted to go, and direction that we wanted to see, you know. And like I said, we started with 19 people and sold 120 new cars that year and about 40 used cars, so 160, 155 cars total. And, you know, last year, we did 1,100, right? That’s a…what was that?

David: Nine years?

Brian: Eight years later, seven years later. So, you know, it’s one of those things where I’ve always talked to people that, you know, “If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not learning. So get used to being uncomfortable. And if you don’t have that uncomfortableness, and if it seemed a little too easy, it probably is,” right?

David: Right, right.

Brian: So we’ve been able to inspire a really young, forward-thinking leadership team that’s fully embraced that. And I think that that’s what’s [inaudible 00:11:07] we’ve started because, you know, it really is…the motivation is not that of, you know, selling the next car or making more money or Twitter advancements, it really is, you know, “Is this the standard in which I hold myself to, as a professional and as a human being?” Yes or no? And it’s pretty easy question to ask, it’s a quest. It’s not an easy question to answer. And I think that these guys and the team that we’ve built here have really started to understand what that means, which is push us forward in a lot of different ways. You know, it’s not wanting to disappoint the guy besides you versus, “I’m gonna get him to stick,” right? So it really is that carrot, gel draw that forces you to kinda push yourself out of your comfort zone.

David: Where do you feel like you learned to do that?

Brian: Where did I learn to do that? You know, as I look back in my life, I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of great mentors and a lot of great experiences that have, you know, shaped who I am and just the same as everybody else has.

David: Sure.

Brian: You know, looking back at the leaders that I’ve worked with, I’ve probably experienced how I would do things differently versus how to do something. And I think that’s really been an interesting experience for me because I think that when you have a tremendous leader in front of you or a tremendous mentor, you know, the risk is that you wanna be that person, right, versus becoming yourself. So I’ve had a lot of those influences in my life, but I’ve also has some influences in my life that you go, “Hmm. Yeah, I probably would do things a little bit differently,” which I think that’s what kind of…out of that groom, my compassion and my humility, and what I like to call humbleness, and, you know, I try to and be a humble person, and I try and make sure that I know that there’s 100 different ways to get to the finish line, and mine might be one way, but it’s not the only way.

David: Right.

Brian: So I think that when your experience is born out of something that you would do a little bit differently, it kinda opens up the world to allow you to take bigger risks as a leader because you’re not trying to be somebody specifically, right?

David: Yeah.

Brian: You’re trying to develop your own style, you’re trying to develop who you are, and you’re trying to develop, you know, how you wanna puss this business and this group of people forward. And I think that’s probably where I learned to do it. And it’s the kind of thing that you know you’ll work towards it. You know, same thing, you know, we said, “Hey, we’re gonna sell thousands cars,” right? And, whatever, four, five years ago, and everybody stands back and kinda goes like, “What do you want?” right? And then, you know, you work a little harder, and then you sell a few more cars, and smart people come on, and you kinda wake up one morning and go like, “Holly.” Like, “We’re here,” right? And similar kind of thing happened, you know, it wasn’t like, “Hey, I’m gonna do this, and I checked the box and it, you know, connect the dot, no way to go.” It was kind of, you know, you kinda wake up one morning and go, “Oh, well, this thing is kind of coming along.” And, you know, I’m a big believer that you can always connect the dots looking back and you can never connect the dots looking forward.

David: Right, right.

Brian: And the thing that separates the people that I believe get kind of “where they’re going” are the people that, you know, they have the courage and the guts to say, “You know what? Is it the right enough direction?” You know, I worry less about the position, right? I mean, I understand that how things pop into our life are very different sometimes and not judge that and just, you know, allow it.

David: Sure. How do you…at a tackle level, how do you encourage managers to be working on their part of the business rather than in it, especially in the environment like you described where the phone is ringing off the hook, etc.?

Brian: Yeah, you know, there is a few things we do. You know, there’s probably two levels. There’s probably the level of the kind of what we do just to…as an organization to kind of instill a certain level of reflection and mindfulness and that. You know, we do five or six book studies a year.

David: Oh, interesting. How does [inaudible 00:15:31].

Brian: They are great actually. So, you know, I’m a big believer in reading. I think that reading can really open your eyes to a lot of things and, again, kind of that whole teacher or student thing. I think that, you know, if you walk through, or in the go, or chapters and you notice a book, or somebody tells you about a book and you know it comes up a couple of times, you know, probably you should read it, right?

David: For sure.

Brian: And, you know, we’ve had a variety of those, you know. We’ve read “Good to Great,” you read up your business once a year. We’ve read “The Starbuck” book. We’ve read “The art of…” sorry, “The Mindful Athlete.” We’ve read a variety of different “Built to Win,” is another one. We’ve read a lot of really great books that kind of expose our managers to thinks that I feel that are going on in our company. So, you know, if we have a, you know, certain things that pop up from time to time, if, you know, things are getting a little bit sloppier, or a little bit loose, or, you know, we need to drive a little harder than that. You know, I usually have a repertoire of a book that we could read. And, you know, so we, as manager team, we do two or three chapters at a time, and then they sit back and kind of reflect on those chapters as to how, you know, some of the things that are presented in those chapters are applicable to our own business and, you know, and everybody that kinda go, “Yeah. You know, the weirdest thing happened. You know what? I was reading this and like, wow, it’s just like us.” I go, “Really? Isn’t that amazing?” right?

David: Yeah.

Brian: And, you know, so that’s one level. You know, we also…I encourage the team to do a lot of, you know, journaling or reflection prior to our, you know, our weekly management meeting.

David: Interesting.

Brian: You know, so instead of coming screaming into the meeting at 9:03 and, “Okay, I’m ready to go, all right,” it’s a different experience here. And, you know, I expect them to hold themselves to a professional standard, that allows them to kinda prepare for the meeting and show up as a professional that they want to be. You know, let’s sit back, let’s look at what happened to the week, you know, like what are some of the key learnings from the week? What are some of the key things that popped out? How did I perform as a leader? What I’d liked to have performed, you know, in this situation a little bit differently? You know, jot that down, you know, kind of reflect on that. Come into the meeting. And then from there, then we sit down, “Okay, you know, let’s talk what the learnings this week. Let’s talk about, you know, the one piece of leadership that you would have liked to have seen a different from this week.” Those kind of things.

And what it does is it starts to instill almost a reflex, right, to be able…almost like an Olympic athlete, you know, like they are not thinking about where to go, they just instinctively know where to go. And that’s what we’re trying to do, is we’re trying to get them to think differently so that when, you know, the position…or when the position presents itself, they react in different way. And it’s really about, you know, choosing to respond versus reacting. And I think that…So that’s kind of some of the things we do. We build that in and bake that in to our process so that, you know, it’s expected. To be a leader here, that’s what you gonna do. And it’s not the kind of thing that happens overnight, it takes a long time and some people are better than others. But at the end of the day, you know, we have a leadership team that chooses to respond more than it reacts. And I think that helps us to be able to be deliberate about where we wanna go.

David: Cool. Another thing you mentioned earlier was that when you came on, one of the things that changed was marketing. And I imagined, that would have had a big impact on growing from, you know, some hundred cars to some thousands cars. What did you do, or what changed there?

Brian: Yeah. Oh, sorry, and one of the quick thing on the leadership guys, we typically, like our senior leaders, for the most part, have kind of executive or leadership coaches, and again, believe strongly on that stuff because it really does allow us separate perspective to be shown like…

David: What does that look like? How does it…like, where are they finding their coaches?

Brian: Yeah. So we have two or three separate people that we use. You know, one of them is in Vancouver, one of them is…I use one in the States. We have a couple from locally, we have a couple from West, as well. You know, so often, it’s an hour kind of coffee with somebody. You know, so for instance, our service manager, a great guy, a young guy. But again, you know, it’s one of these things where, you know, the position that he’s in and the responsibility that he has, and the level of kind of expectation that’s around that, it doesn’t necessarily match with the emotional intelligence and life experience that he has when he’s 25 kinda there.

So as a result, you know, the leadership coaches are an attempt to trying to breach that gap and trying to really create self-awareness, and these reflections, and these kinds of, you know, mindfulness so that he can be aware of how he reacts in a certain situation and kind of speed up some of that life experience, and give him more tools to be able to respond in the way that…

David: So that’s something that, you know, you use often in on [inaudible 00:20:41]. Such really, very cool. I haven’t heard of that approach before, that makes a lot of sense.

Brian: Yeah, we’ve got probably four or five of our people have them, like our senior guy or at least certainly, yeah. It’s not a couple more or so. And we’ve seen some…you know, it moves the needle, right, and it goes back to building better people, right?

David: Yeah.

Brian: You know, they react differently when they get home with their parents or with their kids as parents, and with their wives and husbands and all rest of them. You know, this is business that can be very demanding on the psyche. You go sometimes, you go like, “What just happened?” Like, “How is it 6:00?” right? And, you know, that without question, ultimately winds up spilling over into personal relationships, and we wanna make sure that we’re doing the responsible thing to give these people the tools and benefits to be able to do that.

David: Very cool.

Brian: So I didn’t mean to go back there, but….

David: No, no I’m having fun with that.

Brian: It was one of those things. So you’re talking about marketing. Yeah, so marketing. Well, largely, it’s born out of me coming to Winnipeg and not knowing a single person. So call it marketing, call it building a life. But, you know, ultimately, we wanted to kinda present ourselves as a premium kind of offering. And I’m a big believer that, you know, you need to…you can’t be always looking for something for yourself. And, you know, you gotta give back, you gotta be a part of something. Inevitably, you know, relationships are built and out of those relationships falls sales and falls deals and all the rest of it.

But really, for us, it was doing the right thing. It was important. So it was, you know, this is the community we live in, this is the community we’re playing, this is the community that, you know, our guys coach the hockey teams, and all that kind of stuff. And so it’s really about how do we…you know, what standard do we wanna hold ourselves to when we show up, you know, in the community? And that’s one of, “You know what? We gonna contribute, we’re gonna be an active part of it, we’re gonna be a member of it.” And out of that falls all kinds of support of gallows and golf tournaments, all those kinds of things that are fundraisers. We sponsor all kinds of, you know, little league hockey and lacrosse teams, and, you know, we’ve got lots of…I have bought lots of jerseys and all of that kind of fun stuff for them. And, you know, that allows our people to be engaged because we typically try and do things that are meaningful to them.

David: Sure.

Brian: And, you know, out of that comes the awareness and the brand awareness. And out of that, comes a relationship. And out of the relationship comes, “Yeah, you know what? Next time I’m looking for a car, I probably will consider you, and maybe I wouldn’t have done it in the past. And, you know, it’s not the sole reason that we did it, it’s a benefit, but at the same time, it’s about trying to take the longer term view of doing stuff like that.” And I think that’s something that’s helped us. And, you know, I think that we…you know, you look back and look at the dots, we can connect the dots now, right?

Well, I met this, you know, group of people through this thing, through this, but, look…you know, we’re winding five years, you didn’t even know that was gonna come out of it. So you go into because it’s the right thing to do and its…you know, we wanna support our community, and, you know, we believe in experiential stuff. So, you know, we wanna try and be a part of experiences for our customers and the people that we’re kind of hoping are gonna consider us versus, you know, running an ad in the paper or, you know, like, that kind stuff is in my mind, very transactional and, you know, has a time and a place. But, you know, the family and experience that we try and create is one of relationships and personalness [SP]. And based on that, I think it’s the best. The way to go is trying to be involved on things.

David: Cool, very cool. What do you see the sort of the biggest challenges for your dealerships in the next, you know, five years or so?

Brian: Yeah. You know, I think there’s lots of challenges, you know. It’s an exciting time. you know, the business is changing, in fact, it changed more in the last, you know, three or four years than it has in the last 10, and I don’t expect that to slowdown. You know, there’s lots of consolidation, and I think that so with the consolidation, it’s becoming a much more corporate-lead environment. So, you know, you’ve got the big consolidators like…you know, you’ve got AutoCanada, which is a public company. You know, obviously, all the things that are happening in the States, the Penskis [SP] and the AutoNations, and the SONAX, and all those kind of thing.

You have that in Canada on a bit of a, you know, smaller scale but nonetheless, that’s the direction it’s going.

David: Yeah.

Brian: So what’s happening is that the smaller single guys who have been in the business for 20 years, and their owned it, and their dad before that owned it. You know, the capital requirement to be in it these days with, you know, the facilities that’s required and the investment of people and stuff and all the rest of it is really driving a more significant capital injection with…you know, significant capital injection comes, people are paying attention now, right? When people pay attention, it tends to hype the quality of the operator that’s running it. So I think it’s a good thing. You know, I think that the business has professionalized, I think it’s matured, I think that’s gonna continue.

You know, people are always a tough thing to get. There’s not silver bullet, you gotta build them from their…we believe, we gotta build them from the ground up. That takes time, it takes effort, it takes heartache. And sometimes, you know, you put a lot of time into something, and it doesn’t work out for whatever reasons, and sometimes our side, sometimes their side. But at the end of the day, you can’t let that, you know, deter you from the direction you go. So it’s still about, you know, it’s about finding young, motivated, right, hardworking individuals. Removing all the barriers, given them as much, you know, gas to put on the fire as you can, and going forward, I think the cars continue to get better. You know, both us, and BMW, and Audi, and Lexus, and all of our competitors, you know, the level of quality of car is increasing. The experiencing is increasing, which a great thing for the customer.

You know, it’s…Yeah. So it’s a higher stakes game, but it’s a good game. And I think that we’re excited about it. I think we’re well positioned for it. I’m building a collision center door. You know, we wanna try and control the entire experience of our customer, so that we can guarantee the level of service that we sell them when they buy their car. You know, collision was a hall that we saw, you know, and we had to hand it off to somebody else, which…and they’ve done a great job. But, again, you start selling 1,100, 1,200 cars a year, that’s a lot of cars out running around, that’s a lot of cars getting into accidents and all those kinds of things. And, you know, so consequently, we thought that was a way to be able to kind of help, support, and continue to build relationships with our customers in that time.

So that’s what drove the investment next door. Yeah. And I think that’s the kind of direction we’re going. So I think, you know, we’ve got the self-driving cars coming, that’s gonna change the service department. We only think about, right, like, sending your car and for service, right. You don’t have to come. There’s all kinds of that stuff coming. I think it’s further away than I think people think.

David: Sure.

Brian: You know, just because the technology is there doesn’t mean that life, and society, and the world is ready for it.

David: Right, right, right. A lot of hurdles between here and it’s just…even if the technology is ready.

Brian: Absolutely. So all of those things are gonna happen. And, you know, the interesting thing about car business, you look back at the last 10, 15 years. You know, car dealers particularly are resilient groups of people, and we kind of always find a way to get it done somehow, and usually come up on the other side of things in a good way, and we have our customers, so to thank for that, and the support that they give us, and our team, and our stuff that is around us. So I think it’s more the same. I think we don’t know what’s gonna happen, but I think that, you know, your people are gonna be what makes it agile, and I think that’s what the investor needs to be.

David: Totally. That sound strictly business-related, but we touched on the technology for a second and I can’t helped it because I’m a nerd. Do you think the electric car, do you think Tesla, do you think any of that stuff is gonna be affecting your business?

Brian: Yeah. You know, I think without a doubt, you know, I think it already us. And I think anybody who tells you that’s not, is either…doesn’t have their stake on the editors is way smatter than me. But I think that…Yeah. You know what? I think it’s gonna change things. Again, I think it drives the overall expectation of the customer up which, you know, a rise and tide, raise all boat, right? And I think that certainly the Tesla’s, and the Google’s, and the Apple’s and all these things, these are companies that disrupt and kind of revel in…you know, I start sort of saying chaos, but for luck of a better term, that’s basically what they do, is they go into these industries and they shape them up and then…and they’re better at putting the pieces back together than anybody else.

You know, I think the car business has been a very age-old model that really hasn’t changed a lot the last, you know, 30, 40, 50 years. And I think there’s an element of the personal touch that needs to be there. I don’t think car dealership are gonna disappear. I don’t think you’ll necessarily…I think you’ll be able to buy a car, you know, through online channel or something at some point. It can happen today. Does that mean that there isn’t a spot in the world for a dealership with a personal touch and those types of things? I don’t think it means that. I think that there’s some change coming for sure, but I think the technology is gonna drive a different way of doing things, just like it does in every other industry, and it’s a question of the guys and the girls that are gonna be on the leading edge of that and embrace that, that are gonna be the winners there, versus trying to hide under a rock and pretend it’s not changing.

David: Right.

Brian: So, you know, ultimately, at the end of the day, our customers and how they interact with the world around them is changing, we need to do the same thing. You know, there’s a balance there, you know, it’s not all one way or all another. And, you know, we gotta change as an industry, we gotta change as a store to try and keep up and be a couple steps ahead of that so that we can maintain relevance of it, or maintain being relevant.

David: For sure. You mentioned books, and I was thrilled to hear that because one of the things that I ask every podcast guest is a book recommendations. And some of them have nothing to say, which is fine, but it sounds like you’ve got a few. So what kind of books will you recommend to the listeners?

Brian: Yeah, yeah. There’s a couple. I really enjoy “The Starbucks” book.

David: Right. I’ve heard that a couple of times that I need to read it myself.

Brian: You need that. I might even a copy for you, so before we leave. You know, it really speaks to not taking things that you’re good at for granted.

David: Right.

Brian: And I think that that gets back to the humbleness, that gets back to the mindfulness, it gets back to, you know, are we really as good as we think we are?

David: Right.

Brian: And the second you start having conversations like that in your head, usually you need to read a book or something like that. So that’s one. You know, so that’s kind of a visionary, bigger picture book. On the biography side, I really the Ben Bernanke book. I can’t remember the name of it right now, but he’s the Federal Reserve Chairman through the 2008 crisis.

David: Oh, interesting.

Brian: And you wanna to listen to a guy who has some resilience in his life, just try waking up to that over your ace [SP] in the morning, right? And, you know, what do I do here, and how much damage do I create, versus how much do I save and all those types of things. You know, so a big, thick book, really great book. “The Warren Buffet, Snowball” book.

David: That’s good one, yeah.

Brian: It’s another great book. You know, again, speaks to tenacity, speaks to humility, speaks to humbleness. From a tactical side book, again, as I said, we really like up your business.

David: Interesting.

Brian: Great book.

David: And what’s with that one?

Brian: It basically is like a common sense. He was a military guy in the States that wrote that…so it’s wrote in that kind of narrative. And it really has a just unique, no BS, kind of the direct to the point way of like, “If you know this wrong, why are you still doing it? And why are you making excuses for this person? Why are you making…you know, why are you installing all of these kind of checks and balances when really all you need to do is change the person?” right?

David: Right, right.

Brian: And it’s really about, you know, what I we’ve talked about in terms of, you know, holding yourself to a higher standard, you know, and being consistent in the application of that standard across. And, you know, we read that book literally once a year. And inevitably, like that’s one those once that the guy comes in and goes, “Oh, man. I’ve been ignoring this situation, or I’ve been ignoring this problem, or I’ve been ignoring this thing.” And, you know, a lot of times, you know, as a leader, the kindest thing that you can do for someone is help them to make a transition to somewhere else, because at the end of the day, if it’s not working for you, it’s not working for them either. And, you know, maybe they don’t have the courage, maybe they don’t have the foresight, maybe they don’t have the ability or the awareness to be able to say, “Hey, like, I can’t figure out why I’m not happy, I’m not performing, I’m not all these things. It doesn’t really fit for me. Maybe I should make a change.” That’s a big jump for a lot of people.

David: Sure.

Brian: And sometimes, the kindest thing you can do, as a leader, is really understand when someone is trying to tell you, and that’s, “Hey, I don’t fit. I don’t know where I’m going. I need some help. And sometimes that’s coaching, sometimes that’s, you know, giving them some training, sometimes giving them a kick in the back, sometimes it’s giving them hugs, and sometimes it’s all those kinds of things, and sometimes it’s just, “You know what? It worked until it didn’t, and does not work anymore. And, you know, we want you to go and be successful in whatever else you choose to do.” And I can give you 20 stories of people that is see, it’s always across the Apple box. And they go, “Hey,” like, you know, “You, firing me, was actually, probably the best thing that ever happened to me, because it forced me to kind of reflect on what I wanted to do, and it forced me to kind of go out and be the person who build the life I wanna build.”

So those are the stories that are great. And that’s the book that really drives that and kind of…that puts it in a very concise form for our managers. Yeah, those are probably the…and in terms of when you start, I get all of our managers to read “The First 90 Days” by Michael Watkins.

David: Oh, interesting.

Brian: Great book. Talks about, you know, things…there is something…the change is when you walk in and you’re a leader, and you’re a manager, and, you know, something has to flip in your head and that needs to change.

David: Very cool.

Brian: Yeah. So those are couple of my favorites, for sure.

David: Awesome. The last question that I have for you, you also mentioned mentors a while back. Who were some either people that you, you know, have learned about through reading or whatever, or people that you’ve known personally who you think have really influenced your approach to business?

Brian: There’s lots. You know, the guy that probably introduced me to the car business had a huge influence on my life. I think it was Rich Homaker [SP] in Edmonton.

David: Okay.

Brian: We sat beside in a football game, got to know him, you know, and two years later, he’s hiring me kind of thing…oh, he didn’t hire me because he didn’t have a job yet, so I volunteered. But, you know, I was working for him on way or another whether I was getting paid or not was something like that. You know, he had a big influence of me, one of the most humble and kind people I’ve ever met. Not flashy whatsoever, always, you know, interested in what’s right for the person. You know, big picture thinker. He was a big influence.

I’ve been extremely fortunate here in Winnipeg. I’ve met some really great…a couple, one lawyer in particular. He’s actually have divorced lawyer and all things, but, you know, really a guy who have seen people at their best and their worst, and has a tremendously unique view on the world. And one of those guys, if he’s talking and I’m listening. And, you know, I’ve been fortunate to build a really close, personal relationship with him. And, you know, he’s an older gentleman who’s had lots experience and the things that I think the world is coming down around me, he goes, “Yeah, okay. Well, let’s give it a couple months. You will be fine,” right?

So there’s that kind of perspective that I’ve got from him. There is, you know, certainly my mom, her resilience has really taught me a lot. You know, she’s, again, super kind, super big heart. Not necessarily a business person by any means, she’s a teacher assistant in Edmonton. So really like the risks that I take on a daily day basis and the amount of money that I owe the bank and that kind of stuff, she just kinda goes like, “Why would you ever do that?” But none the less, she really helped me to kind of build that resilience when I was younger. You know, so I’ve learned a lot from that. And, you know, probably a couple of my life coaches, you know. I’ve really got to know them really well.

Again, these are guys that see people that, you know, employ, you know, hundreds of thousands of people. And again, help you to give a better perspective and help to understand that really life does boil down to a few small things. And it’s doing the right thing when nobody is looking, it’s having discipline, it’s being a good person and being able to sleep at night. And, you know, those are all the things that sounds cliché and simple. But, you know, sometimes the question is easy and the answer is difficult.

David: Right, right.

Brian: And if you really look at the people that, you know, really apply those types of thoughts in their life and live by those things, you know, I really think that those are people that wind up with pretty amazing lives.

David: Sure. Cool. Well, Brian, thanks so much for your time.

Brian: Great. I enjoyed it. Thanks a lot for having me to be part of it. I was honored to be asked, so this was great.

David: Awesome. That’s it. Thank you for listening to Manitoba Business podcast. Once again, this episode was brought to you by Black Chair Consulting. We use social media to help businesses sell more. If you wanna find out about Black Chair Consulting, go to www.blackchair.net. Thanks so much. Have a great day.

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