‘Giddyup giddyup 409’… ‘And good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye’… ‘I remember when rock was young’… ‘We’re going racing in the streets’… ‘Baby you’re much too fast.’ These lyrics are from songs – by The Beach Boys, Don McLean, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen and Prince – that pay tribute to a manufacturing icon: Chevrolet. From the BelAir, to the Corvette, to the Camaro, Chevy exemplifies the ‘heartbeat of America’ to multiple generations of car enthusiasts.
When Dinah Shore sang, “See the U.S.A in your Chevrolet” in the 1950’s, she popularized the brand with millions watching on the emerging technology of television. Sponsorships of Bonanza and Bewitched solidified the company in the minds of parents. Then the 1963 redesign of Corvette into the Stingray and the 1967 introduction of the Camaro made Chevy the envy of teenagers and sports car lovers. Things were good for decades in Detroit. As the famous commercial noted: “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.”
Like all companies, Chevy has its share of legacy clunkers. In the ’60s, Ralph Nader took the company to task for the faulty rear suspension of Corvair. The Vega’s engine problems and overall poor quality in the ’70s signaled the beginning of the end of America’s reign as automobile manufacturing king. The SSR – released in 2004 – tried to capitalize on the ‘retro’ movement. Time magazine described it as a “putative performance machine, heavy, underpowered and unforgivably lazy.” Then there was that whole bailout and bankruptcy at GM three years ago. Don’t look for that episode to be featured in any Chevy historical film.
It’s been a long journey for the company French racecar driver Louis Chevrolet started a century ago today with ousted GM founder William C. Durant… and there is reason to be excited about the future. Silverado is the number two selling vehicle in the country. Equinox and Cruze rank among the top 15. The plug-in hybrid Volt, released last December at a manufacturer’s suggested price of $40,000, is the most fuel-efficient car on the road with an EPA rating of 93 mpg. Like any organization, Chevy proves innovation and stick-to-it-ness are essential for long-term success.
Happy 100th birthday, Chevrolet.
Four of my friends from church and I have lunch together once a month, rotating who picks the restaurant. These 90-minute gatherings are simply the ‘in person’ part of what plays out in email between gatherings. During those written discussions we share editorials from various online newspapers, comment on the happenings in the world and trade a lot of friendly barbs – always in good humor and with the purpose of getting each other to think. Sometimes these dialogues may happen frequently on a good news day.
While all of us fall to the right on the political pendulum, I am the one who sits closest to the middle. In fact, I jokingly refer to myself as, “The liberal Catholic among us.” One of our recent exchanges was about the budget deficit standoff and who was at fault. The member who leans waaaay toward conservative blamed the president and Democrats for their insistence that a tax hike be included in any new legislation. I assumed my typical role – playing devil’s advocate: “What about those Tea Party members who refuse to budge on any of their tenets, even if it leads to an agreement?” His response: “They’re doing the right things. The other side is wrong.”
To me this is a microcosm of the biggest challenge impacting leadership. Whenever someone takes the position of ‘I think it, so it must be correct,” there is the danger of missing the opportunity to create a better result. It’s only through a willingness to hear other ideas and consider different approaches that true growth occurs. Lines in the sand and one-sided viewpoints don’t lead to change. They simply keep things heading down the same path.
This month it’s my turn to choose where to eat. When I gave two options and said we could decide the morning of lunch, one of my group wrote, “Sounds like you’re kicking the can down the road, just like Congress.” I wrote back: “Actually, I’m trying to model that the art of compromise happens every day in the real world… and usually makes for a more enjoyable meal.”
Asking for donations may be one of the ‘least favorite’ things on my list. There’s just something about reaching out to people and requesting they make a contribution to one of my kids’ extracurricular activities that doesn’t inspire me. Yet, it’s one of those necessary evils… whether it was selling Girl Scout Cookies or wrapping paper when our kids were younger, I always had a ‘not another one’ attitude about the approach.
That’s why when we attended a meeting about a summer league team for my varsity basketball playing son – and the mom organizing everything said, “We’ll need to ask for donations or raise money for uniforms” – I cringed with anxiety and thought, ‘I kinda hoped we were past that phase.’
Yet being a good rules follower and helper guy, I suggested to my wife that we needed to reach out to establishments where we spend a lot of money and ask for their help. So through email and in-person visits, we requested donations from our dentist of 12 years, car repair place where we’ve been loyal customers for a decade and favorite two restaurants (one fast-casual and the other upscale).
What were the results? I’m thrilled to report four-for-four. These small business owners made a nice contribution – even knowing the reach for their advertising dollars would be minimal. One followed up with an email to Kathy that said, “Thank you for thinking of me.” I was so surprised by their responses that I decided Success Handler, LLC also needed to write a check.
There are two lessons here: 1) Never shy away from asking… you never know how much someone might want to help; and, 2) When a parent or organization makes a request of your business, catch them off guard by saying ‘Yes!’ They already have enough folks who will decline.
One other thing is certain: we’ll remain loyal customers of those four service providers for years. So they’ll end up way ahead regardless of whether anyone else becomes a customer after seeing their names on the back of our warm-up jerseys.