Shuttered Chrysler Dealers' Lesson For Small Business

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The Chrysler bankruptcy passed with thousands of dealers closing their doors forever as of Tuesday night. An interesting sidebar to the story was how some Chysler dealers sued to avoid being terminated. Chrysler had said in court documents, "Dealerships located in the markets at issue lack the operational, market, facility and [brand] characteristics necessary to best contribute to the ongoing dealer network under current or future ownership."

Instead of addressing the fact they were not apparently very profitable businesses and prioritizing what they needed to do to survive, they chose to waste a month of time suing to stay with a company about to close all of its plants for a minimum of three months. Be careful what you wish for. What if they had remained open with sagging demand and old products?

A few years ago a southern California deli called me in for a consultation. Sales were slipping, they'd invested thousands in a renovation and the owners were worried. After we got a cup of coffee and sat down in one of the booths the owner took a sip and started to speak. I figured he would be asking where to look first or a spreadsheet would be bought out to show details of the sales collapse. He began, "We've contacted our attorney with a cease and desist order for a similar concept stealing our 'look.'" I couldn't believe my ears.

The owner went on at length to say how they were stealing his logo and concept and how he was prepared to fight them in court. Meanwhile, I had to keep bringing him back to reality - he was losing money with this concept he wanted to protect so badly.

Like some wronged hero in an action movie, sometimes small business owners or managers get so personally vested at being wronged that they lose sight of their priorities. Many times that is because it is easier to get worked up about someone else than taking responsiblity to change.

The lesson? Keep your eyes on the big picture, don't get caught up in the vendettas with vendors or competitors.