I’m displaying a new plaque in my office.

I’m checking the provenance, but my guess is approximately 80 years old, give or take a few years.

In gold capitalized font above a regal maroon background, the text states “Success is Good Management in Action.”

The quote is attributed to William Holler, former Chevrolet Sales Manager (1933-1945). Holler’s biography describes him as “a spell-binder, a table-pounder, an evangelist.” “He didn’t sell cars on personality alone. By understanding customer wants and needs, Holler was able to develop innovative programs to inspire dealers to establish new sales records.”

On the reverse side of the plaque, a handwritten note from my grandfather indicates the award is one of many he received during his tenure as owner of a Chevrolet dealership in small town Illinois.

My mother describes my grandfather’s dealership as significantly different from today’s huge showroom, displaying hundreds of vehicles. In my grandfather’s day, only a few vehicles were kept on hand. Each fall, the showroom windows were covered with paper, as new models were smuggled in for the grand unveiling ceremony.

My grandfather took pride in his business. His success was driven by diligently learning customer requirements, needs, and wants, and delivering customized vehicles accordingly.

By the mid-fifties, the automobile market shifted toward instant gratification – large showrooms, more inventory, and less individualization. It became less about the customer and more about the financial status of the automobile industry. This mindset wasn’t one my grandfather believed in. So he made the decision to close his dealership. Still committed to an intimate customer service experience, he began a new endeavor, founding an insurance agency that still bears his name today; 44 years since his passing.

My job as a Program Manager is nothing like my grandfathers, yet it is amazingly similar. I manage people. I consider them assets – a portfolio chosen to ensure our clients’ mission is successfully achieved. My success is contingent upon how well the portfolio of assets entrusted to me delivers on the promises we make to our customers. Their individual success and corporate success are directly dependent on how well they execute assignments.

Success is good management in action;
learning from mistakes and triumphs alike.

Whether or not you have the word “manager” in your title, I would wager everyone is a manager to an extent, with a story composed of good and not so good decisions, skills, capabilities, and outcomes. Which is why I love the word “good” on the plaque. No one is perfect and success looks different for each person. Success is knowing what you want to accomplish and obtaining your goals – tenacity and willingness to adjust when things are out of your control.

I hope the plaque sparks conversation with those who enter my office; it tells a great story. One I’ve built my career upon. When I glance at the plaque, I’m reminded of a tenacious legacy and compelled by my grandfather’s drive. Success is not always easy, but it is simple. Success is not perfection. It is well managed execution of a plan committed to by everyone, to meet customer needs. Although business approaches shift to meet market demands, customer focus remains critical.

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David Cline

Terrific message, Bill – and a very well-written, thoughtful, insightful column. It should always be customer first, no matter our business!

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