Smith Content & Macdonald-Starling
Rob Macdonald and John Starling, Baltimore, Maryland
Things are tough out there, and if you are looking for a business advisor, a mentor or an elder to guide you as you guide your business, contact Thomas Brightman now. If you need more real-world examples of why its the best decision you could make this year, read on:
Our businesses consist of two very strong-willed partners. John is open and outgoing and saw immediately that Thomas Brightman was a gifted facilitator, mentor and problem-solver who could use his 40+ years of business acumen to assist our emerging business in many ways. And Rob is cautious, guarded, and deeply suspicious of strangers offering to help, particularly those who seem to have access to hidden information. Rob saw Thomas as keenly intuitive, piercingly direct, vastly knowledgeable, but perhaps a threat, because of his level of personal insight and his persistence in making the companies with which he works whole.
What kind of business advisor cares about wholeness for his clients? A more common approach is to improve bottom line, production or people problems. While Thomas Brightman has certainly helped us in these areas he has counseled us on hiring, profiled our employees, and given us on-the-fly strategies for dealing with difficult employees or clients literally moments before a confrontation his influence extends farther. Thomas has given the partners of our company a means to communicate our deeper driving forces. We know where each of us is strongest, and where our natural tendencies might hinder the company. As a result, we act from the power of self knowledge, and cannot be taken advantage of, enabling us to minimize errors and their associated costs.
An emerging company of our size could never afford to hire individual specialists in every area. But having Thomas on our team has been like having dozens of individual specialists. Instead of ten calls to ten people, we place one call to one person who has applied all these skills toward practical solutions. And we get answers we can run with -- every time.
Thomas Brightman brings us mentorship, honesty with ourselves and with each other, and new ways of thinking. True to his name, his brightness is almost blinding, which some people may fear. The truth, after all, can hurt. But if you own your own business and want to see it blossom, the truth is what you need to hear.
Below are some areas in which in which Thomas Brightmans expertise has saved us time and/or money:
* Counseled owners on a proper structuring of ownership of the company
* Administered psychological needs and values profiles
* Advised on company culture issues such as whether or not to view the office as a family environment; whether or not to offer alcohol at office parties, etc.
* Counseled on ongoing partnership relations
* Provided private, confidential counsel on personal issues
* Taught leadership strategies
* Provided strategies for defining new company in start-up mode
* Served as sounding board
* Shared training material
* Helped with space planning
* Helped analyze job descriptions
* Profiled new hires
* Assisted in final interviews
* Counseled employees; offered insight into motives
* Offered exit strategies
* Analyzed and suggested improvements on our presentations
* Accompanied on joint sales calls
* Applied intuitive client/prospect profiling
* Provided assessment tools for profiling clients/prospects
* Provided sales-based assessment tools
Business Community Support:
* Moderated brainstorming sessions
* Attended presentation to Associations / gave feedback
* Presented to Associations at our request
* Attended Open House to mix with crowd and assess culture
* Provided timely insight on industries that were new to us
* Provided jumpstart on ideas
* Acted as sounding board for proposals, projects
* Provided insight on Boards: whether or not to join
* Provided referrals
* Created work for our strategic partners
* Provided live prospects
* Placed links to our Web sites on BAI site
Thomas has been a mentor, friend and advocate. After many years of serving some of the nations greatest companies, nonprofits and associations, he has decided to concentrate on local business only clients which can be served within a few hours drive of his Cockeysville home. His rates are reasonable, his insights are tremendous, and we would not be in business today if were not under his tutelage.
We wish you peace and prosperity in 2003 and hope that you build a relationship with Thomas Brightman that becomes as fruitful as ours.
Please contact Thomas Brightman ( http://www.brightmanassociates.com ) directly at (410) 667-0006 for a free consultation.
John Starling and Rob Macdonald
Smith Content, Inc.
Roseville Chrysler-Plymouth, Inc.
25800 Gratiot Avenue, Roseville, Michigan 48066
Serving You Since 1967
Thomas Merton Brightman, Brightman Associates was a consultant to our dealership for 9 years from 1986 through 1994. Under his coaching many of our people grew personally and professionally.
He advised us that it would take three to five years to become #1 in CSI (Customer Satisfaction Index) both in our state and nationally. In his fourth year with us, we became the #1 CSI store among Chrysler's level E dealers. Many thought that a large volume dealer could not also have a high CSI. We went on to be #1 CSI for six consecutive years.
In 1994, we were also the #1 retail volume dealer in the USA as well as #1 CSI. Even during tough times of the last down car buying cycle, we made more profit every year that Thomas assisted us.
He also consulted for our Jeep Eagle store. He helped us open that store and then continued to advise the dealership for 8 years.
I suggest you use his skills and talents. He clearly is one of the best in the business.
He is very skilled at working in a family owned and operated company with all that that implies about relationships and interpersonal skills.
Jim Simpson, General Manager
Business Services Worldwide & Veloso Group
T. Veloso, Founder, Baltimore, Maryland
I first met Thomas Merton Brightman when I sought help in turning around my failing business. After my first meeting with him I told Thomas I wished I had met him sooner. He foresaw that I was not able to sustain my business, but through his help I was able to maneuver a course that closed my business and launched me on another, more successful path.
Thomas possesses a rare combination of skills. He is at home with both fundamental business issues and with the less tangible, often trickier issues involving people. His mind is like a zoom lens on a camera able to focus on and understand the smallest detail, yet able to capture and communicate the larger picture.
His ability to see quickly to the heart of a situation is astonishing, all the while relating to you in a nonjudgmental, competent way. As his client, you are certain of Thomas loyalty to your well-being. There can be no better advocate.
And that loyalty to his clients well-being also means that Thomas is sincere and forthright in his assessments and recommendations to his clients. Thomas helps harness your strengths to your best advantage while teaching how to understand and to manage limitations. If youre serious about being successful, Thomas Merton Brightman is the one you want on your side.
C. Kurland, Sales Manager, Baltimore, Maryland
Just had a chance to read your newspaper article. It gave me some insight into the challenges you face in your business. Any man who is willing to walk away from $36,000 because he realizes he can't help is a man I want to count as a friend. I am also a great fan of Joseph Campbell.
Roseville Chrysler-Plymouth, Inc.
Serving You Since 1967
25800 Gratiot Avenue, Roseville, Michigan 48066
In our first year with Mr. Brightman, We did many things that contributed greatly to our rise in CSI. First, we adopted a "Mission", a goal we all strive together to achieve. We developed it as a team so everyone owned it when we were done.
We clarified job responsibilities to improve effectiveness and efficiency. For the first time we wrote job descriptions for every job at the dealership.
We worked on team development to reduce stress and encourage cooperation. We conducted one-hour team building meetings each week. Once a month we had a two hour teamwork session with Mr. Brightman.
We changed our dealership's signage to eliminate negativism. For example, we changed from "NO Personal Checks Accepted" to "We accept cash and all major credit cards. Results were pleasant and surprising.
We reduced the noise level in our service reception area. We relocated our intercom and added a second speaker. We trained people on using the intercom. Michigan Bell relocated our phone bells and lowered the tone. We added insulation to our pneumatic tube system. All the changes in lowering noise levels lowered stress for customers and for my service writers.
We repositioned our service reception area traffic flow to reduce conflict between customers who had learned to circumvent our system and break in line for attention.
We improved the lighting in our service bays on Tom's recommendation. This measurably improved technician times, attitudes and safety. The change improved overall productivity and profitability. What was obvious to Mr. Brightman was invisible to us. We take our service functions very seriously. Service drives our business, particularly when new car sales are down industry wide. Our service department exceeds a 100% absorption rate.
We adopted a "Problem Solving Model" as a working guide to stop conflict in solving daily situations. As my manager's use this model they generally solve problem in a professional manner without needing assistance.
Most importantly, Tom taught us to pursue open and honest communication with each other, to the benefit of all. The work we have done in communications and team building are important contributors to the significant rise in our CSI (Customer Satisfaction Index).
The "Social Contract" that we developed with Tom highlighted our customer centered values. Every employee signed our list of values promising to behave in predetermined ways. Everyone agreed to what was best for our customers and therefore good for our business . We all signed on the line that we would consistently deliver these core promises.
The positions and duties of many of my managers changed because of our ongoing work with Mr. Brightman. Through the use of the Personal Profile System, we have come to better understand our strengths and weaknesses and those of our reporting employees. We manage better in all areas of the company.
The personal development of certain managers permitted them to manage the way we wanted their departments managed without constant oversight of my general managers. This permitted my senior people more time to work with other employees and customers. This had not happened until we learned to communicate openly and honestly with each other. We have learned how to live with each others character traits, both strengths and weaknesses.
In our management and employee groups, we use the meeting effectiveness techniques we learned from Mr. Brightman to help us learn to "proact" rather than "react". In other words, we isolate and cure problems as we see them developing, rather than waiting until they become unmanageable and put us in the crisis management mode.
We reorganized some of our key departments, both physically and managerially. This allowed us to achieve better use of our capital resources and management talent. We are promoting our management people from within, whenever, possible. We use the team building we learned from Brightman to make people decisions specifically reflect compatibility with job functions.
Our accuracy in hiring the proper people, using Tom's techniques, is far superior to any other system we've ever used.
Our future work in Values, Leadership and High Achiever Brightman programs will be of great value as we pursue our goal of changing from a good company to a great company. As we make this transition, our employees all benefit because we will be working in a cooperative, caring, less stressful atmosphere.
Jim Riehl, Founder
"Senior", Mr. Riehl, is now deceased. His sons continue to operate the businesses that he founded.
Senior once said to me, "I hate to think of how much money I could have made if I had met you sooner." My response: "When you were younger, you would not have listened to me." "I'm not so sure about that...", he replied. Senior was a grand man, demanding and proud, yet tender hearted at his core and dedicated to all the living generations of his extended family. I miss him.
I consulted from many, many years with Senior's companies, Roseville Chrysler-Plymouth; Eastland Imports: Mazda & Subaru; Roseville Marine and RV (which we changed to Roseville RV, getting out of the marine business); and Friendly Jeep Eagle (a franchise he obtained for his eldest son).
Senior also referred accounts to me such as Michigan Rivet, SnethKamp Jeep Eagle, Richmond Chrysler-Plymouth, and Highland Chrysler-Plymouth. His brother, Bob Riehl, General Manager of Roseville Marine and RV, also referred Tiffin Motorhomes, a Class A motor home manufacturer, which became a multi-year client and led to an extended relationship with Camper's Choice, RV Accessories, Parts and Supplies.
Brightman Associates has been blessed with referrals from one client to the next. We've never had to sell what we do. We just do what we do, the very best that we can, and clients call us based on our reputation of keeping our promises and exceeding expectations.
Jeep Eagle Dealer Twenty Group
Friendly Jeep Eagle, Warren, Michigan
Highlights of Presentation by Owner, Jim Riehl, Jr.
Each of us brings ideas to our meetings as a way of assisting the overall growth and profitability of our dealerships. Our cooperation saves us time and money. The openness of our meetings makes for creativity.
Today, I am presenting our Management and Staff Development Program by Brightman Associates International, Baltimore, Maryland. I will focus on the portion that concerns how we 1) deal with change; and, 2) how we get more things done by going off-premise once a month with our consultant.
Dealer Twenty Group meetings demonstrate how we are often more objective about each others family business that with our own. We see in each others business that which we are unable to see in our own. These unconscious blind spots need attention if we are to build businesses that last for our children and grandchildren.
In the conduct of daily business, one thing is certainchange!
I was overwhelmed when I started my dealership. It was a time of learning paced well beyond anything I had experienced in my dads dealership. I quickly discovered that what I already knew was only a part of what I needed to know. I was in charge now. I was accountable.
Overall responsibility was mine. I felt it! I used everything and everyone I could to advance my education. Running my own store wasnt as easy as I had thought it would be. I was determined to do it better than anyone else does. This was my chance to prove myselfmost of all to myself.
Part of my forced learning was finding out that I got in my own way more than anyone else did. I had been told for my whole business life in my familys core dealership that there was only one way to do certain things. For better and for worse I was trapped in those practices.
I had been associated with doing some things a particular way for such a long time that I unconsciously resisted change. I was surprised by how attached I was to some ideas that could clearly be done differentlyeven better.
Yet, I had so much to do at the start-up phase, so many people too please, so many customers and suppliers to talk to that it was easier to go along with past practices.
It dawned on me at some point that I had to change in order for other things and people to change. When I said: "Change things, but leave me out Im too busy," the seeds for failure were already sown.
Everything changes. My children grow up. I grow older. The seasons change. Laws change. Markets change. Models change. Prices change. Taxes change. Technology changes. Why resist the inevitable. Sounds simple, but it isnt. Change means taking risks and few of us manage risk without some failures. Sometimes our decisions are not as timely as they could be. Standing still just helps the competition.
When you are sure that there is only one way to do something, be careful. If my ego gets too attached to my way of doing things, my judgment suffers. I discount problems, my people and their ideas. I quickly became the real reason we did not do more things in new ways. I needed to learn that it is far better to ask questions, before making statementsto listen before speaking. This is hard to do when you have the authority to make all the decisions and get busy, frustrated and impatient.
I used to think that change was expensive. I learned that resistance to change is more costly. And, if you think that training is expensive, cost out the price of ignorance and lost opportunity.
We sell merchandise and service. Most of all, we sell time. We cant manage time, only our use of it. It is our behavior patterns that consume most of our time. Changing personal patterns is harder than changing products and systems. Behavioral modification is a slow processand it starts with the leader. It is a top-down job to set the example. Ive come to believe that companies, which are most adaptable to change, are those that survive and prosper.
Accepting that I often get in my own way, I wanted someone on my team whose job would be to keep me apprised of the changes necessary to grow myself, my people and my business.
This someone had to be an objective and truly insightful observer of human interactions. Most of all, it had to be a person who could and would be able to confront me. I wanted this person to bring us outside ideas. This person would need the versatility to establish trust with each employee. This individual would need to summarize for me the ability and willingness of all managersespecially senior management.
I knew I needed a change coach--an additional mentor from outside the family talent bank. I didnt want a ninety-day awareness program. I wanted an on going change checkup of my dealerships wellness. I wanted my business to last for my children as my dad had built his for us.
I found that person at one of my Dads dealershipsThomas Merton Brightman. At first, I used his counsel wisely. Then I got so overwhelmed with all that comes with starting up a dealership that I began to discount what he told meeven after I asked for it. I was on the verge of letting go of this consultant/mentor when my dad sat down with me.
Dad pointed out that I could save money short-term by not having this consultant. He also pointed out the long-term potential of staying the course. He saved the best to last. He told me that the consultant could only be as effective as I allowed him to be.
He counseled that my full participation in the process would be the signal to each and every employee that the consultant was important. He asked me to devote my central attention to the consultants activities on those days each month that he was on site in our departments and meetings. I did. It was the right thing to do. It continues to pay dividends.
I went further. I asked the same of my senior managers. I began having a monthly managers meeting with the consultant present. We met for an early breakfast in a private room. I learned that the dealership would survive and even prosper without us for a couple hours. I quickly saw the benefit of being away and testing how well assistants performed in the absence of their immediate supervisor.
Each of us on the Dealer Twenty Group knows that many of our managers have limited formal education. They learned most of what they know on the jobs they have with us. We generally promote people to manager for loyalty and performance not because of degrees. Seldom, if ever, do we teach them to be managers in a formal or organized way.
We use these monthly meetings to teach ourselves to be better managers. We do it in small pieces. We are back in school. Our business is the schoolbook. We immediately apply the lessons to our workplace and practice until we get better. Most of all we deepen our understanding of each other. Our relationships have improved greatlyless upset, quicker resolution.
We have become more open and honest in our communications. We lowered fear levels. We have a group-owned Mission Statement. We have a written strategic plan with sections for every department. Three-way meetings with the consultant are providing outlets for managers to vent their strongest feelings. Our Sales Satisfaction Index and Customer Satisfaction Index are improving. We are making money even in poor business periods.
I am able to be away from my dealership and know that it will prosper in my absence. I hire better, train more frequently and replace people more confidently. I have lower turnover cost.
Credits for these and many more things are shared by each and every member of the teaminside and out! Yet, I am quick to say that without the presence of my change coach/mentor that we would not have accomplished as much as soonmaybe ever. Consultants are expendable, but I clearly see how I get my moneys worth and more from unique relational insights that my change consultant brings to our table. He has earned my acceptance and that of almost everyone else on the team.
I recommend the value of getting solid outside counsel in those areas where it is hardest for you to see yourself as others see you. I do. It works.
Core elements of our program are outlined in the attachments to this letter. There is a summary on the front and back of a single page. The sequence of processes can be adjusted for business conditions and personnel changes.
Jim Riehl, Jr., Dealer Principal, Owner
A LOT OF EXPERTISE WITHOUT A LOT OF EXPERTS!®