You know me; always on the lookout for examples of why it’s so vital to maintain a positive business reputation.
So, I’m probably the only person that gets excited by the complete and utter collapse of a company that was generating $2.2 billion in annual revenue!
The Bill Heard Organization was the country’s 11th largest Chevrolet dealer group and in 2005 was named one of its “Dealers of the Year” by GM. Despite that, Bill Heard let its reputation deteriorate to the point that ultimately shut down its business.
As Ward’s explains (emphasis added)…
Perhaps it was rogue employees or a culture within the group that allowed or even encouraged questionable behavior. Whatever the case, the Heard group was unable to shake the perception that it conducted business unethically.
More than 500 complaints against the company were filed in recent years with the Better Business Bureau chapters in the seven states where it conducted business. Additionally, the Internet became a forum for angry customers who posted numerous complaints about Bill Heard on websites that allow customers to review businesses.
Add rising gas prices, $280k in state fines, and having its credit line yanked, and you can see how a bad reputation can be the catalyst for the business’ collapse.
Of course, as Abraham Lincoln once said, your reputation is merely the shadow cast by your character–if Bill Heard had treated its customers well, it wouldn’t be in this miss to start with.
But, what can YOU learn from the collapse of Bill Heard?
- Monitor your competitor’s reputation as closely as you monitor you own.
- Be aware of the complaints being levied against your competitors–are you one blog post away from the same criticism?
- Watch for your competitor’s weaknesses and make them your strengths. As a competitor to Bill Heard, I’d focus on our pledge to treat customers with respect and honesty.
- When your competitor ultimately implodes, reach out to its customers. In this case, I’d offer a special $10 oil change to all of Bill Heard’s customers or an extra $500 trade-in payment for anyone that trades a car bought at Bill Heard.
Monitoring your own reputation is a given–right?–but you should also keep a close eye on your competition. When they suffer a reputation misstep, don’t miss the opportunity to use that to your advantage.
(Hat-tip to Laszlo)