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Automotive Service Management Newsletter
Vol 3, No 3, May 2009

Getting Into the Green by Valerie Ziebron

(Note: My friend, Valerie, has been working in the automotive and marine business for over 18 years. This particular article was for a marine magazine. I am publishing it in its original form because whether you are dealing with automotive or marine products the message is universal. I think you will enjoy both the content and her writing style. At the end of this article is more information about her work.)

For the last several years we have been bombarded with requests to help marine dealers get more "green" but mostly that meant more $$$$! So let's start there.

In order to have a successful marine business it helps to have a great marketing plan that appeals to the right audience without dividing or alienating your staff or customers by getting political on global warming/climate change or ethanol. People will always passionately debate these topics but most people, liberal or conservative, agree to the importance of being 'good stewards of our beautiful planet'. Both sides of the political fence have well documented thoughts on how to go about doing this from Newt Gingrich's 'A Contract with the Earth' to Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth' to Ted Nugent's 'Ted, White, and Blue'. The bottom line is you really have to sort through it all and make sense of it for yourself and your business. Your marketing and your business will likely benefit more from tying into the unifying message of doing the right thing for this stunningly gorgeous planet Earth that we appreciate more and more each time we venture out on the water. How can you take advantage of this powerful common ground?

To best do that we need to ask ourselves two questions:
  1. What is it my marine business can do to be green?
  2. Why are we doing it?
In order to get the most well rounded, thoroughly thought out answers to these questions play 'devils advocate' with the responses and invite your staff to play along. The discussion will undoubtedly illuminate one of the fundamental truths that impact marine dealers daily whether they are conscience of it or not: FACTS + FEELINGS = Financial Outcome. This is an interesting equation that is either helping or hurting you so let's explore it a little deeper. Take a look at the next two statements and decide which one you believe to be most true:
  1. "It is easier to sell something you believe in"
  2. "It is easier to believe in something you sell"
Some of us have sure tried our hardest to make the second statement true to get rid of old inventory during these tough times but most people would have to agree that the first statement is more true. It is easier to sell something you believe in. Notice the order change in the two statements as it relates to the fundamental equation of FACTS + FEELINGS = Financial Outcome. If you allow your feelings to come before the facts it can sway the facts to read the way you would like them to be and that is plum dangerous to the resulting financial outcome. Looking at and accepting the facts first will certainly have an impact on your feelings about them but give you better performance results every time provided you got all your facts right. Whenever you are tempted to let your feelings sway a decision, stop and be sure you have the facts to back up your choice.

Do you remember when we were told that converting to plastic shopping bags from paper was going to help the environment? The thinking was that people would be more likely to re-use the plastic variety and save millions of trees. Instead we now have landfills loaded to the hilt with plastic bags that are not composting like the paper bags did. This is an example of putting feelings in front of fact. The Washington lobbyists' hired by the plastic company likely had a hand in it as well.

Let us learn from these lessons and be sure that the actions we are taking to be green truly make sense to our planet and to our business. Are you putting new energy efficient light bulbs in your dealership? Why? Are you interested in saving money or energy right now? Then good, that will work. But if you are interested in keeping the planet healthy, you may not like the thought of all those mercury filled bulbs piling up in landfills and filtering into our water supply and further endangering the fish and the people that eat them. If you still want to use the CFL light bulbs, do you have proper disposal practices for those bulbs and have you trained your staff on the importance of following them?

There are plenty of green decisions that have helped marine dealerships both make and save money as well as protect our natural resources.

What are you doing to be green? Are you using less paper? Do you offer preferred parking to employees who carpool? Do you have timers on your lights? Are you buying in bulk? Using local oil and fluid recovery services? Taking the back lighting bulbs out of the vending machine? Promoting portable engine flushing bags? Putting soybean ink in the printer? Staying up on financial incentives offered to clean business in your State and local regulatory agencies? Buying sustainable, recycled, refurbished or used? Putting a bike rack at the Marina? Getting an energy audit from your State or utility company? Are you keeping doors closed and insulating better? The options marine dealerships are considering and using keep pouring in. Some may make sense and some may also make cents. It is best when we know what we are doing, why we are doing it and can communicate that message with confidence to our staff and customer base for a better bottom line and planet.

Here is a .PDF file list of best practices for any company considering Going Green in the workplace.

Cartoons was written by Valerie Ziebron and illustrated by Adam C. McAlmont.
© Copyright, 2009, J. Daniel Emmanuel/Valerie R Ziebron,

Your can learn more about Valerie and her work here.

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