Applying old adages to business today

Wayne Williams
Posted on June 18, 2012

Old adages are full of truth and wisdom, though meanings have changed as times have changed. It may be fun to stop and consider some quotes and how they apply to our lives and business today.

It’s been said, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” and “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” and “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

The ideas behind these old adages are simple and straightforward; the idea behind old dogs is it’s impossible, or almost impossible, to change people’s habits or traits or mind set. The book-cover adage is a metaphor which means you shouldn’t prejudge the worth or value of something by its outward appearance alone. Smoke and fire tells us not to judge or decide something without having all the facts; in other words, if you don’t have all the facts, you may reach an unwarranted conclusion. I saw these adages at work this week, and I thought I would apply them in this article.

Applied adages

I had a wonderful visit with a tire dealer in Southern California. We discussed competition, tire pricing, the Internet, customer service, our new digital world and, of course, the good ol’ days. This dealer has seen and experienced a lot of changes over the years; after all, a lot has changed in 78 years.

At first glance, you might consider him an old dog, but remember, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

This business owner is an old dog in terms of years, but he understands old adages. He is continuing to gather information to assist him in making decisions about a change of direction for his business. He is transitioning his marketing to adapt to our digital world. For several years, he and I have been saying the world is going digital; well, this week we decided the world has gone digital.

After some careful investigation, he thought to make a move into the digital world via Yelp. My friend runs a very customer-friendly operation. His customers rave about his friendly, no-pressure approach, so it’s no surprise that 100% of his Yelp reviews were positive. He’s a 5-Star Dealer with comments like, “This place is awesome,” and “Excellent service all around,” and “I will definitely go to them again in the future.” Not only are his customers posting about excellent service, they are also commenting about fair prices and inexpensive alignments along with careful, personalized attention. With the help of Yelp, anyone who looks online for tires can review what other customers are saying about a company. Who wouldn’t want to buy from a local tire dealer who has been in business for 40 years and offers great prices and great service?

The main reasons I decided to write this article: I hear a lot of negative comments about negative comments, and I hear tire dealers complaining about the Internet and the negative reviews they are receiving from customers.

Granted, there are some customers you just can’t please, and, of course, misdiagnosis and mistakes made by sales and service staff can add up to problems and negative experiences to both the customer and your shop.

Two old adages, “Word-of-mouth is the best advertising,” and “Unhappy customers will tell friends and family about negative experiences,” are very true.

Word-of-mouth has gone digital

Well, word-of-mouth has gone digital, good or bad. For the dealers doing the complaining, I suggest you get pro-active; nobody is going to turn off the Internet! Our friendly, old-dog tire dealer chose Yelp because it played to his strengths: good service and fair prices. I don’t hear dealers who are receiving good reviews complaining.

I have to be honest, as I listen to some dealers complaining and telling their stories, I’m frankly not surprised by the negative reviews. They need to step back and give themselves an honest review. It’s not like it used to be, unhappy customers telling 10 people by word-of-mouth; now, they post negative reviews online for the world to read.

Keep learning new tricks

If there is any truth in the old adage “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” then some dealers are in trouble. My friend, the old dog, doesn’t need to change his habits or traits or mind set; he hasn’t jumped to conclusions without having the facts. He’s a wise old dog; he knew his reviews would be good and support his business.

During our conversation, I noticed he was asking questions about my iPad. He had made-up his mind he was going to buy one, and after our two-hour conversation, he said he was going to buy one that evening! He didn’t make the decision right then, he’d been thinking about it! ■

Wayne Williams is president of ExSell Marketing Inc., a “counter intelligence” firm based in La Habra, Calif. He can be reached at

Related Topics: Counter Intelligence, social media, Wayne Williams

Comments ( 1 )
  • Eric

     | about 8 years ago

    Great article. Great writing style... Enjoyed it. (Possibly a slight error re. "where there's smoke, there's fire")

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