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I Worked with Winners: Winning is the Execution of Sound Strategy

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I Worked with Winners: Winning is the Execution of Sound Strategy

I learned a long time ago that winners win. It’s as though you can’t keep a winner from winning.

Last month’s article outlined the management style of race car driver and living legend Parnelli Jones. In the article, I quoted Jones as saying, “I couldn’t do anything without my partners.”

Jones owned a new and thriving business, plus was a champion racer. He relied on others to run the business while he focused on racing. Jones also believed that you can’t grow without placing faith in others.

This month’s column is about the men he placed his faith in. When Jones was approached by Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. and asked to open a dealership, he was not interested; he was focused on his driving career. However, he understood the opportunity and later decided to open a retail tire and service store. True to his beliefs, he hired two of the best in the industry at the time. Robert “Bob” Gatzke and William “Bill” Sauer were winners. Gatzke ran the most profitable district in the country for Firestone, and Sauer ran the most profitable retail store on a sales-to-bottom-line operating profit basis.

You can imagine these two guys running a retail store together with the hottest name in racing on the building, Parnelli Jones’ Firestone. Their first store in Torrance, Calif., became famous for selling high performance tires and wheels. People drove from all over Southern California to purchase high performance products and services.

Gatzke and Sauer were a dynamic pair. They were winners and they believed deeply in customer care and service. At the end of each day, they would review each and every sales ticket for lost sales opportunities and customer satisfaction. The store quickly became a high-volume location, and they had to hire more skilled people.

Gatzke and Sauer also subscribed to Jones’ philosophy regarding people. As I said last month, expectations were high and quotas were real. They, too, hired people they could place faith in, and as a result, the business had a great foundation. Jones was a winner; he hired winners, and they hired winners. Not everyone they hired was a born winner, but when placed in a winning environment with realistic expectations and clearly outlined goals, a winning team was established.

The goal of this column is to help you understand the winning edge. Winning at the sales counter starts long before the doors are opened and customers arrive. Gatzke and Sauer were huge believers in the importance of people, people, people! They preached this consistently. Many of us who worked at Parnelli Jones knew we were rather ordinary, yet we felt the winning attitude and rose to the challenge. We understood that winning not only included hitting goals and objectives, but also taking care of the customer.

I remember the day when all that winning attitude and customer service stuff sank in. I realized it was more than a motto or a mantra; it was the core of Gatzke and Sauer’s business beliefs. Understanding that fact changed my perspective. I believe that day I became a winner, moving beyond reciting the language and the mantra to actually owning the philosophy. I finally and more fully joined the team. I recognized the difference it made in me and many others. There is a feeling of camaraderie that accompanies true teamwork, a feeling that supersedes personal inner satisfaction.

The great Green Bay Packer coach Vince Lombardi is quoted as saying, “Winning is not a sometime thing.” We who experienced the winning attitude and teamwork at Parnelli Jones’ Firestone knew we were experiencing something special. Winning does not happen spontaneously; it’s planned, it’s communicated, it’s the execution of sound strategy considered and agreed upon before the actual execution. Winning is built on belief.

Jones, Gatzke and Sauer believed winning was taking care of the customer. They understood that hiring the best people possible, training them and expecting winning performance was the key. They made it work through hard work. Each of these individuals was a winner, and they won because they put faith in others. Believing that winning every day was more than possible, it was expected, was an attitude that prevailed in the company. Most everyone knew that only your personal best was going to be good enough.

Winning requires higher levels of care, concern and communication with others, others being your team members and your customers. Have you made a personal commitment to operate at your personal best and win at the sales counter?

Winning every day means everybody wins. Follow the example set by these winners.

Winners win. And nobody wins alone!   ■

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

To see more Counter Intelligence articles, click:

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