Saturday, February 23, 2013

Please Define "Local Control"

Bob Mercer, on his "Pure Pierre Politics" blog, has an interesting post about school districts and exclusive contracts. This is an issue being debated in our legislature this year and Mercer's post looks at both sides of the issue.

SB 119 would ban school districts from entering into exclusive broadcasting (read "sports broadcasting") contracts with a local broadcaster or newspaper. A coalition of broadcasters and newspapers are asking the legislature to bar these exclusive contracts for regular-season high school sports.

Do we really need our legislators deciding this issue? Are local school boards not competent to determine what is best for their district? Isn't this just a end run by broadcasters and newspapers in certain communities who do not want to pay up for the right to valuable programming?

As an advertiser, I have to make decisions every day about whether an advertising source offers a value commensurate with the cost involved. I might think a source has value, but if it doesn't justify the price, I do not advertise there. It's not rocket science. It's a business decision that every business makes every day. Broadcasters and newspapers need to make a business decision.

If a school district decides to grant exclusivity, we will find out very quickly what the value of this programming really is. While some of the larger schools districts may have an asset, smaller school districts may find that they should have to pay to have their games broadcast. Many radio stations are doing a public service by broadcasting smaller schools games. Many advertisers are supplementing those services with little to no value in return.

Message to the broadcasters and newspapers in South Dakota: If you want the programming, bid more money. Quit whining and crying about not having access. You have the opportunity for access, what you do with it is up to you. Warning: If you pay too much, you will have to ask too much for advertising on your programming. Advertisers may see fit to take a pass on your programming. It's a business decision.

To South Dakota legislators: Please don't show your hypocrisy. You cannot be for "local control" and "less government" and support this ban. This is a local control issue. We do not need you to stick your nose into our school district's business. If our local school board makes bad decisions, they will have to face the electorate. That is how the system works. I know you are all brilliant, but you do not know what is best for the Chamberlain School District! I trust my local board of education to make this decision. BUTT OUT!!

To South Dakota school boards: Be careful as you make this decision. You may make money on this programming but you may lose the support of broadcasters, newspapers and businesses that make many, many contributions (not just monetary) to your schools.

To supporters of SB 119: Why is not acceptable for the school districts to grant exclusive rights to their events but it is perfectly fine to grant the South Dakota High School Activities Association exclusivity for the TV broadcast rights?

Message to all: Please keep the money-hungry, power-grabbing, self-serving South Dakota High School Activities Association as far away from this issue as possible. If you think you have a problem now, get them involved. You will really have a problem then!

Monday, February 18, 2013

February SDADA Column

I just returned from the 2013 NADA Convention held in Orlando. It was great to see several South Dakota dealers in Orlando. I hope those of you who did attend found it beneficial.

The Exposition floor was packed with vendors and dealers. There were many new and updated products and services. I am amazed at how the expo floor and the vendors (BDC’s, CRM software, social media initiatives, etc.)  have changed over the past five years. 

David Wescott Takes NADA Helm

The NADA Board has its winter board meet just prior to our convention. Bill Underiner completed his year-long stint as chairman. Bill did a great job for NADA and especially for small dealers. 

Dave Westcott from North Carolina now takes over as chairman. Dave has served on many NADA committee's and brings a lot of experience. I am confident he will do a great job.

I received my committee assignments for the upcoming year. I will serve on the Public Affairs committee again this year and I will be on the Dealer Operations committee. It has been a couple years since I served on Dealer Ops so it will be interesting to get back to that. I also start my 3-year term on the Finance Committee having served a year filling out an appointment. I am looking forward to a great year.

Glenn Mercer Phase 2 Study Released

On Saturday in Orlando, Glenn Mercer highlighted the findings of the second  phase of the facility image programs. This study analyzes the Return on Investment (ROI) of image investments in the short term, and examines whether these investments might be right in the longer term, for Dealerships of the Future. The first phase of the study was completed a year ago.

Mercer said one of the goals of the Phase 2 study is not to prescribe a "one size fits all" solution, but to assist dealers and auto manufacturers alike to better understand each other's points of view better, and negotiate on a more informed basis for the most-efficient (low cost) and effective (high growth) way to invest in dealership facilities, not only for today, but for tomorrow as well.

Mr. Mercer said the current trend to build more expensive and more brand-customized auto dealerships will lead to excessive and wasteful spending, as dealers repeatedly raze and rebuild their facilities, and as auto makers constantly update their brand image campaigns.

Perhaps the most relevant finding of the study, at least for South Dakota dealers, was that standardization spending is almost always a "pure deadweight loss". That means there is no ROI to tearing up floor tile, replacing mullions and closing up "customer touch points". While this comes as no surprise to small and medium size dealers, I hope it is a revelation to the manufacturers!

FTC Warns Dealers on Buyer’s Guide 

The Federal Trade Commission has warned 11 used car dealerships in Jonesboro, Ark., that their failure to properly display the "Buyers Guide" on used vehicles offered for sale violates the FTC's Used Car Rule. FTC staff inspections in Jonesboro found that eight dealers failed to display Buyers Guides on almost all used cars offered for sale, and three dealers failed to display the guides on a significant number of used cars. Ten dealers properly displayed the guides on all or nearly all of the used cars offered for sale. The FTC sent warning letters urging the 11 dealers to come into compliance by properly displaying the guides in a clear and conspicuous location on all used cars.

I always welcome people to come to our beautiful state, but I invite FTC investigators stay the hell away!

Working With Our Future

Thanks to Shandra Thomas of the Chamberlain/Oacoma Sun for the article about the Explorers. I have been fortunate to work with the Explorers for 12 years. It is a great privilege to work with these young men. I enjoy watching them grow up, most right before my eyes as they progress from 6th grade through 8th grade as Explorers.

I have eleven photos hanging in my store near my office - one of each year's Explorers group. If you look closely at some of those first few photos (the first year is shown below), you will recognize very young faces of men around our community and our state who are taking leadership positions in our communities. I love when people ask me about those photos and give me a chance to tell them about the Explorers organization.

I have had a lot of help from parents along the way. So many parents have helped out in so many ways - from driving, chaperoning trips and dances, buying whatever the Explorers may be selling, having their cars washed (sometimes in the rain) among many other things. Teachers and school staff have been very supportive of the Explorers in many of the same ways. The community has supported the Explorers as well. 

Inaugural Class of Explorers 2001-02
The Explorers have raised money for projects including Explorers Field, the scoreboard, the lights, the trees and picnic shelter, the playground equipment and the soccer field, fencing and lights at Explorers Field complex; the fishing pier at American Creek campground; the slides at the Chamberlain Public swimming pool; the renovation of Avenue of Flags Park; and a variety of A/V equipment for the Chamberlain Public Schools. They have also helped several individuals and groups in the community.

Though Shandra was generous and gave me more credit than I deserve, you can see there have been many people who have had a hand in the success of the Explorers.

I look forward to more years with the young men of our community. I hope I can give back to them a fraction of what they have given me.

Update 3/6/2013: Thanks to St. Joseph's Indian School for recognizing the Explorers here.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Fever

If most college basketball fans get "March Madness", the real fanatics get "February Fever". They know that those conference games in February will decide who wins the regular season titles and get the spoils that go with that.

Count me in that group. When I tear the January page from my calendar, I start thinking about those critical conference games, then the conference tournaments, "Selection Sunday" and the three greatest weekends of the year that follow. I also think about that last weekend and and check to make sure all my plans are set for my annual Final Four trip with a group of friends. So today it starts.

When people hear that I have been to 31 straight Final Fours, usually the first question they ask is about where I get tickets. Tickets aren't a problem - there are always more than 60,000 of them and sometimes more than 70,000. The much more precious asset is a motel room within walking distance of the festivities. We are always working on this and have booked motel rooms up to four years in advance. Unfortunately, we have also been more than a half hour drive out and that's not fun!

My annual calendar has had a December reminder to buy airline tickets to the Final Four host city for twenty years. In 1993, we waited too long to buy tickets and ended up driving to New Orleans! About half the trip from South Dakota to New Orleans is through Missouri. Hey Missourians, you don't need to "Show Me", I already saw it!!!

February means it's time to start putting the polish on the trip. It's time to make reservations at a great steakhouse for our Sunday evening feast (perhaps my favorite part of the weekend). We have dined at some of the best steakhouses in the world. Our pursuit of great charred mammal flesh has taken us to Manny's in Minneapolis, St. Elmo in Indianapolis, Bones in Atlanta, Shula's in Tampa and Indianapolis, Little Rhein in San Antonio, Mike Shannon's in St. Louis, McKendrick's in Atlanta, Bohanan's in San Antonio, The Rattlesnake Club in Detroit, Vic & Anthony's in Houston, and my personal favorite, Peter Lugar's in Brooklyn. I am looking forward to a Sunday night feast at Kevin Rathbun Steak in Atlanta this April.

Sometimes it makes more sense to go with the local cuisine rather than a steakhouse. That's the plan when we go to New Orleans where we have dined at Commander's Palace and Restaurant August. August is worthy of special mention here because the chef's tasting menu, "Degustation", is perhaps the best dining experience I have ever had. I highly recommend it!

We also like to experience the host city a bit and February means it's time to book that as well. A "host city experience" can include everything from a swamp tour, to a tour of the Indianapolis Speedway, to a visit to the Alamo, to a trip to the top of the Arch or the Space Needle. We have taken in a baseball game or hit the links. A Sunday afternoon walk down Bourbon Street or the River Walk usually ends up with us sitting in one of the local taverns talking college basketball!

In recent years, we've had to build a little time into our schedule for the media. It seems making it to 30+ Final Fours is a news worthy event practically everywhere! It certainly has made a great conversation topic through the years.

As the NCAA commemorates its 75th Final Four this year, it has been fun to watch the media pay tribute to the special teams, players, coaches and moments in the history of March Madness. It is surprising how many of those extraordinary moments we have been fortunate enough to witness in person.

This year's traveling party includes six other friends who have attended over one hundred Final Fours combined. Chris Korth, a former classmate at Creighton University, is a lawyer in Kansas City and my travel companion for all 31 trips. Emmet Kenney (23 trips) is a psychiatrist from Fargo, ND and was also a classmate at Creighton. Bren Abbott (19 trips) is an attorney from Kansas City. Calvin Rider (20 trips) and Matt Hesse (11 trips) are attorneys from Wichita, KS. Abbott, Rider and Hesse were law school classmates of Korth at Washburn University in Topeka, KS. John Pollard (5 trips) is a dentist from Fargo, ND. Between the six of us, we have 140 trips.

Chris and I have not missed a Final Four since our first in 1982 when Michael Jordan’s game-winning jump shot lifted North Carolina to the 1982 title over Patrick Ewing and Georgetown. We have taken in some 93 Final Four games, in 19 different venues in 15 states and watched 45 different teams represent their respective schools. This year we return to the Georgia Dome for our 94th, 95th and 96th Final Four games.

Memories? Yeah, we have a few. In addition to Jordan's game winner, Dereck Whittenburg’s high-arching air ball that Lorenzo Charles grabbed for the game-winning dunk as Jim Valvano’s North Carolina State Wolfpack edged the talent-loaded Houston Cougars for the 1983 championship came in year two. We saw Keith Smart's shot arching high float through the air before splashing through the net to give Bob Knight’s 1987 Indiana Hoosiers a one-point title game victory over Syracuse in year six.

One of the best parts of March Madness is the little guy taking out the favorite. I loved the 2006 run of George Mason as they knocked off Michigan State, North Carolina and UConn en route to the Final Four. Butler's runs to the title game in 2010 and 2011 were thrilling as well.

Because this season is one of college hoops' most interesting and wide open in recent memory, there is hope that the beloved Creighton Bluejays could make a run. Led by National Player of the Year candidate Doug McDermott, the Jays are poised to be a tough out in March.

Creighton in Atlanta? In April? That is "The Fever" combined with "March Madness" plus symptoms of "Unrealistic Expectations" - it could be terminal (what a way to go!). I won't get my hopes up - but that would be Final Four nirvana for this hoops fan!