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NOTE: THIS CASE STUDY HAS BEEN SLIGHTLY EDITED BY LEGITIMATE LEADERSHIP.
NOTE: COMMENT BY IAN MUNRO, DIRECTOR, LEGITIMATE LEADERSHIP, FOLLOWS THIS CASE STUDY. 

You can only skin a sheep once, but you can sheer it for the rest of its life! That is a famous saying in sales and it means “make the customer and not the sale” – the relationship is more important than the sale and if done correctly, will produce many more sales in the future.

This true story is just a fantastic example which clearly illustrates two companies, two dealerships, with two different business strategies. Both are driven by profit, and I am an absolute advocate of making a profit. But one builds relationships and customers for life while the other makes a one-off quick sale and has customers that will never go back or recommend it.

My daughter Lea was 17 years old (soon to be 18), and needed a first car. We ended up at a car dealer. Very nice people and so I purchased not one but two cars, one for me and one for her (but without her knowing it, as it was to be a birthday present).

Bombshell!! Within days of taking delivery of the manual gearbox car, Lea was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis – a devastating event for the whole family but especially for our little girl.

Her nervous system is a mess and basically her body is attacking itself. One of the symptoms for her is that when she gets hot, nervous or scared her eye clouds over and her vision becomes blurred. We discovered that the stress of learning to drive a manual gearbox was not ideal.

So we decided to look for an automatic car for her. With a few weeks having passed, we explained our situation to dealer A, from which we bought the two cars. We asked for a quote on an automatic car and to trade in the virtually unused one – its mileage only about 300km, having been driven mostly by me so that the battery wouldn’t die.

I know about car values. I know once a vehicle is driven out of the showroom it loses up to 25% of its value. I know about profit, I know about business … and and and. But I had just spent over half a million rand (about $32,000) at this company and I was looking for a deal that I knew I would lose on, but which was palatable.

Dealer A offered to trade the car in as a second-hand one, giving me second-hand values and priced the new vehicle at the new price. This meant I would pay in an additional R80,000 (about $5,100).

I get that dealer A was profit driven and that I was, at that point, a profit and sales target dream. One customer could now net three vehicles, three sales. My daughters devastating disease meant another sale. Times are tough and business is business.

I decided to decline the deal offered, keep the car for my second younger daughter who would need a car in another few years, and shop around for an automatic for Lea. Nothing wrong, no bad blood just very disappointed. But I get it, I do.

Fast-forward a few weeks – I am addressing Peugeot at the launch of their new 208 model. In an attempt to illustrate the importance of building a relationship purpose driven company as opposed to a profit purpose company, I told my Dealer A story and moved on.

Within two days a Peugeot dealer offered me a much better deal without even knowing me, in which my pay-in would have been about R20,000 (about $1,300) for a smaller new vehicle.

Then along came a hero: Vaughn Marescia from Peugeot Pietermaritzburg sent me a WhatsApp message which (paraphrased) said: “I have the top of the range, not yet launched, brand-new Peugeot 208 with all the extras. It is not a demo. I will take your daughters car as a straight swap for this car. If you paid more I will pay you the difference, if you paid less I’ll call it even. I will add extra time to the maintenance and motor plan. When and where do you want it delivered?”

It happened that Lea’s 18th birthday and party was on that Friday and the above conversation was happening on the Wednesday.

Vaughn Marescia was in Pietermaritzburg and I’m in Johannesburg (500km apart), but he said, “No problem – my sales manager Rory will leave tomorrow, sleep in Johannesburg and drop the car at your home on Friday morning while she’s at school.” That way it could be revealed to her as a surprise at the party on Friday night.

To cut a long and emotional story short, we were able to park the automatic car in the driveway hidden by all her friends who called her outside under the ruse of a massive group photo. As she walked out the front door they all shouted “surprise!” and parted, revealing her brand new, “MS friendly” Peugeot 208 GT Line Turbo.

I cannot explain or express all the feelings, emotions, love and humility I felt all in one. It was a moment that will live with me for the rest of my life. As a dad I could not prevent or fix her condition but I could make life a little easier for this remarkable, strong, beautiful young lady. My little girl.

Who made it possible? Who went the extra mile? Who said F the profit? Who said this is about building relationships? Who said it’s about people, a little girl, a dad, a family? Who said, without being asked, “how can I get involved and pay my privilege forward?” It was Vaughn.

So who’s wrong, and who’s right? I don’t believe there is a villain in the story and noone is right or wrong. Someone is just near sighted and the other can see into the future.

One company’s purpose and focus is profit and sales. Nothing wrong with that, and good for them. The other also focuses on profit and sales, but it does it by building relationships, making a difference and making a client and not a sale.

Over the years I really have thought I was mad doing all the charity work I do, helping small businesses, speaking at fundraisers, reducing fees and not billing for some events.

But when someone gives back to you, more importantly to your children, it just makes you want to pay it forward again and again. Funny thing is that within the same month the Down Syndrome Association of South Africa contacted me to speak at a fundraiser for their children, and it was an honour to pay it forward at no fee.

A personal note to Vaughn: You are a man among men. Peugeot South Africa did not step up; all the other dealerships in the room didn’t step up. I never expected anyone to. But YOU did. You placed people before profit and in doing so not only have you made a difference you have made a supporter for life. Thank you.

Do you also get the massive brand building exercise this one dealer principal did for Peugeot? This newsletter goes out to tens of thousands of people around the world, and before this amazing experience Peugeot was a car and brand that I never thought about. It is however so top of mind for me that I now see its brand everywhere, and it just won the Dakar rally.

Now to the lessons: build relationships, go the extra mile in all that you do and the profit and accolades will happen.

Anyone can make a sale, especially where there is a need. Only the great ones, the people with vision who understand that business is a marathon and not a sprint, just like marriage and partnerships, will have success and referral longevity.

COMMENT BY IAN MUNRO, DIRECTOR, LEGITIMATE LEADERSHIP: This story confirms absolutely the core assumption on which the Legitimate Leadership Model is based – namely, that the core criterion for success at the level of the individual, the team and the organisation as a whole, is the intent to give, or be here to serve.