How did you first learn about Spader?
Sherry Shields: My husband, Jim, and I bought the inventory of a small dealer in Stockton, CA in early 1985. I believe my husband first learned about Spader through some of his contacts with fellow dealers. He made it a point to introduce himself. Changing job markets like he did and occupations, he prided himself in the ability to be able to introduce himself and find out what he could and make acquaintance with other dealers in California. I believe some of them were already using Spader, had heard of Spader, had heard of the workshops, and, of course, he became acquainted with some people that were also members of RVDA which we quickly became members of.
Neither one of us knew this business and our survival depended on us making a profit. At the time, we had two children. One almost in college, both I believe were in high school when we started, so we dedicated ourselves to finding the best option for us to be able to learn more about, “Now that you have a business, how do you make a profit? How do you stay in business?” With a small business it’s very difficult and my husband had a background with his father in his father’s farm implement business in central California. He knew the challenges of running your own business. We felt, after we had looked at how Spader worked, that that was the one for us and that’s what we went with.
What did your dealership look like at that point and where I have you taken it today?
SS: We were a really small volume dealer with just my husband, myself and two other people. That was in 1985. By 1987, with the help of the software and some of the theories of Spader, we were able to acquire a second dealership that had a mobile office leasing on the same property, so we purchased a small fleet of about 100 office trailers that we were renting. It was a good mix. It provided a little bit of cash flow, so that was good for the overall business mix. We’ve grown to 68-70 employees in three locations over the years.
How did Spader play a role in helping you grow your team?
SS: Early on, when we began to discover that culture of our business was key, know the people part of your business, everything starts with your culture and your people. In order to grow our company, we had the theory of the dollar, but where was the people equation? The people are so important. We have sent, over the years, people, our key employees and others, to parts and service workshops, to five-day workshops, to all of the workshops that they offer. Only because team-building was very important, especially because our direction was multi-lot.
I believe that hiring is always a challenge, but once you hire the right person, you have to train and you have to make them be a valued part of the team. It’s their number one issue in team building. You can’t build this business without building people. You have to have a culture and they have to fit. I believe that’s one of the strongest theories that we live by.
What else have you gotten out of sending your team to training?
SS: Longevity. What that person learns and what they contribute to Pan Pacific, I believe that they become contributors. I believe the ability for a person to become successful is how you train them and how your company is successful because of it’s people. It’s a small percentage us and a big percentage them. You can’t put a price on it.
What do you remember from your first experiences with 20 Groups?
SS: Duane’s [Spader] theory of the one dollar. I still have my original wooden dollar that he gave us. He used to pass these wooden – they’re small about the size of a quarter, maybe a little bit bigger like the old 50-cent pieces – a little wooden chip and on the back it has the expenses for your business broken out into pie shape and everything relates back to the dollar, whether it’s one dollar, ten dollars, ten million. It’s all broken out by how much you have to spend of that dollar and what you’re survival net needs to be, so that was the theory. We said, “Okay, we’re going with that.” We learned how to do survival net and it grew from there.
It was my husband’s favorite concept that Spader brought to our business, was the theory of a dollar. You only have a dollar, no matter how many zeroes are in back of it. You still have to know how you spend your dollar. It works.
Have you taken part in different Spader 20 Groups? How have those relationships played a role in your success?
SS: Over the years, we have moved groups only because, in the beginning, the first group was small and that merged into another group. I believe this would be my third group only because of difference in plateau levels, dealership expansions, and so forth. I think only because the fit was better and we still have relationships with a few of the dealers from the very beginning.
My husband and I developed relationships and we brought people into groups as well. My husband was very big on “you’re never too small to join a 20 Group” idea, so he really influenced, I would say, a lot of people. It gives you the opportunity to have relationships where you don’t have to talk about recreation vehicles. You can have social relationships and it just grows from there. We have many personal relationships.
In California, we were hit very hard with the recession and we had six years of very tough times. During those times, sometimes you have to make choices in your expenses. The one choice that I would never make was to quit 20 Group. It’s not just the cost. It’s the cost of what would happen if you weren’t in the group. We kept our relationships and we stayed in the group and I can’t tell you how much help they were. All of us were. All of us helped each other during that time.
How did you sell new owners on the idea of joining 20 Group?
SS: You don’t know until you seek out knowledge of Spader. You don’t know, because Spader’s theories are, it’s like you say. “I could go back to my first workshop book and it would be as appropriate today as it was back then.” The verbiage might be a little bit different, but the theories and it’s all solid. It’s timeless, so I believe the basic principles are there and I have brought several people into groups. My husband brought people into groups. I think they have to see it to believe it. If they see you’re successful, if they see that you believe in it, they’ll try it.
I have one person that got me aside at RVDA, maybe back in the early ’90s, and he said, “I’ve talked to a lot of people about this Spader thing and about the 20 Groups and what do you think?” I looked at him and I said, “Just do it. It’s a good thing.” They’ve been in for 20-plus years. Couldn’t think of anything else. I just believe in it.
How has Spader adapted throughout your time with them to continue to meet your needs?
SS: I think it’s been a pretty continuously smooth flow of Spader keeping up with technology. It was number one with my husband as far as keeping up and maintaining, because of the prior industry [computers] he was in. He was very much interested in that being a big part of Pan Pacific’s operation. I believe Merc-Spader and the software that we had originally really, really helped us in the very beginning, and then, of course, we moved on to a system when they no longer supported their system.
We customized our new system, which is IDS, to the Costline® theory, which was Duane’s theory of Costline®. It all reverts back to the one dollar theory. We still operate with Costline®. I would say it’s a theory of knowing what your absolute cost of doing business is and maintaining your profits. It starts with sales and it trickles down through the entire dealership.