Ethics in sales is an important piece of a company’s brand image. The movie Flywheel shows how taking advantage of customers will eventually come back to haunt you. It focuses on the journey of a company that goes from unethical to reputable and the positive impact their change in business practices has on the company, the owner, his family and their clients. Flywheel is a faith based movie from the makers of “Facing The Giants” and “Fireproof”.
Let me set up a scene for you. The company is Jay Austin Motors, a local used car lot in Albany, Georgia. The owner Jay Austin will do anything to close a sale. In one of the first scenes we see Jay selling a car to a customer. During the sales process the customer asks Jay, about the slight paint color difference on the rear bumper of the car. He asks if it has been in an accident. Jay answers that “no, I don’t think so, a lot of times he see’s people repaint them to cover scratches”. After the customer buys the car for $3,000 more than retail value, Bernie, one of his employees says “man you are slicker than snot on an ice rink”. They even ask him if he told the customer it had been wrecked and he does not answer. That little omission tells his employees that at Jay Austin Motors its o.k. to do whatever it takes to sell a car.
We quickly see that Jay Austin cuts corners in both his business and family life. His wife if often upset because Jay does not keep his word. She has even started questioning his ethics. Here is an example of how she has lost faith in Jay.
Judy “Did you sell any cars today”
Judy “which one”
Jay “Black 88 Honda”
Judy “The one that was wrecked”
Judy “How much”
Jay “Does it matter”
Judy “I’m just asking, you don’t want to tell me”
Judy “$6,000 dollars, you said that car wasn’t worth 3 Jay”
Jay “What do you care, it was worth 6,000 to the buyer”
Judy “Did the buyer know it was wrecked”
Jay “Judy, I have had my mind on work all day and I don’t want to talk about it”
Judy “ No, you didn’t tell him, did you?
Jay “Why are you interrogating me, I am a used car salesman, I sell cars”
Judy “At dishonest prices”
Judy is unhappy in the marriage and Todd their son does not like the person his dad is. The movie shows a lack of integrity in Jay. He gives empty envelopes at church to make them think he tithes and even goes on to significantly overcharge the minister of his church for a car for his daughter.
The call that starts to change it all:
His banker gives Jay a call to discuss him being behind on both his loan on the lot and his line of credit. The banker “It’s not my intention to be cruel, but if you don’t catch up your payments by the end of next month, we will come get your cars and close you down. We’re looking at a payment of $32,400.”
A Message From God:
Later that night Jay has another fight with Judy, leaving both of them not speaking to each other. Jay is in his family room by himself watching television and stumbles upon a church service. The minister says “You are in the shape you are in today because of the choices you have made. Your marriage is in the shape it is in today because of the choices you made. Your relationship with your wife and with your children is in the shape it is in because of the choices you have made. You’re in financial bondage today because of the choices you have made. God’s word will set you free if you would read it, but you’re in bondage and trapped and your under all the dirt and stuff and you feel like you’re a slave to debt and to a relationship, because you have not listened to the word of God. And until you listen to the word of God you will make the wrong choices, go down the wrong road, lose your family, lose your home, lose your security, lose your investments, because God has a way to live life and you and I can’t live life on our terms and expect and ask God to pray for us. And the reason that many people I am talking too today are in bondage and frustration and defeat because you don’t really want to know what God says. And you don’t want to live it Gods way.” “Any man in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away. All things, not some things, all things have become new.”
Jay begins the journey of reflecting on how the way he is living has affected other people.
A change in business practice:
The next day in the office Jay decides to change the way he does business. He gets upset with Bernie after he uses slick sales tactics to close another sale to someone he knows probably can’t afford the payments on the car.
Jay “You should not have done that Bernie”
Bernie “ Shouldn’t have done what”
Jay “Someone is going to figure out she got overcharged on that car $4,000 and make an issue out of it”
Jay “Would you not want to kick the guy in the teeth who overcharged your wife several thousand on a car”
Bernie “She’s not married”
Jay “That’s not the point, she has a boyfriend, parents or friends and their gonna figure out she got sloshed on this deal”
Bernie “Whoa, who you talking too? I just made a week’s profit and I am getting slammed for it”
Jay “Bernie, it’s not the profit, it’s the way you got it”
Jay’s salespeople are taken back by this change in him.
The next morning standing in the lot Jay says “Alright Lord this is your lot, I will honor you with it”. Jay continues to make changes by having a meeting with his staff. “I would like to start by apologizing to each of you, this is my business and for the last two years I have not been running it honestly or respectfully. I want to say I am sorry for being a bad example. I would also like to say for now on we will be selling cars at honest prices. That means you get a fair commission off a fair sale. I am changing the way we operate. I have every intention of running a fair business for now on.” After these changes both Bernie and Vince decide to quit their jobs because they don’t think they will earn enough money in the new business format.
The unexpected gift of doing business the right way:
Kevin Cantrell comes in looking for a job. He is between semesters at college and will work for minimum wage for six weeks. He says he wants to own his own lot some day. Jay decides to hire him. Kevin asks lots of questions about the business. When asked he only tells Kevin of the new business practices. At the end of the six weeks Kevin is done with his job.
The bank contacts him again and tells Jay that he has until Friday to get them the rest of the money. Even though he paid off about one third of his overdue balances the bank feels they have to move on.
The next night while at home watching television with his family he finds out that Kevin Cantrell was not really a college student. He was an undercover reporter on a national television show doing a report on used car lots. He had a hidden camera going while working at Jay Austin Motors. This undercover report went to six different lots around the country. The report showed that only one of the six dealerships always charged a fair price and that was Jay Austin Motors.
Business Takes Off:
The next morning Jay arrives at the lot and found 30 people looking to buy cars. The good review of their business on the news had everyone looking to buy a car come to the one place they know they could get a fair deal. They sold 32 cars in eight hours. They were able to get caught up with the bank and also clear a large amount of additional money.
Stepping Up To The Plate:
Jay and his wife decide to start with a completely clean slate. They take the profits from their good day and refund the money to everyone they overcharged over the last two years. Jay personally delivers the checks to every customer he overcharged. Most customers were grateful for the honesty and money.
Another local channel asks to go live on the 5 o’clock news. Hillary Vale the reporter sideswipes him with another undercover report. Bernie his ex salesman went to them and told them that Jay had taught him how to deceive people while he worked there. Bernie even went on to say that is why he left, to make himself look honest.
The Payoff Of Stepping Up To The Plate:
Before the reporter could leave, many of the customers he gave refunds to started showing up to make sure the public knew the rest of the story. They shared stories about getting a refund and his appology. The new report turned out to be more good publicity, but it could have been disastrous if he did not make a full transition in his business practices.
The story told in Flywheel paints a clear picture of the damage that can be created by not doing business ethically. It also shows how treating people fairly pays off and that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself and your business.
I look forward to your feedback on treating customers fairly.
David Domos developed WhyBuyFromYou.com to provide content to help small businesses develop their branding, marketing and sales systems. In the past he held key leadership positions for a fortune 500 company. That company led the market in both sales and brand awareness and David was a significant contributor to its growth. David has been on the Amazon.com best seller list in their Direct Marketing, Communications and Entrepreneurship categories. He is a student of sales, marketing, branding & small business growth, continually focusing on the reasons people buy. Follow him on Twitter @WhyBuyFromYou or visit www.whybuyfromyou.com.