In more than two decades of covering the automotive industry, I have witnessed a number of executives come and go through the proverbial revolving door. While a few have been lifers—or employees who have managed to stay in the same company their whole lives—a great many jump from one brand to another, depending on the latest job offer promising a bigger paycheck (and presumably a more prestigious position).
I have seen rank-and-file workers change employers as often as I change my mind about whether I should sell my Honda Jazz or not (which happens a lot these days). I have also seen overachieving men and women get poached by rival brands to serve as these firms’ president or chief executive.
Now, transferring to a competitor is okay. You should be able to take care of yourself and reap the rewards of your hard work. And if this means crossing over to a market adversary, so be it. Screw your company for not recognizing your real worth, right?
But sometimes I wonder: Are these executives really worth it? Are they truly passionate about what they do? Do they even care about their brand and their customers? Or are they just in it for the windfall and the perks that come with the position?
I’m a fan of those who treat their brand as though it were their child. They look after it, they nurture it, they see it grow
And where is the loyalty? I’ve watched industry executives recite to my face the winning attributes of the automaker they have just moved to—a brand they would regularly make fun of when they were still employed by another distributor. In my head: “Wait a minute…aren’t you the same guy who once told me that your current brand was the shittiest in its segment?”
I’m a fan of those who treat their brand as though it were their child. They look after it, they nurture it, they see it grow. These are the workers who deserve to get a salary raise and be promoted, not those who are more interested in updating their LinkedIn profile than in making sure their brand is killing it.
From experience, I can say companies that employ such impassioned people tend to be more successful and provide greater customer satisfaction. On the other hand, companies that have the misfortune of hiring incompetent, uncaring executives inevitably go through a period of corporate and fiscal hell. These managers are out to simply cash in; they couldn’t care less if their brand sank to the bottom of the heap. This, I firmly believe, is exactly why even the smallest customer- and service-related issues never get resolved at companies run by bosses merely installed by headhunters. They’re mercenaries. They’ll work for the highest bidder. They’ll leave before they accomplish anything meaningful. You’re a fool if you think they genuinely love their brand.
Agreeing to be pirated by a rival brand isn’t necessarily bad, especially if it’s a promotion. But I hope the main motivation is the opportunity to have a bigger responsibility and the chance to do something special—not the compensation or the worldly trappings of success.
I now look at industry executives who constantly move around, and I think I understand why they and their brands are perpetually struggling.