Sitting where we are, in the middle, we can tell that it is a difficult automotive market.
You get to know the signs - sales managers need to replace key staff quickly, sales staff like to "keep their options open", senior directors tell you it could be a good time to develop their careers. Oh, and the honest ones tell you it is hard work.
But there are bright spots, by region, by franchise, by department. As a rule though, we know the market is tough. Falling consumer confidence and falling sales, Block Exemption, a cultural shift from manufacturer control to dealer groups - all are conspiring to make people nervous. And nervous people make bad decisions, or at least different decisions to the ones they make in good times.
Which is my message this week, to quote The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy - "Don't Panic!".
Or rather don't throw away all the good practices you have learnt in rather more benign times, especially when it comes to recruitment. Because the mistakes you make in haste and under pressure now will only come back to haunt you, and in today's litigious environment they could cost you a lot.
Take these examples of panic measures from the past couple of months, both from reputable, well-respected employers, involving candidates with stable careers under no pressure to move. At a junior level, a manager needed a service advisor quickly. He meets an ideal candidate and offers the job almost on the spot. He confirms with an offer letter.
As soon as notice has been handed in the contract is issued, asking him to break his current contract of a month's notice and start within a week. It is made clear that if he cannot agree the offer will be withdrawn.
Another client needs a manager and briefs us on a package - let us say of £50,000. We put up several candidates, but one in particular is only interested if the offer is indeed the full 50. Long process, lots of meetings and a call is made to this candidate - would he consider £35-40,000?
You and I know the answer - something unprintable followed by "Why have I wasted the last 3 weeks?". The client relents, and offers the full package. Except by now the candidate has lost interest and trust.
In both cases the recruitment was unsuccessful and left both parties feeling aggrieved. The employers were upset because they felt they had offered what was required and had been rejected - the candidates because they knew there had an attempt to "tuck them up". I say that in the face of rising costs and difficult targets both recruiters panicked.
Both suddenly wanted the unreasonable out of a clear agreement. Both wanted to either save money or time when there was none to be saved, and despite both relenting and going with candidates’ wishes, by that time the thin thread of trust that exists in a recruitment scenario was well and truly broken.
Recruitment is a costly business, both in time and money. But you spend both precisely because you cannot afford not to, especially when you are under pressure. And in today’s market, the pressure is on like at no time in the last five years. So can’t afford to waste that time and investment when it can be avoided, behave sensibly and fairly – you know it will repay you in the long run.
And the long run could be a lot more pleasant and profitable than the present – never forget that.