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Editor's Notebook

Practice, Practice, Practice

As Top Shop year starts, tire dealers can show that being the best is no sleight of hand.

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I  hadn’t thought about John Scarne in 30 years. Probably longer. When I was a kid, I read his “Scarne on Cards,” a tome that was part biography and part instruction manual on all things magic. Particularly card tricks.

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Not tricked-out-deck card tricks; I knew all about those from the TV Magic Cards that I’d bought at the local drug store. No, Scarne was the master manipulator, a prestidigitist so smooth, so sublime no one could pick up his moves. No one. Search “John Scarne” on YouTube and you’ll find old movie clips and TV appearances that will astound and amaze (as they say). I have never seen better.

Most people would not recognize Scarne, as great as his skill was, because in his prime there were only newsreels and vaudeville stops. Only later did a broad audience come to know him on a few 1970s TV appearances. Anyone who saw the Oscar-winning The Sting knew his hands; they were Paul Newman’s “stunt hands” in key card game scenes.

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Scarne wasn’t limited to card tricks alone; he was involved in all forms of table-top, close-up magic with dice and cups and balls and the like. He invented family games, and produced a series of books showing how professional cheats would scam craps games or street corner Three Card Monte tables. He became a hot ticket as a casino advisor, teaching hundreds how to spot sharps and tricksters.

He was world-famous but virtually invisible.

Scarne said something in that book I read years ago that still resonates.

“How did you become so good, John?” he was asked. “You must have some kind of gift.”

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“No,” he replied. “It was practice, practice, practice and more practice.”

To be famously called the “Magician Who Fools Magicians,” Scarne literally sacrificed large chunks of his life to practicing his craft. Entire days when he was younger (“until my hands chafed and bled”), hours daily when he became an established act. He practiced every single day until close to his death in 1985.

Scarne’s devotion reminds that true success does come from tireless and honest effort – practice, practice, practice and more practice.

What he learned to do with a virgin deck of simple playing cards you have learned to do with each customer – consumer, fleet, farmer, mine or another dealer. The polished perfection of a brilliant card trick is the sum of many, many parts. It is no different than the polished perfection of an outstanding independent tire dealership.

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The seventh edition of the Tire Review Top Shop Awards presented by Ammco/Coats officially kicked off last month, seeking to honor another outstanding tire dealer – retail, commercial or wholesale – in the U.S., Canada or Mexico.

And if you have followed the program, being the Top Shop Winner – or even one of the three annual Finalists – isn’t about being the biggest or the oldest or the most connected. It is a test, a final exam if you will, pitting your dealership, your business practices, your people, your place in the community, your innovation against other highly successful dealers.

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Top Shop is both a measuring stick and an education; many entrants have remarked that they are eager to see how they stack up against the best, and take what they learn from the experience to further improve their dealership. Some even refer to the process as a “journey of self-realization,” unfolding every aspect of their entire business like a map, discovering where they have been, where they want to go, and what their dealership really looks like – the good and the bad.

To be the best takes a lot of work. Except we don’t call it “practice,” we call it “every day.” Every day your dealership has to work its magic on dozens of patrons. The presentation must be perfectly seamless, undetectable. A successful ending won’t be acknowledged with a standing ovation, but the start of a customer for life – something far more valuable.

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Our industry has two kinds of tire businesses. One is the illusionist, like David Copperfield, that is a great showman, but so heavily reliant on props and distraction and invention that it is the actual magic that disappears.

The other is the master like Scarne, the dealer who relentlessly hones their craft with a simple, straight-forward and honest approach polished by countless hours of numbing practice.

We want to honor the well-practiced and hard working, the real magic makers.

But you cannot simply disappear. It all has to start with you.

Please take five minutes to enter the 2013 Top Shop Awards by visiting TireReview.com/TopShop today! 

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