ROPI Background & Definitions

John C. Strom
              John C. Strom

My book – Maximizing Your ROPI© – Return on Your People Investment – is based on 30+ years’ experience doing training, coaching and consulting primarily in the automobile business.  After receiving my Master’s Degree in Organizational Communication from the University of Connecticut, teaching at a community college and continuing on to complete more graduate work in Organizational Communication at SUNY-Buffalo, I was hired as Director of Organizational Development for a large single point automobile dealership – a job that was unheard of in the business.  After three years I went on to a multiple-point dealer organization for a year before becoming training manager for a highline European import distributor.  After six years, I formed my own training/coaching/consulting business, which I ran for 22 years.  I provided sales, service, client service, operations and management training, coaching and consulting, mostly to retail automotive dealerships and dealer groups.   I also did professional work for other businesses and organizations, both for-profit and non-profit.  My book brings together all the learning from my work designing, developing and implementing performance improvement initiatives in these roles.

Defining some key terms

To help you better understand my writing let me define some terms I use:

Organization versus Company or Business – For the most part I use the broader term because I’m convinced that no matter what kind of company you have or business you’re in, the discussions contained apply to the people in it – your team members.  I have had the most experience working in the automobile business.  My experience working in other types of businesses/companies and with government and voluntary organizations supports this supposition.  So I use the broader term organization.

Client versus Customer – for the best results in your organization it’s desirable to turn as many customers as possible into clients.  A customer becomes a client when they continue to do business with you over and over again.  Some transactions will naturally be with customers, for example, people passing through your area who use your services.  They aren’t likely to become long-term clients.  I will always refer to clients as that should be the goal of your organization – to turn as many customers into clients as possible.

Engagement – the concept of engagement is a simple, but extremely powerful one.  An engaged person is more connected, more committed to an organization.  A fully engaged team member will do their best work because they’re connected/committed to doing it and they’ll do it even when no one is looking.  They’ll also do it on a more regular basis.  A fully-engaged client (rather than customer – see those distinctions) will continue to do business with you and will be much more likely to refer others.

Engagement versus Satisfaction – it was through my association with Gallup Organization that I first learned about the distinction between engagement and satisfaction.   People who are merely satisfied can more easily be swayed from further involvement with your organization – they’re just not that connected/committed.  Team members can more easily be hired away; clients are equally likely to do business with other organizations or yours.  Being satisfied is a step on the way to being engaged.  And it’s engaged team members and clients that you’re looking to create and retain.

Team member versus Employee or Associate – I like the idea of people working together as a team as I definitely believe they produce stronger business results.  So I will not be using the terms employee or associate.  By their very nature, they suggest a lower level of engagement (see this term definition).

Manager versus Supervisor or Boss (…or Leader) – The concepts of supervision or being the boss suggest a superior/subordinate relationship that from my experience simply doesn’t produce the best long-term results.  And from what I’ve seen, leadership can (…and should) come from anyone in any position in the organization.  My book isn’t about being a leader; it’s about being a good manager of people.

Business results – I frequently use these terms in my work and in my book.  The results I’m talking about fall into four categories:

  • Productivity – the actions people take to produce desired results
  • Profitability – the results (money made) from taking these actions
  • Engagement – of team members and clients
  • Retention – of team members and clients


One other note before we begin:  Most of the examples in my book are from the retail automobile business – the business in which I did most of my work.  I’m sure you can think of examples from your business/company/organization that illustrate the points I’m making.  Please share them with me – I’d love to hear about them.   Equally, if you think a point I make is not applicable to your situation, please share that too – we can have some fun discussing it!