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From Dealer to Vendor: Industry Pro Chris Costner Shares His Wisdom

Many dealers contemplate making the jump from retail to the consulting/vendor world. Unfortuantely those considering the change may not be prepared, have the best guidance - or even worse - know what they're getting themselves into. 

So, after speaking with good friend and industry pro Chris Costner I felt his story could be helpful to many within the community. 

Chris was the BDC Director at Southern Volkwagen for several years before leaving and joining forces with Jerry Thibeau at Phone Ninjas as the new Vice-President of Training. He worked extremely hard to help build the dealership process and structure relying on industry best practices. He mentioned that part of his successful personal and professional journey were the result of two basic actions: 

1. Helping the dealership staff learn new things - he loves helping others improve.

2. Becoming active within Facebook and twitter - he credits this for his new career move.

He describes himself as being someone who simply wanted to help his staff, share ideas and truly cares about the people around him.

He also noticed how his social activity extended his helpful messages and increased his ability to engage with others. Chris quickly realized his message and his style was well received. He began writing more, received positive feedback and the engagement factor helped fuel his overall philosophy of helping others while reaching so many others on bigger scale. 

Chris enthusiastically called it "An amazing feeling knowing he was helping people do something great!" His infectious "Do or Die" attitude is inspiring and refreshing.

Here's three excellent pro tips Chris shared about his recent change. These can also be applied to any type of life-changing event you may be considering. 

1. You need endless drive - he calls it his "How can I get there?!" mentality. He shared a great story - his Oh Sh#t! moment came when when he flew across the country for his first meeting with Jerry. He was asked to drive the rental car to the meeting in the mountains of San Jose. So here was, sitting with someone he respected and looked up to for years and now he was "there." He was square in the middle of the place he had often wondered about how he was going to get to. His drive got him there and he knew it would keep him going. 

2. You obviously need experience to make a transition. A lot of it. And you better be really good at what you're doing. Chris became really good at creating a plan, teaching it to others and sharing his vision to create change. Eventually you're going to have to demonstrate your knoweldge; if you're not prepared, then you're done. 

3. Don't assume the grass is greener. Many people make a change simply because they want out of their current situation, not because they're following a plan or trying to accomplish a goal. Chris says it well with "Know who you are and know your own personal goals." You really do need a personal brand because that's what helps you move towards your goals and obejctives. 

Chris is a great example of a successful dealer who managed to cross into the vendor world and continue his success. Thanks for sharing your experiences Chris - I'm sure you'll continue this wonderful journey you're on!

Have a question for Chris? Add your comments below, shoot him an email and follow him on twitter @ChrisCostner.


Definitely enjoyed the conversation as always DrivingSales. Thank you for the wonderful gesture and time. It was a pleasure.

May 3, 2013

Chris is a top notch guy, both professionally and personally. He is one to watch!

May 3, 2013

Too kind Ron and thank you very much.

May 3, 2013

Proud to know Chris and call him a friend

May 4, 2013

As someone who also made the jump from Internet Director to Vendor, which I did in 2005 starting with Autobytel, it's a fun but challenging transition. Great article, guys!

I have personally watched Chris handle this transition with (seemingly) relative ease thru Social Media sites. He is 100% genuine, loves what he does and puts his life out there for his friends and clients to see. That commands respect. I have both observed his activity through my news feeds on
FB (,
Twitter (,
G+ (,
Tumblr (
here on DS (,
subscribed to his (Chris Costner Cares Daily at
and I've interacted directly with him many times. We finally got to meet face to face at NADA, which was great - I get a big kick out of meeting people in person that I only knew previously online.

I can see that Jerry's tutelage has contributed to his successful transition as well - that he hasn't done it all by himself, but relied on experienced leaders to teach him some new tricks and fill in the gaps as he goes.

Chris understands the dynamic of what's happening in dealerships today, and has the passion, experience and knowledge to help the sales staff improve. Anyone looking to break in as a vendor needs to have these qualities in order to be successful long-term. I look forward to watching Chris's continued growth in the industry.

Adam Ross
Managing Director
Infinite Prospects, Inc.
(201) 448-7253

May 4, 2013

Nice job Chris! You have certainly contributed to the automotive community in the past, and I'm sure you will continue to be an asset in the future!

May 4, 2013

I am a huge fan of Chris. He is a great person and a real professional. We have communicated in the past and finally met at NADA. I am proud to call him a friend. It is always great to watch good people like Chris make a powerful transition in order to grow.

May 4, 2013

Thank you Brian for the kind words, the feeling is mutual I assure you. Adam, WOW, truly honored and thank you sincerely. I am learning every single day and seek progression from the day prior. Jeremy, thank you Sir and I will be sure to keep working to stay an asset to this wonderful industry. Stan, very happy to call you a friend as well and thank you for everything as well. Keep pressing everyone and have a GREAT weekend. Hope to see many of you next week in Orlando.

May 4, 2013

Great tips Chris! I am making a similar transition later in the month and your advice is timely. Have a great day and keep doing what you're doing to help others to succeed.

May 6, 2013

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