Car dealers and industry thought leaders from around the nation gathered Wednesday evening in Miami, Florida at the DrivingSales Presidents Club Welcome Reception hosted by Cars.com. Attendees met industry peers, keynote presenters, and thought leaders for an evening of networking, food, arts, and entertainment at the luxury beach club, Nikki Beach. Rick Evans, owner at Evans Toyota traveled from Fort Wayne, Indiana to attend his fourth President’s Club. “I come to Presidents Club for access,” he said. “No other event enables dealers to interface with as many other owners within the business – dealers, vendor CEOs, experts that can elevate my business.”
Welcome to Presidents Club 2016
Event emcee and industry veteran, Charlie Vogelheim opened the conference Thursday morning by acknowledging the positive environment for retail automotive and tremendous sales volume of 2015. “This is the best time to learn how to do things differently,” Vogelheim said. “Step back from your dealerships and make some changes while the environment is great,” Vogelheim encouraged participants.
With that introduction, Jared Hamilton, founder and CEO of DrivingSales took the stage. Hamilton opened with a history of innovation trends via an academic lens. With a discussion of both disruptive and sustaining innovations, Hamilton challenged dealers to look at their product and market opportunities by looking at examples outside the industry. He emphasized that in periods of true disruption, strong enterprises, led by very rational management decisions, can still die. Hamilton used the steel industry as an illustration.
“We can shield ourselves from a lot of bruising if we simply look at and learn from other industries,” Hamilton said. He went on to identify dealership metrics indicative of poor performance (despite record sales) and specific problems relating to human capital. According to Hamilton, dealers need to focus on solving their “turnover tax” in order to not only remain relevant, but to better deploy their own sustaining innovations and drive economic returns. He left the audience with his top four turnover triggers and solutions:
- Hired the wrong people – We have to get sophisticated about applicant screening.
- Poor training to get to value – Better training, managers aren’t professional trainers.
- Can’t afford to get to value – Job offerings with staying power (specifically with millennials).
- Poor culture fit – Fix the disconnect between vision and implementation to select and keep the right employees.
Keynote Speaker, Dan Waldschmidt
Dan Waldschmidt, author of “EDGY Conversations,” addressed the audience just before lunch. The inspirational session urged dealers to hold themselves personally accountable for their success by focusing relentlessly on:
- Mindsets of positivity and excellence.
“If you think that mindset doesn’t matter, it’s the reason why you’re not successful,” Waldschmidt said. He demonstrated his commitment to mindset by sharing his meditation and therapy practice and the impact of both on his goals as a business strategist and ultra-runner.
2. Emotional details and thoughtful communication with others.
Waldschmidt addressed the dealer audience with encouragement to get “real” with their customers and employees: humanize the approach with customers, acknowledge employees as the biggest asset to success, and remember that logic doesn’t matter when the client is already emotional. Finally, Waldschmidt said that when things get bad, it’s time to think of others.
Workshops Day 1
- Modern Showroom Floor – (We will cover this workshop in tomorrow’s summary.)
- Dealership Brand as Competitive Advantage
In this workshop, presenters collaborated to identify the elements of car dealership operations that affect and drive both retail and service brand promise to customers. Erik Radle from Miller Ad Agency pushed attendees to consider the little things that make customers tick, and subsequently engage and become loyal.
Dealer-presenters talked about their salespeople’s impact on the representation of the brand and the dealer’s responsibility to design rewards and incentives that drive behaviors consistent with the brand. “We’ve found that people, especially women, put their guard down when our product specialists tell them they aren’t on commission and won’t be paid more if they buy a different car,” Blake Underriner, GM at Walla Walla Valley Honda, shared. The audience quickly engaged in follow-ups to gain personal insight through the intimate setting.
- Creating a Resilient Business
NCM 20 Group Moderator, Tony Albertson, sparked this workshop’s conversation by asking the attendees, “What does a resilient dealership look like? Are you thinking transitionally or TRANSACTIONally?” The group delivered a vision of dealership resiliency based upon three pillars: balance sheet, future-proofing and organizational effectiveness.
The overall tone of the workshop was cautionary. While 2015 reached record sales for auto retail, industry veterans Jon Lancaster and Tony Albertson emphasized the cyclical nature of the business and the importance for dealers to “put fat on their bones” while business is good.
David Spisak (CEO of Reverse Risk), Tom Gage from Cox Automotive, and Ryan Kerrigan of Kerrigan Advisors offered practical insight for dealers to dial-in their operations today, to prepare for tomorrow, and sustain their stores to the future; whether that future is long-term operational effectiveness or getting the very best price from buyer.
Tomorrow, dealers and GMs will attend workshops focused on Used Car Centering, Building a Winning Workforce, Service & Parts Business Innovation, and more.
Keynote Speaker, Jeffery G. Roberts
Attorney Jeff Roberts addressed the dealer audience with a regulatory update. He featured up-to-the-day analysis of CFPB action, commentary from an FTC conference that took place in January of this year, and general legal advice for auto dealers. Roberts has 20 years of experience consulting to auto dealers and groups. DrivingSales News will publish a full feature of his regulatory update next week.
Most Valuable Insights Presentations
In the Most Valuable Insight Competition, three finalists were given five minutes to present research, followed by four minutes of question and answer from dealer-judges. This year’s onstage judges consisted of Eric Savage, dealer principal of Freedom Auto Group; Bradley Lillie, vice president of Gregg Young Chevrolet; and Andrew DiFeo, general manager of Hyundai of St. Augustine. The winner of these presenters will be announced tomorrow. Highlights from the winner’s presentation will be featured next week in DrivingSales News.
- The Language of Closers: Communication that Wins – Jason Jewert from CDK Global
- Effective Employment Branding Drives Better Hiring and Accelerated Business Growth – Adam Robinson from Hireology
- 4 Keys to Driving More Profit from Your New Car Inventory – Brian Finkelmeyer from vAuto
The Most Valuable Insight Competition is designed to reveal and showcase never-before-released research unique in the automotive industry. The competition was created by DrivingSales to foster industry thought leadership for dealers to apply to their operations and achieve competitive advantage.
New Structure, New Location
Presidents Club is an invite-only event designed specifically (and entirely) for owners and general managers. Previously, Presidents Club has taken place in New York City in conjunction with the International Auto Show. At last year’s event, DrivingSales founder and CEO Jared Hamilton emphasized the competitive advantage of customer experience in the increasingly competitive and commoditized landscape for car dealers. This year, the event moved to the exclusive Ritz-Carlton on South Beach, the epitome of customer experience excellence.
Guests at President’s Club 2016 are engaging in a completely revitalized conference structure. The two-day event has just three keynote speakers. The bulk of the intelligence dealers have to gain in Miami this week is through two-hour workshops led by teams of dealers and industry subject matter experts. The new intimate and conversational format will help owners and general managers determine solutions specific to their unique store or group’s intricacies.
Stay tuned for the Day 2 summary. The conference concludes Friday, May 6.