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Bryan Armstrong

Bryan Armstrong e-Commerce Director

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Musings and Observations from Orlando

As I sit on the plane home from Orlando, I have so many thoughts running through my mind: excitement at seeing my Family, the conferences ( both VinSolutions Dealer Advisory Board and Digital Dealer#10), observations of the Industry in general and the curiosity of what comes next. So in order to help organize my thoughts as well as share my impressions of the past week I thought I’d write a bit.

First off VinSolutions Dealer Advisory Board - As a “Founding Member” I have been to two per year every year for 3-4 years now?  I have been to those that were heavily “pitchy” with new Partnered or Preferred solutions, that were largely a thank you or included people that were invited just so they could see what it was about and my favorite, those that involved yelling, controversy, brain-storming, and most times consensus and ideas for improvement. This one was of the last variety. It was by far the best collaborative effort I have had the pleasure of participating in with any Vendor for some time now. Then Matt Watson C.T.O. quietly noted all we had concerns about without moderation or coaching and skipped the rest of the Conference to go to work. It was impressive that, having their CTO scheduled to speak and generate huge interest and potential revenue, they would cancel his participation in a huge sales show and send him instead to begin working on issues brought up by their current clients. This commitment to continual improvement speaks volumes in my opinion. Kudos to owning up to their short-comings, thanking us for critiquing them thoroughly and taking steps to change immediately. I would heartily endorse any Company doing the same. 

As far as DD went, I thought Arnold Tijerina made an impressive showing for his first time out. There were a few bugs, such as the fun little SCVNGR game that slowly became more obsessive than four-square going down on the final day as people frantically were trying to garner their last few points as first through third place were closely contested, but I guess even data clouds have storms occasionally.

I saw more G.M.’s and Dealer Principles than I have at most prior conferences which leads me to have hope for the Industry over-all but worried about some of the drivel they were being fed. It’s the politics in this Industry and the people that pass for experts that truly worry me. The name calling, back door deals, and the “wine and dine them” into submission closing approach amazes me. I saw companies hire what could have passed as call girls or flashers to attract attention, throw lavish “exclusive” parties, and literally blind the lambs into believing they need their services. Parts of it epitomized all that is wrong in our industry but I also sensed a changing of the guard. The panel discussions, round tables and non-paid presenters for the most part were great.

A particular favorite of mine was Kevin Frye. What an amazing individual! He shared ideas and best practices that were so far ahead of the curve I think he has a mole at Google. His session “Likes and Links: Which one Stinks and Why Social Media is B.S.” were standing room only and nobody left. I literally was moved to tears in his presentation. I would go again just to see him present.

Shaun Raines’s panel (which I sat on) was the cleanest presentation I’ve ever seen by a Vendor. I don’t believe there was a single mention of his Company ReachLocal,, but rather an attempt to identify the curve and history of all things Digital. While I’m sure I probably got crossed off a view Vendor’s Christmas card list I was honored to be included with the talent and level of expertise that was on the stage. Perhaps even more heartening was the audience participation and the palpable desire for knowledge that was present in the room. I believe Shaun to be one of the “good guy’s” that wants to bring a higher level of integrity and transparency to the Industry and can’t wait to see “Knowledge is Power 2”.

As far as any pearls of wisdom that I would have to share, it would be “always talk to tech support before you sign any Vendor contract” a great quote from Chris in Texas. Imagine that, salespeople don’t always understand their product or its limitations and design features. Hmmm… this sounds familiar.

I’m glad I went, though there was little new stuff out that interested me other than Mobile and text which is going to have to be addressed by someone soon. I’m sure there will be compliancy questions as well as integration and data appendage questions that will arise. 

I called this my Karma session as this Conference has been a great source of innovation, inspiration and networking for me in the past and I felt obligated to give back. I’m not sure of the effect I had, if any, but I can sleep well hoping I touched and improved even one struggling person’s life and set them on a journey to success and a quest for knowledge and betterment.

Of those that went, what did you find?

I am always “an average car guy” in search of above average results and a better way to do things. 

Lindsey Auguste
These types of posts are really helpful for not only those of us who are unable to attend certain events, but to help decide whether or not to budget it in for next time. I'd be interested to know if others felt the same way.
Amy Taggart
Bryan, thanks for such a complete picture - I was at DD9 last fall but had to miss this one. It sounds like what I've been told are "best practices" from the NADA show are starting to bleed over into DD, and that's a shame. But being moved to tears during a session is a good sign!
Bryan Armstrong
There is hope Amy! Dealers are hungry for knowledge and it's not just the lonely ISM any longer who then has to go back and convince a G.M. of the importance of implementation. On the flip side, to many G.M.'s were apt to be wooed by a "sparkly". I'm looking forward to DSES to compare the forums. Thanks for commenting!
Kevin Frye
Great post Bryan, and if I have any say - you will speak again! I believe dealers find the greatest value in what other dealers have to share from experience "in the trenches", and your candid and outspoken presentation was what they were looking for. BTW - great job on answering my trivia question with "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", lol. Looking forward to seeing you fight with Rich Lucy at the next VIN DAB, and hearing you share your wisdom at DD11!
Shaun Raines
Bryan, thanks again for serving as a panelist during my session. You were one of those very talented, passionate people on the stage. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and you will not only see Knowledge Is Power 2, you will be on the panel again! I really appreciate how you live it out loud and share from the abundance of experience you have. Dealer listen and learn from "average car guy's" like you. Not surprised to hear of Kevin Frye's great work in Orlando. I heard he gave me a shout out during the session and I'm truly sorry to have missed his presentation. Some have heard me speak of the lack of diamonds among all the coal in the car biz. Kevin Frye is one of the diamonds! Thanks for sharing Bryan. Be blessed, be focused! Shaun

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