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Jared Hamilton

Jared Hamilton Founder - CEO

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This past week I took a couple days off the hustle of office life and traveled back to sunny Florida to attend ward’s Spring Training event in Tampa.  For all those who didn’t attend, I figure Id share a few words and let you know what you missed.


First, I’m a firm believer in industry events.  One problem quite prevalent in the car business is that we tend to have a fairly insular view of our positions within the industry.  As a whole, we do not look outside our companies, let alone our industry, near enough for inspiration and solutions to our issues.   I view Professional events as one way to remedy this problem (participating in a network like DrivingSales is another).  The events allow us to take a step away from the grind, re-evaluate our position, strategy and be inspired for the return.  However, too often these events become such a busy hub for business dev that they turn into a blur of a few days where your feet throb with pain and the messages delivered were hardly retained.  This was not the case with Spring Training.  While I came back to a pile of work on my desk, the event was a refreshing break where I was able to “sharpen the saw” as Steven Covey would say.


The Wards Spring Training event was small, but it had the right people in attendance, so I would count the size as its strength.  It was a tight group of vendor executives, dealer principles and group executives.  The schedule nice, but not overbearing; most of the speakers presented twice, so you could get to all the good stuff you needed to.  Some favorites were Larry Bruce and Shaun Kniffin presenting on 21st century marketing. Essentially thier messaged boiling down to database segmentation and permission based marketing; something ever dealer should be actively involved in, but few do well.  Jeff Kershner and Matt Belk also did a great job talking about branding yourself online; another timely topic given the ubiquitous nature of user generated content that will shape your brand for you if you don’t get involved.  The event topics didn’t drift into too much into next generation strategies, but rather focused on core concepts and how to move them to the next level.  If you went to learn the next big thing that is going to hit the industry I think you would have been disappointed. However, if you had attended to sharpen skills in areas proven to deliver ROI for your store regardless of the economic slump, then this event was a home run.  (Pardon the pun)   I think the approach in topics was appropriate given the state of the economy.


I must admit, I had meetings to attend to and thus missed the Yankees preseason game and accompanying dinner.  This was a big disappointment for me, but in all the event was a good couple days to recharge and refocus through good conversation with some great people in the industry.  I had had a fun time, learned  important stuff, strengthened some relationships and my feet didn’t hurt!  I assume Wards plans on doing the event again, and if so, Ill be back.

I welcome comments or your opinion on the event.


Andrew DiFeo
Jared, great seeing you at the event! This was my second event of this kind, with my first being the Digital Dealer conference in Orlando last year. There are some distinct differences between the two conferences, and each had its strengths and shortcomings. While attendance was somewhat lacking at the Wards conference, I agree with your statement that it had the right people attending. It was more of an intimate, interactive session vs. the Digital Dealer breakout sessions. While at times the Wards breakout sessions and panel discussions seemed a bit dis-orgranized, looking back on it, this was actually better because there were some great points brought up by people in the audience. As always, I enjoyed hearing Jeff and Cory speak. This was my first time hearing Howard Pollier from Autotrader speak in person, and he was quite engaging. I will definitely be attending this conference next year as well as Digital Dealer...unfortunately missing the session in Vegas due to NADA school in April, but hopefully they will pick another good location for the fall session.

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