Channel | Industry

40 Visions for the Future

The young executives recognized for ‘40 Under 40’ honors share their visions for the future of automotive retail and finance, give tribute to their mentors and advice for future generations of industry leaders.
By: Tariq Kamal

40 Visions for the Future

In an age in which progress is measured not in small steps but leaps and bounds, the expectations on those entering the automotive arena are just as demanding. Along with keeping up with the changing demands of their clients and end users, this generation of 40 under 40 are also tasked with paving a clear path to the future. For this issue, the editors and publishers of Agent Entrepreneur set out to recognize a select group of young executives whose vision, hard work and accomplishments have set them apart as the industry’s best and brightest.

The announcement of this issue resulted in more than 100 nominations, most of which presented a clear and convincing case for the inclusion of an industrious and, recognizable member of the industry. The final roster is comprised of those who stood out for having made lasting changes to their companies, their clients’ businesses or the industry as a whole.

Once named, the nominees were asked to answer a series of questions, starting with what drew them to the industry and whom they credit with teaching them the intricacies of corporate, dealer and agency culture. They were also asked how they believe their generation will drive advances in technology and customer service and offer advice for the generation to follow.

Without exception, they answered with confidence and clarity, and a number of common themes emerged. It is clear that changes in the automotive industry will continue to revolve around customer service at every stage of the buying, financing and administration process. We also learned that relying on the advice and counsel of one’s elders is paramount to success, and new entrants into the field will have to dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to their work and their customers to enjoy any measure of success in a competitive — but rewarding — industry.

AE Magazine Staff

Production
AE Magazine

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

We all agree that David Gesualdo is an expert on the ins and outs of what’s happening in this industry. Over the past year and a half, we have learned more about the auto finance segment — from both him and all of you — than we ever could have expected. Working for Agent Entrepreneur has given us the chance to connect with hundreds of companies spanning the entire industry, and I feel we have a very distinct and powerful outlook because of this. In our mind, no one is a competitor or leading company per se, but all an equally important part of a very large, continually evolving environment.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

This issue of AE magazine proves, better than anything else could, that our generation is at the forefront of this industry and the country’s workforce as a whole. Millennials are now the largest, most diverse generation in the U.S. and we have been shaped by technology. It is clearly evident that more and more companies are embracing this new norm and moving operations to a more technology-driven environment, and we don’t expect that rush to slow down anytime soon. Statistics have also shown that our generation is staying with their early-career employers longer, thus accounting for all the young, successful people highlighted in this issue. Now more than ever, college students are landing jobs and, rather than bouncing around, they are securing a permanent and valuable place within their companies and working their way up. We believe this will result in a more knowledgeable, hard-working group of people than the industry has ever seen.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

The individuals who succeed in this industry have three main qualities: a passion for what they do, the ability to evolve with the industry and a work ethic like no other. We have spoken with countless executives at our shows and about articles they have been a part of, and so many have expressed a desire for more employees who are willing to give their all for their company. So, that, we think, is the most important thing to keep in mind when making your place within the industry.

Greg Arroyo

Editorial Director
F&I and Showroom and Auto Dealer Today

What drew you to the automotive industry?

A job opening. I was working for a public relations firm when an old colleague of mine told me F&I and Showroom was looking for a new editor. Having been a journalist before making the leap into marketing and PR, I wanted back in. But I didn’t expect to find this small but powerful segment of the automotive business.

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

I’d have to say David Gesualdo, my publisher. I’ve always had good reporter instincts, but David taught me the business of magazine publishing.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

That’s a great question. There are certainly a lot of supposed experts calling for big changes in this industry. I don’t doubt things will change, although I’m not sure it will change as dramatically as they say. What slows progress down is a lot of these experts fail to consider that the industry has spent decades streamlining processes and introducing new tools to make the F&I experience as efficient as possible. When these experts start listening and understanding the hoops F&I managers must jump through to complete a transaction, I think we’ll start to see change that benefits both consumers and dealers. And I do think any changes made will be driven by the general agent community. They are the key.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

Listen to the veterans of this industry so you don’t waste time replaying old mistakes.

If you are part of a family business, what are the key elements of making it successful?

Treating and caring for employees like family. I can’t stress this enough.

What do you like to do in your time off?

Going to the local batting cages for a few rounds. I’m a baseball nut and nothing releases stress better than smashing a few baseballs.

Mike Bacosa

CNA National
Senior Claims Manager

What drew you to the automotive industry?

My dad had an old Jeep that he was always working on. There was never a moment that I wasn’t out there with him, watching and learning how to fix it. I was always interested in anything mechanical. It was a running joke in my family that, if I got anything new for my birthday or Christmas, I would take it apart to see how it worked before I would even play with it.

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

This one is easy: Don Oliver. I have been part of CNA National’s team for over 18 years and have had the pleasure of working with Don the entire time. I admire how he is able to look at a situation from different points of view. He motivates me to think outside the box and encourages me to move out of my comfort zone. I feel that I have grown as a leader as a result of his support, advice and encouragement.

Where do you see the industry going and how to you believe your generation will drive any changes?

The industry is quickly moving more of its focus to hybrid and electric technology. In my opinion, the only restriction that is keeping this technology from really taking off is the battery technology. We are seeing improvements in battery technology every year and, hopefully, we will see a breakthrough in electric energy storage that will make this technology less expensive and safer and provide better storage capacity. I believe my generation has the duty to take fresh ideas and push the initiative to find that next big leap in electric technology.

What do you like to do on your time off?

My family and I love the beach. Plopping down in the sand with a cold drink in my hand and watching my kids enjoy the surf is my idea of a vacation.

George Belokas

Actuary & Assistant Vice President
GPW & Associates

What drew you to the automotive industry?

As a child, I always enjoyed fixing cars with my dad and brother. After graduating college, the opportunity to apply my mathematics background to the automotive industry as a property and casualty actuary with a focus in finance and insurance products was the perfect fit. My childhood experiences of troubleshooting the complexities of an automobile has proven hugely valuable in understanding and applying actuarial pricing and reserving techniques to various finance and insurance products and programs.

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

A great mentor is passionate and enthusiastic about his or her work. This person is open to share knowledge and expertise but values the ideas and opinions of others. Great mentors reward accomplishments and hold their mentees accountable. At GPW & Associates, I am surrounded by great mentors. They are professionals dedicated to the growth of the industry and success of GPW & Associates with many years of experience. The partners and collaborators of GPW & Associates have found the perfect balance of providing guidance while allowing autonomy for independent problem-solving.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

We are beginning to see the use of vehicle-tracking devices as a method for insurers to monitor driving habits with the goal of better predicting personal automobile insurance losses. Certain consumers welcome the idea and are excited for an opportunity to lower their insurance premiums while others are concerned about the potential privacy infringement. The driving-habit data captured in these devices could prove extremely helpful in predicting losses and in developing new service contract products. I think many years will pass before these methods come to fruition and are found to be useful in the industry, but I am excited for the possibilities and new challenges.

What do you like to do in your time off?

I love to travel with my wife. We have visited some amazing locations, including Hanakapi’ai Falls in Kauai and Grace Bay in the Turks and Caicos Islands. When I’m not traveling or working, I have a tough time keeping still. I run with a great group every Saturday morning and enjoy playing ice hockey with my Sunday evening team.

Mike Burgiss

Founder & Vice President
MakeMyDeal

What drew you to the automotive industry? 

Two things drew me to automotive: First, the power of the Internet and the changes it is bringing to the industry. My first job in automotive was with Autotrader, which is one of the greatest examples of this. Second, automotive is one of the largest industries that is still primarily a family-based, entrepreneurial, small-business environment. It’s the classic American Dream to me, where you can create a business based on the value and merits of your work.

Who has been your greatest mentor and why? 

I’ve been fortunate to have many great mentors. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with Dale Pollak — a true inspiration and entrepreneurial icon in automotive. Years ago, he created his own successful company that revolutionized the way dealers bought and sold inventory, and his depth and breadth of insights were invaluable to me as I led the creation of MakeMyDeal.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

Our industry is continuing its move online. The Internet revolutionized the way dealers and manufacturers advertise cars and the way consumers shop for cars. Now, the last part of the process that hasn’t been fully brought into the digital age — the purchase process — is starting its move online. There will be no bigger change in automotive than the shift that will occur in the next few years to an online-enabled process for the purchase of the vehicle and F&I products. It is my generation, and those who come after us, who are going to help bring that to reality.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry? 

The opportunities to grow new businesses and make existing ones even more successful in the automotive industry have never been as great as they are today. There are so many automotive companies that reward hard work, creativity and integrity. Find one and find your champion inside that organization to help you grow your career.

If you are part of a family business, what are the key elements of making it successful? 

MakeMyDeal is a part of Cox Enterprises, a company several generations in existence that remains family-owned. Because it is still family-owned, there is a “people first” culture that I believe is a huge part of its ongoing success.

What do you like to do in your time off? 

I enjoy spending time with my family, camping and mountain biking.

Steven Burns

CEO
Key Royal Financial Services Inc.

What drew you to the automotive industry?

My mom has been in the industry for the past 37 years; I grew up around the industry. From a young age, I fell in love with the products, and I still get the same feeling today when a new product comes out. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

This is a hard question. There have been many people I consider mentors throughout my life and career. When you say greatest, two come to mind: my Dad and Keith Orr. My dad is my go-to person for life questions. He taught me to compete, to love, to stay humble and respect everyone. Keith has become a great friend and mentor over the years. He saw something in me from Day One and gave me my first higher-level position. He believed in me, pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me the business on a deeper level. All of this has led me to where I am today.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

The industry is moving forward and I don’t see it slowing anytime soon. We are all about developing and embracing new technology, products and ideas. We like simplicity and good processes. You will see enhanced sales and service customer experiences, better finance paperwork processes, enhanced customer security and many more. … Oh, and we promise not to replace all the coffeemakers with espresso machines!

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

Commit, dedicate time to understand and do the hard things. This industry gives you what you put into it. Make the phone calls, stay late if need be and never stop learning.

What do you like to do in your time off?

Wait! There is time off? Just kidding. When I do unplug, I love to travel with my family and friends, finding that hidden spot, golfing, boating and anything outside. The friends know me as a “fix anything” type. So in my spare time, if you have something that’s broken, I will come fix it.

Cliff Childers

Account Executive
National Automotive Experts

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

I have had a few great mentors along my career path in the automotive industry, but the most influential is someone that I currently work with. This person focuses on personal growth and leadership. They subscribe to the belief that leadership boils down to one’s ability to influence others. If the people you lead believe in your vision, then you will create an atmosphere and culture where people will always want to better themselves and be part of a successful team. People will challenge each other to perfect their “craft” and get better each and every day.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

I envision the Millennial generation having a huge impact on the car-buying experience. I feel that this generation is looking for immediate information in a format that is accessible through their mobile device or online. Most customers walk into a dealership informed, having done extensive research on the vehicle they plan to buy. The challenge we are faced with is how to separate ourselves from the competition without a face-to-face interaction.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

The one constant in the automotive industry is change; I learn something new each and every day. I would challenge the younger generation never to allow themselves to become stagnant with their industry knowledge and approach. Welcome the changes, learn from them and then figure out how you can apply the knowledge you gain. You should make it your goal to become a true industry expert, and continue to bring value to your clients and dealerships through your research and experiences. Also, preparation is the key to success. Preparation will make for a professional delivery and separate you from the competition.

What do you like to do in your time off?

My fiancée and I are very active. We enjoy spending time at the lake during the summers. When I am not at the lake, I enjoy biking, golfing and playing softball.

Brandon Cohen

Director of Operations
Orion Service Corp.

What drew you to the automotive industry?

John Braganini, co-owner of Great Lakes Companies and president of Orion Service Corp. Post-graduation, I ran a business development center for a large automotive group while gaining four years of invaluable experience. John then approached me with an opportunity to run his administration company, an industry I had no prior experience in. I figured if John believes in me and is offering an opportunity to learn from the best, then run with it! Richard Branson once said, “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes — then learn how to do it later.” I might not have continued in the automobile industry if it weren’t for John and his vision.

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

Mark Visotsky, director of operations at CSCI. This can be a challenging business to grasp without guidance or a road map. Mark and I have daily conversations about the industry and how to run an admin company. He has let me crash and burn to learn lessons, but he has also sat for hours teaching me how to read accrual financial statements and loss data. Mark will always be someone I can lean on for advice, both personally and professionally.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

Never stop learning! I graduated from Western Michigan University six years ago and recently decided to obtain my MBA from DeVos Business Graduate School at Northwood University, the same program John completed. Be sure to attend industry conferences, watch webinars, read Agent Entrepreneur magazine and soak up any knowledge you can, whether it’s industry-related or not.

If you are part of a family business, what are the key elements of making it successful?

I don’t work for a family-owned business, but it feels like family. Great Lakes Companies has an average employee turnover of about 10 years, which is pretty amazing. Key elements I see and feel are teamwork, being able to ask questions freely, company outings, great owners/co-workers and, most importantly, respect. I can ask co-workers at any of our other companies for assistance or favors and never have trouble getting a response. John and Ed Overbeck run a first-class organization with top-notch people!

Brian Crisorio

Vice President of Marketing
United Development Systems Inc.

What drew you to the automotive industry?

Finishing my business degree at the turn of the century, I was drawn to the automotive F&I space after seeing firsthand the career opportunity it presented. My father, Randy Crisorio, had built UDS into a real contender on every level in the F&I performance arena, and I believed that my second-generation perspective could help propel it into something even more special.

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

My father has also been my greatest mentor in business and beyond. His 40-plus years of experience and knowledge as a leader has taught me countless lessons that will assist me throughout my career. This business is based so much on relationships built on integrity, trust and commitment; without those traits derived from him, I would not be where I am today.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

The industry is changing, there is no doubt about it. Technology has become the standard and is constantly evolving. The automotive retail customer is changing as younger generations make up a larger percentage of customers. Compliance and oversight are here to stay. I could go on and on about the dynamic landscape, but suffice to say, the under-40 generation of leaders understands technology, their peers and regulations, and our sights are set on promoting a consumer-friendly, interactive, process-driven and (more) fun F&I experience with the profits to match.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

A young entrant into the world of automotive F&I must understand a few basic principles to persevere: First, it is highly competitive and demands a commitment to overachieving. Second, immerse yourself in the industry to stay informed as a true professional would be. Finally, doing it the right way is the only way. Stay between the lines and realize integrity and reputation are critical; the industry has a great memory.

What do you like to do in your time off?

In my free time, I enjoy spending time with family and friends the only way a native Floridian knows how: in the sun, on the beach or on the water. Visiting a nearby Caribbean island works just as well.

Jeff Crisorio

Vice President of Sales
United Development Systems Inc.

Who has been your greatest mentor and why? 

Without question, my father has been my greatest mentor. He’s an industry veteran of over 40 years and very well-respected throughout the country. His work ethic trickles down the corporate ladder and motivates me — and the rest of our team — to always strive for more. Also, he’s masterful at identifying areas of opportunity and capitalizing on them, which is something I try to replicate.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry? 

Be tenacious and stay hungry. This is an exciting yet challenging industry that we’re in, and it can be very rewarding for those willing to go the extra mile. The competition is fierce, so finding a way to differentiate yourself is the key to success. One way to accomplish this is to always be accessible. It sounds trivial, but issues, needs and opportunities present themselves at times that are not always the most convenient for us.

If you are part of a family business, what are the key elements of making it successful? 

Working in a family business adds a dynamic that can create trying and challenging times. The key for us has always been communication. It is imperative that we always know where one another stands so that we’re on the same page and working toward a common goal.

What do you like to do in your time off?

I enjoy traveling in my spare time and any outdoor activity — boating, fishing and camping, to name a few.

Brad Davis

Vice President of Sales
Norman & Company Inc./Classic Products

What drew you to the automotive industry?

My family has been in the auto business for my entire life. Growing up watching my sister as a finance director for Honda, I knew it was just a matter of time before I entered the industry. As a former sales manager and owner of a mortgage company, it was a pretty seamless transition to the auto retail and administration side.

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

The seamless transition can also be attributed to my greatest mentors: my father, Jerry Davis, and his partner, Norman Ferenz. With over 30 years in the industry, their expertise and wisdom have significantly reduced my learning curve in our business. Having these two industry veterans to collaborate ideas and opportunities with has been a huge advantage for me.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

Technology has made huge advances in our industry. However, even with the technological advances, it is still a relationship business. Moving forward, wealth building for dealers and agents through reinsurance and retro programs will play an even larger role to help strengthen our already established and new relationships.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

For young people entering the business, I would suggest to them to keep their eyes and ears open. There are a lot of great leaders and innovators in our industry and always something new to learn from them. To treat everyone with respect, from an agent just beginning to the seasoned veteran. For being a large industry, we are a very small network. Conduct yourself as a professional and always do the right thing.

If you are part of a family business, what are the key elements of making it successful?

Being a part of a family business, Jerry and Norm have set a precedent and expectations are always high. Our goal as an administrator is to create long-lasting personal and profitable relationships. As we all know, this is only done through training and hard work.

What do you like to do in your time off?

While I am not at work, I enjoy spending time with my fiancée, family and friends. I am an avid boater and fisherman and love being on the water.

Dylan Doran

Owner
Western Fidelity

What drew you to the automotive industry?

The auto industry is in my blood. I started washing cars in high school and began selling them full-time shortly after graduation. I guess what has always attracted me to this industry is the competitive environment. After playing competitive sports growing up, the thought of sitting in an office somewhere doing the same thing, day in day out, was unconscionable. In our business, there are just never two days that are the same, and there are no barriers to success. If you want to be successful, you can. Just work.

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

I was fortunate enough to be influenced at a very young age by industry executives and car dealers. I grew up in a small town in Southern Oregon, and Lithia Automotive Group was founded and has its corporate headquarters there. In my early 20s, I held a corporate training and acquisition role with Lithia, where I was involved with many of the group’s early acquisitions shortly after going public. That experience helped me develop skills that have been instrumental in my career.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

There is no question the industry is evolving at a rapid pace. Technology is and will continue to be a driver of change. The customer experience is also central to what is driving change in our industry. I see the future with less traditional F&I offices, and more stores migrating to a brand specialist taking the customer from the meet and greet to the delivery without a formal turn to a traditional F&I manager. Technology will all be a part of that. I visualize brand specialists with some version of a tablet presenting products to consumers during the car sale and pushing a button that uploads the selection straight to the DMS, where a document processor will be preparing all the necessary paperwork. The customer may or may not see the document processor just to finalize the paperwork, but not to be offered additional products. Like it or not, the consumers want to complete more of the transaction via the Web without having to spend as much face-to-face time as they did in the past.

What do you like to do in your time off?

My spare time is limited, so when I have it, it’s spent with my family. My wife and two daughters are very active with soccer, skiing and all things outdoors. I coach one girls’ soccer team and we ski on Sundays.

Kate Eltringham

Vice President of Marketing
GWC Warranty

What drew you to the automotive industry?

I’ve always had a soft spot for the auto industry because my father sold used cars early in his career and shared stories of that time with me. What really drew me to GWC Warranty was the chance to work alongside such high-caliber people.

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

I’ve been lucky enough to have had two mentors help guide me in this space. Mike Melby, our vice president of strategy, has been a great sounding board and advisor, particularly early in my time in this industry. Rob Glander, our president and CEO, has really helped me grow professionally. He has helped me become a stronger leader and helped me to recognize and play to my strengths. Both Mike and Rob continue to be great supporters and strong examples of how to be successful.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

I think that technology will continue to shape the automotive industry and do so at an accelerated pace. My generation is the first that has an appreciation for a time without smartphones and social media while also understanding how powerful technology can be at bringing people together and positively transforming how businesses operate. Finding new ways to drive efficiency and using technology while balancing that with personal touch will be what my generation brings to this space.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

Work hard, continue learning and hold yourself accountable. Take advantage of opportunities offered to you, but don’t wait for them to fall in your lap. Go after what you want.

What do you like to do in your time off?

I try to spend as much time as I can with family and friends. I really enjoy going to concerts and I am a big sports fan. But nothing is better than spending time with my husband, T.J., and our dog, Pearl.

Vinesha Frey

Operations Manager
Dealer Admin Services

What drew you to the automotive industry?

Joel Kansanback and Bill Kelly gave me a remarkable opportunity in 2012. After being with ADG for two years, they came to me with a challenge: They were starting an admin company, Dealer Admin Services, and needed someone to run the back end of it. With guidance, they trusted me with the logistics of getting it up and running.

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

As the president of Dealer Admin Services, Bill Kelly has served as a mentor in helping me turn my job into a career. Bill has demonstrated patience in teaching me about the industry while at the same time encouraging me to step outside of my comfort zone to make decisions and give input. He has taught me a great deal, not only about the logistics of growing an admin company, but about problem-solving, management and the importance of understanding the gray area.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

I think the industry will continue to go in the direction of increased technology and unlimited options. One thing I have learned about this industry is that less is not more. There is no limit to new products, technology and processes. The generation before us brings knowledge to the table that can only come with time. Our generation brings an understanding of the zeitgeist of the 21st century, the Digital Revolution. On top of that, we have a renewed sense of determination that comes with a fresh perspective. That understanding and determination paired with the knowledge of those that have come before us has limitless possibilities. From the way in which a dealership interacts with customers to the product and training capabilities brought forth by an agency or admin company, we are moving in a powerful direction driven by technology and options.

What do you do in your time off?

My husband and I welcomed a baby girl in February, so she takes up a significant amount of our time off! We also spend a lot with our parents, allowing them take to part in the joys of being grandparents. Currently, any time not spent with family is spent training for my upcoming half-marathon.

Eric Gesualdo

National Sales Director
MG Business Media

What drew you to the automotive industry?

Even though I work on the publishing side of the industry today, I started my career on the dealership side. As a young car enthusiast, I enjoyed working with all different brands of cars. In the course of my 18 years on the retail side, I held various positions and had the opportunity to see the inner workings of car dealerships and gain a lot of experience. I made several stops and often ran into someone I knew or worked with in the past. What I like best about my present career is that it gives me the opportunity to serve and help to educate all the people I once worked with.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

In my opinion, success at any job in any industry requires commitment and an excellent work ethic. In addition, one has to work smart and keep up with the changing environment. I also think that working with customers and colleagues with integrity is the most important measure of success. Do what you say you are going to do and deliver the best product and customer-service experience possible. And, last but not least, I have always enjoyed connecting with customers and people I work with on a personal level.

What do you like to do in your time off?

I enjoy spending time with my family. We like to attend various Jeep events together throughout the year. We always make time to take a few family trips each year — mostly cruises, as they offer a variety of activities and opportunities to relax. I also enjoy going to visit my wife’s aunt and uncle, who both work for Orange County Sheriff’s Office in Orlando. Joining them on a police ride-along never gets old. There is always something new and exciting to see and watch unfold. I have also started to play golf again, which is a lot of fun and very relaxing, as long as I don’t let my lack of skill derail me from enjoying the game.

If you are part of a family business, what are the key elements of making it successful?

As a family member, I share and take pride in making our company successful. The key is to surround yourself with great people who want to work with you to help you achieve your goals and grow the company. Also, maintaining a fun and relaxed work environment helps people want to come to work and enjoy working with each other in the long term.

Jason Gillette

Vice President of Sales and Marketing
StoneEagle

What drew you to the automotive industry?

I worked for five years in sales with a small software firm and was fortunate to join StoneEagle in 2002. As a technology provider to this rapidly changing industry, it is very satisfying to deliver modern solutions that many agents, administrators and dealers rely on daily to boost operational efficiencies and profitability.

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

My father, Jay Gillette. His strong work ethic centers around integrity, honesty and loyalty. He balances hard work with a tremendous dedication and devotion to his family and friends. I am grateful to work with him today and truly appreciate his guidance.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

Choose a company with a clear strategy and vision. Stay true to your core values and apply them not just to yourself but to your employer, your colleagues and your clients. There is no substitute for hard work and persistence.

What do you like to do in your time off?

My free time revolves around my amazing wife and our four kids, all under the age of 10. When I have time off I enjoy golfing, fishing, hunting and traveling.

Ryan Hanlon

National Reinsurance Specialist
Portfolio

What drew you to the automotive industry?

I went to work for a check guarantee company in the ‘90s and ended up selling services to a lot of car dealers. Later, I went to work for a large auto group in Los Angeles and, later, transitioned to working for an agency that served dealers.

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

I don’t know that I could just pick one. I’ve been really blessed in this area. Jeremy Lux was my mentor in the retail car business. He taught me all about accountability, pushing for more, team-building and how to be successful in a hypercompetitive market. Once I started working on the agency side, Steve Burke taught me all about how to make reinsurance easily understandable by a dealer. In 2008, I transitioned to the management team for Portfolio, where Mark Geweke and Graye Wolfe mentored and supported me along that journey of forming and managing ARCs, how to develop and nurture agency relationships and how to competently manage a book of business that operates in multiple states. In 2014, I started working with our Eastern managing director, Greg Hoffman, and continue to learn, to this day, effective techniques that help our dealers and agency relationships.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

I see increased consolidation going forward with dealers, providers and large agencies. I also believe that dealers will continue to demand more from their providers, including more transparency. That, not coincidentally, is one of the reasons that I believe our team is positioned to continue taking market share. My generation will continue to press for technological improvements and, over time, I believe we will see increased diversity in the agent business.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

Work ridiculously hard and don’t burn bridges. Think relational, not transactional. Master the challenges in front of you and the task at hand and bigger opportunities will generally appear. And have fun along the way — you’re going to be working for a long time!

What do you like to do in your time off?

My wife and I have a blended family with four kids age 7–12. So we do a lot with our wolf pack. Separately, I enjoy travel, scuba diving, cigars and enjoying all the fantastic outdoor activities in Southern California, and I’m actively involved with my church.

Chris Howell

President
Certified Finance & Insurance

What drew you to the automotive industry? 

My father started this Agency in 1989.  He was a pioneer of GAP Insurance and a great salesman.  I can remember traveling from dealership to dealership at the age of twelve, and begging the sales managers to take me for a test drive in the new BMWs. My father would always dress me up to go to work with him, and I attempted to sell my first car when I was 15 years old at a Mazda dealership in Louisiana.    One time a customer actually thought I worked at the dealership as a salesperson.  I played along, going over the features of the car until it came time for the test drive and I told him he would have to drive because I was not old enough.  So needless to say, I have been around car dealerships for a long time.

Who has been your greatest mentor and why? 

I can’t name just one.  I have been fortunate enough to work with some of the most talented minds in this industry and have learned a lot.  I have the utmost respect for Car Dealers, who our my clients.  They understand every aspect of business from Advertising, Inventory, Financials, Accounting, Customer Service, Human Resources,  and Management.  There is nothing a successful car dealer can’t do.  If you want to learn how a real business operates, go to a dealership that sells 200+ cars a month.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes? 

The industry is changing at a rapid pace.  I see our generation forcing the business to move even faster with new technology.  Becoming paperless has been a major hurdle for the Automotive Finance and Insurance industry.  But, my forecast is that our industry will be conducting 100% paperless transactions in just a few years.  Implementing new paperless processes and speed will take this industry to new levels.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry? 

This industry is built on relationships, so surround yourself with as many successful people as you possibly can.

Zach Hughes

President
Capital Companies Inc.

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

My father would definitely be the greatest influence to my success in the automotive industry. He has been around since the finance and insurance part of the industry was created. As the 50th employee for Pat Ryan Associates, he became their vice president of business development. He was one of the best in the country at developing F&I managers at the time.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

I believe the processes within the industry will be highly regulated. This will cause us to have to make our business transactions precise 100% of the time. I believe that the F&I office will be done virtually by software at most if not all dealerships to ensure compliance with all customers. This is something that we are very aware of at Capital Automotive, and we are taking the proper steps to help our current dealers with compliant transactions.

If you are part of a family business, what are the key elements of making it successful?

I believe that we are highly successful due to the groundwork that my father has laid for our company. His wisdom is a key factor to ensuring that we have a very successful foundation for our companies. This, coupled with the high energy of our staff and placing people in the right positions internally and in the field, has helped us not only be very successful for our existing dealers but grow year after year in new dealer business.

What do you like to do in your time off?

In my time off I am a competitive obstacle course racer; more specifically, Spartan Races. This year I will compete for the OCR World Championships. We run obstacle courses filled with trails, walls, mud, barbed wire, sandbag and log carries, jumping over fire and things like that.

Jeremy Lindsey

COO
Alpha Warranty Services

What drew you to the automotive industry?

My grandfather was a general manager and F&I manager for nearly his entire career. My father worked in sales for many years as well. When I was 23, I started my own dealership and learned what it takes to be successful in a small business. I later was bought out by my business partner and had an opportunity to join Alpha Warranty Services, which was still in its infancy. I worked in claims, risk, sales and, ultimately, my current role as chief operating officer.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

Some industries are characteristically more resistant to change. We can be notoriously stubborn in the automotive industry. Of course, an industry’s largest consumer groups are going to drive innovation and what sells — just ask businesses like Blockbuster, Kodak, Blackberry and taxi companies. Millennials have now surpassed Gen X as the second-largest consumer group of new-car purchases — something they weren’t originally expected to do as the generation that was pegged as not interested in owning cars. Now they are projected to account for 40% of all new-car purchases by 2020. We Millennials are consumed with all things tech. I believe that tech-enabled vehicles will continue to gain in popularity. We expect a different buying experience, as well, in the Information Age. I believe the industry is slowly heading in this direction and more of the vehicle purchase process, including the F&I process, will be completed online. We already know that minimizing the time that consumers spend in the dealership is important, but I believe it will become imperative for dealerships to change in order to succeed with a younger and younger consumer. Our product offerings and product processes as providers need to support these changes as well.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

Never stop learning. We have some great trailblazers in this industry who possess so much valuable information. Learn everything you can from them and, more importantly, be teachable. Having said that, innovation means considering ideas that might not be commonplace in our industry.

What do you like to do in your time off?

During my free time, you can find me fishing, golfing, watching or playing sports, enjoying the latest technology and, of course, spending a lot of quality time with my wife and two kids.

Aaron Lunt, JD, CPCU, ARe

Assistant General Counsel & Head of Regulatory Affairs
The Warranty Group Inc.

What drew you to the automotive industry?

I sort of fell into the automotive industry via insurance. After law school, I worked for a Chicago law firm that had several large insurance company clients. One such client was Zurich North America, who ultimately offered me an in-house position. Through that role I had a bit of exposure to the automotive segment, specifically F&I products. From there I was recruited to join The Warranty Group. The Warranty Group’s strength is the extended warranty and insurance space, for automobiles as well as a wide range of consumer products.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

Looking through a legal and regulatory lens, I see the industry facing a changing landscape. Our industry has many regulators at the state and federal level who directly or indirectly regulate and influence our business. State insurance departments, the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are just a few examples of regulators influencing the changing regulatory landscape. Furthermore, dealer franchising laws are under increasing pressure in state legislatures due to the advent of the Tesla manufacturer-to-consumer distribution model. All these items, plus several I didn’t mention, can create anxiety for our industry. The opportunity for younger professionals is to help the industry navigate and thrive amidst these changes.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

Embrace change. Nothing is constant except change. Embrace the opportunity and suppress the anxiety that change brings — and look for those moments in which you can lead and influence others to benefit your organization.

What do you like to do in your time off?

I love to spend time with my beautiful wife and three children — all boys! We enjoy playing sports, board games and swimming. My day gets busy as soon as I get home! I feel God has blessed me with a beautiful, loving family and I truly enjoy spending time with them.

Kevin Macek

Product Specialist
United States Warranty Corp.

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

That would have to be my uncle, Mark Macek, president of USWC. Although I didn’t start out in the automotive industry with USWC, whichever sector of the industry I was in, he always encouraged me to learn as much as I could about the business. By doing that, and constantly keeping me up to date on new happenings, I was able to fully grasp an understanding of the many facets of the business, how they are all related to each other and how they depend upon each other as well.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

With the increase of Millennials in the market, the industry is slowly but surely evolving into a technology-driven arena. This is why we are constantly developing products and services at USWC that cater to this new wave of technology which will make the buying process much easier and friendlier for the consumers. If you aren’t keeping up with the changes in the market and technology you’ll be left behind very quickly.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

It may be hard at first, and you will take some lumps out there, but don’t give up. Once you make it past the initial phase of your career and become more comfortable in your role, make it a challenge each and every day to better yourself and strive for the next level. Also, make sure to learn as much as you can from those above you. Find out what makes them successful and lean on them for advice.

If you are part of a family business, what are the key elements of making it successful?

Each family member is highly invested in the success and longevity of the company. Also, you feel more accountable to each of the other family members as well as the rest of the employees to ensure the business is doing the best it can. Another successful element is making sure each employee is made to feel as though they are a part of the family. They are therefore invested in the success of the business as well. With this mindset, we have very little turnover and have numerous tenured employees at USWC.

Jim Maxim Jr.

President
MaximTrak

What drew you to the automotive industry?

My family has been in the automobile business since 1978, so it really does run in the genes! I never intended to get into the car business; in fact, my background is in corporate finance and mergers and acquisitions. However, the opportunities in this industry for entrepreneurs are boundless and the car biz has a way of sticking with you — and after a while, you realize you are having a ton of fun.

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

Without a doubt, it has been my father. Not only did he teach me this business but he has provided me every opportunity to utilize my talents and grow the company. He believed in me before anyone else did and had the faith that we could achieve whatever we put our minds toward accomplishing. Having that kind of mentor and confidence as you walk through life is absolutely priceless. You can’t put a number on that.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

The retail automotive industry is going to go through massive changes, in my opinion, over the next five to 10 years. Cars will not be retailed in the same manner as they have been for the last 75 years. Generation X (my generation) is the valuable bridge between the Baby Boomers and the Millennials. We get technology but we are also keenly aware of a more traditional world, 30 years ago, without cellphones and flat screens.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

Learn the business first and foremost. Go work in a dealership — for free, if you have to — but learn the business from the ground floor up. It has made the biggest difference for me personally.

If you are part of a family business, what are the key elements of making it successful?

Respect and role definition. Everyone has a valuable part to play, especially in a family-run company. Define areas for unlimited growth and always value others’ contributions as equally as the CEO’s!

What do you like to do in your time off?

I like to spend time with my wife and two boys and we love to travel as well as make time to connect with friends. I am pretty active around the seasons and enjoy activities like golf, skiing, fishing and physical training.

David Neuenschwander

Vice President
National Automotive Experts

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

Early in my career, a former boss took me under his wing and really taught me the difference between management and leadership. I learned from the best about the importance of delivering first-class service and planning for future success. Success does not just happen — it is a result of effort, preparation and unwavering commitment to always doing the right thing. Sustainable success is hard to attain but can be achieved by challenging yourself to get better each day.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

The automotive industry is very different today than it was 10 years ago. The industry will be very different in 10 years than it is now. My generation has the opportunity to be a catalyst for change to ensure tomorrow’s success. Today’s car buyers demand a different experience in the buying process. Buyers rely on technology every day. Not only do we need to embrace technology but we have to think ahead and find ways to make the car-buying experience more efficient and convenient. As long as we challenge the status quo and force different decisions, the industry will continue to thrive and achieve higher levels of customer satisfaction.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

I would tell a young person that the automotive industry can be challenging but it is also very rewarding. Work hard, take your craft seriously and be different. Success will come from preparation, competency and always putting the customer first.

If you are part of a family business, what are the key elements of making it successful?

Reputation is everything — nothing is more important than delivering on your word. Putting your customer first will lead to long-term success. If you take care of the customer, the customer will take care of you.

What do you like to do in your time off?

I spend as much time as possible with my wife and three daughters, which means I spend a lot of my “off” time coaching and watching my girls play soccer. I am very active and enjoy challenging myself physically, which provides me with a much-needed mental break from work.

John Nisson

Vice President of Operations
PermaPlate

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

My father, Bill Nisson. The opportunity to work with him has given me better perspective into his ingenuity, business savvy and passion for the people within our organization, as well as the customers we assist daily.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

The industry continues to become more transparent and customer-focused. My generation will drive efficiency gains through leveraging technology innovations as well as implementing best practices to improve the customer experience. This industry isn’t one to change quickly, but those too slow to evolve will find themselves missing opportunities with the next generation.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

While respecting the past, don’t be afraid to challenge the sacred cows. I think that’s the advantage of coming in with a fresh perspective. It provides the opportunity to ask a lot of questions — not only how things are done, but why are they done a certain way in the first place. If the answer is, “They’ve always been that way,” then there is a 95% chance that there is a better way of doing it.

If you are part of a family business, what are the key elements of making it successful?

Open and honest communication is at the core of our success. Even though it is a family business, early on, I learned the importance of proving my worth daily. Although we challenge each other from time to time, through mutual respect, unwavering passion for this company and concentrating on the goal of delivering the best possible products to our customers, we ensure that we are on the same page. We also appreciate a healthy balance between our personal and work lives and try to keep them segregated to whatever extent possible.

Sarah Oliva

Account Executive
Great Lakes Companies

What drew you to the automotive industry?

I was initially drawn to the fast-paced environment of the auto industry, which was soon replaced with a desire to help others and understand their motivations and behaviors.

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

My most influential mentor has been John Braganini of Great Lakes Companies. His leadership and vision has inspired and motivated me. He sees opportunities and threats in every situation, and his high energy level is constant.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

I see our industry continuing to consolidate at all levels, be it among dealers, agents, providers or lenders. Information will continue to become more accessible to consumers and regulators will continue their efforts to press for control over our products and services. To survive, dealers will have to maximize both front- and back-end gross through a streamlined development process model. This will also apply to service, parts and HR. Agents who can deliver on those value propositions will replace those who cannot.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

Roll up your sleeves. Work hard and be persistent. Opportunities may not appear today, but effort, patience and determination will help you open new doors tomorrow.

What do you like to do in your time off?

I like to spend my time off with family and friends. My hobbies are soccer, golf, snowshoeing and running. I also like to spoil my nephews as often as I can.

Eric Peterson

Executive Vice President of Sales
The Oak Group

What drew you to the automotive industry?

I have always had an interest in and passion for cars. I have been fascinated by the opportunity in the auto industry. My father worked in the auto industry and, as a result, I was always in and around dealerships. I am thankful that I was offered the opportunity to work for The Oak Group in my junior year of college.

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

My father has been my greatest mentor. I watched him work with customers and saw how he was able to help them. He always had repeat and referral business from customers, which is key to success in any business.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

Our generation grew up using computers, and I believe that we will drive the industry to a complete electronic transaction throughout the vehicle sale, further enhancing the consumer experience.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

Think outside the box. Don’t always think that, because it has always been done that way, there isn’t another, more efficient way to handle it.

Jeff Robinson

Vice President of Risk and Operation
Alpha Warranty Services

What drew you to the automotive industry?

Cars are fascinating. The automobile industry is very competitive as each manufacturer tries to gain an advantage over the other. Because of this, they are constantly making their products more efficient, more technologically advanced and, overall, a better experience for the consumer. It’s fun to be in an industry with such visible progression every year. There are few industries that impact our lives as much as the automotive industry.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

Consumers have an expectation that, when they buy something on the market today, it will be an easy-to-use product and seamlessly connect with the technology they have already purchased in their phone, computer, tablet, vehicle, etc. Whether it’s service contracts or other ancillary products, there is room for us as an industry to better utilize new technology in the sales process and the claims administration process. A quicker sales process will result in higher penetration for F&I offices and a quicker claims process will result in higher customer retention for administrators. The only way we’ll get there is by daring to use the latest technology. Individuals graduating from college today are equipped with the skills to make these needed technological advancements to improve our industry.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

The two most important recommendations I can make are for young people to learn how to communicate and relate to older generations and to do everything possible to become well-rounded in business and technology. The goal of an individual coming into this industry should be to find ways to use technology to push and challenge the older generations while still finding ways to extract the valuable knowledge gained from those who have already had successful careers.

What do you like to do in your time off?

When I’m not working, I like to have fun with my friends and family. Currently my hobbies include hiking, skiing, playing basketball and relaxing with my wife and three kids. In my own spare time, I enjoy reading and learning about biology and nature. This fall I will be going back to school in the evenings to pursue an MBA.

Steve Rosenvall

CEO
Alpha Warranty Services

What drew you to the automotive industry?

My journey into this industry was very unique. I was in the 1/19th Special Forces (Airborne) and was on a tour of duty in Afghanistan. As my deployment was coming to an end, I was able to make a phone call home to my father, who had recently become an agent for a very small third-party administrator offering VSC coverages in Idaho. My father had explained to me that, after six months of bringing in business for this TPA, the owner decided to decline all claims. The owner of the small TPA took the money and ran. Unfortunately, many of us in this industry have experienced this same horror. Similar to the great agents and TPAs in this industry, my father knew he had an obligation as he promised to take care of the dealers and the end consumers. As we spoke, we decided that, if we paid the claims for this other TPA, we could then start our own TPA and use his book of business —to start what we know today as Alpha Warranty Services. And that is exactly what we did!

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

My Grandpa Peterson. He was a regional sales representative for Mercury Marine. His main focus was outfitting dealers with outboard motors and snowmobiles in the Western United States. He is also a Korean War veteran and helped me understand my passion and dedication for my country through military service. Only two years ago he came with a few good dealer friends and I to fish for steelhead on the Salmon River in Idaho. By the end of the trip, he had convinced our dealer friends to open a franchise store with him. Had we had a few more days on the river, I’m sure they would have followed through with their plan! He also lives his life with the same principles that I have continued to value in my life: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, courage and honesty.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

Millennials are on the verge of becoming the majority consumer. They have so much technology and data in the palms of their hands, it may prove difficult to convince them that the auto dealer’s rooftop has everything that they want and need for their buying experience. Millennials already have their minds made up and set before they even walk into the dealership. They browse online, look at reviews, etc. A new buying experience — and technology that supports this new experience — will need to be created and refined in order to cater to the next generation of consumers who speak the language of technology.

Christina Schrank

COO
National Auto Care

What drew you to the automotive industry?

I initially joined National Auto Care while attending college and was drawn to the organization by its leadership and the flexibility it provided. It is interesting that, today, many Millennials are entering the industry for the same reason! Once in the industry, though, I think people either love or hate it. Lucky for me, I love it! I enjoy that every day is different and there is always an opportunity to learn and improve. It gives me, along with my team, the opportunity to constantly try to raise the bar for customer service and support. Most of all, I value the partnerships that I have established throughout the years. Nothing is more satisfying then supporting them and watching them grow and succeed in their markets.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

Technology is a game-changer in many businesses today, especially in the automotive industry. Customers are more educated than ever before — they know what they want, they want it fast and they want full transparency throughout the buying process. This fact, combined with oversight by the CFPB, means that dealers face more challenges than ever in driving profitable business. My goal at National Auto Care is to create and provide our partners with the tools and knowledge needed to satisfy the educated consumer while being cognitive of more active government oversight through technology, training or even legislative activism.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

The industry continues to evolve, but the basic tenant remains the same: Customers have a need and dealers have the product to satisfy that need. The element that will drive success will be understanding the nuances of each customer’s needs. By listening to them at every touchpoint in the selling process, we will have the ability to create the solution that meets their needs.

What do you like to do in your time off?

One word: family! My husband and I have three children ranging from 1–12 years old. My free time is spent with them at one of their many activities. If not there, you can find us attending sporting events or concerts together, participating in church and school activities or supporting local charities.

Ilya Shnayder

President & COO
Janus Automotive Administrators Inc.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

The automobile industry is evolving, and anyone who is not looking to evolve with it will be left behind like a dinosaur of another era. When I started in F&I 19 years ago, we had finance reserve and only four products to offer: service contracts, GAP, paint and fabric and credit life/disability insurance. Now finance reserve is much more limited and continues to be under attack by the CFPB and credit life/disability is basically dead, but products such as tire and wheel, dent and ding, key replacement and other products that provide true value to consumers have stepped up to take their place. Gen Y is the first generation in history that was born with PCs in the home, so they are much more comfortable utilizing technology in every aspect of their lives, including car shopping. Millennials were born into an Internet age in which information, both positive and negative, is available 24/7 with a few clicks on a smartphone. Dealers need to evolve to better service these new generations of buyers and, as agents, we need to be at the forefront of that evolution to guide the process.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

I would recommend that anyone interested in becoming a general agent work in the retail side of the automobile industry first. In my opinion, it is next to impossible to teach what one hasn’t successfully done him- or herself, plus it makes it much easier to relate to your dealer clients when you have walked in their shoes. I believe an agent needs to be able to roll up his or her sleeves and show a finance manager how to present products and overcome objections — not just pontificate in front of a whiteboard, quoting industry averages and dictating what acceptable production levels should be.

What do you like to do in your time off?

I love spending quality time with my 6- and 8-year-old sons, Harrison and Maxwell, as well as traveling internationally, especially throughout Europe. I am also a big believer in giving back to the community and to those less fortunate than ourselves, which is why I am a member of the board of directors of the local Boys & Girls Club and help operate two of the biggest homeless shelters in Western Massachusetts.

Joe St. John

Director of Training
IAS

What drew you to the automotive industry?

I wasn’t drawn to the auto industry; I couldn’t escape it. My mother wrote service and my father started selling cars in college. Needless to say, this business is in my blood.

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

I honestly believe that there is no such thing as a self-made man — at least, for me, this term certainly doesn’t apply. I have been blessed to be mentored by some incredible leaders. I currently work with some wonderful mentors at IAS, including Eric “Frenchy” Mélon, Chris Kerby, Frank Klaus, Bob Corbin and J.D. Couch. They push my development daily. When I got my start in this business, I was lucky to work for an old-school car dog with a huge heart, Jerry Hoyt. In my life, it’s been my father’s unwavering leadership and guidance that has made all the difference.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

This industry is going to continue to evolve to keep pace with a growing population of educated and considerate buyers. To maintain relevancy and competitiveness, retail operators have to become even more consumer-friendly, technologically savvy and experience-driven. My generation will continue to expect better treatment and more authentic-feeling service. To capture that market, dealers have to adapt and grow.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

If you are new to this business, go work for a real leader — someone who will make you successful whether you like it or not. Pay your dues and put in the work. Keep your head down and generate results. Stay positive and don’t complain. Stay out of the drama and, if you’re at work, actually do work. Do these things and the right people will notice.

What do you like to do in your time off?

I spend my time off with my incredible girls, my amazing wife, Lori, and our joy inducing 1-year-old, Amélie. We love to travel, adventure, cook, read, camp and generally be in the outdoors. This October, we will welcome our newest addition to our family, Olympia.

Tanya Stevenson

Director of Sales and Product Development
Portfolio

What drew you to the automotive industry?

The automotive industry offers so much opportunity and diversity. I’ve been inspired by the excitement and challenges that come with being part of an ever-changing industry.

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

Throughout my life, I’ve had many mentors, but my greatest mentor was Dan Haugen, Portfolio’s chief operations officer. Dan, more than any other previous mentor, taught me not only the basics of the automotive industry but also took great pride in teaching me people-management and -development skills as well. Dan coached me on subjects like the importance of goal-setting, managing expectations and providing top-notch customer service. He also was great at giving advice but not offended if I didn’t take it. After five years of mentoring from Dan, I have moved on to a new mentoring relationship. However, I will be forever grateful for the years he spent guiding me in my career.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

Like a lot of commerce these days, I think the auto industry is going to follow more of the online purchasing trend. We see some of this already; however, our generation — as well as the younger ones — rarely make any big purchases without a lot of researching online. Our generation needs to lead the drive to make F&I products accessible through this avenue as well.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

Work with integrity. The players in our industry stay the same even though their team may change, so chances are you will be working with the same people time and time again.

What do you like to do in your time off?

In my time off, I enjoy going to Angels baseball games, riding bikes at the beach and traveling. My husband and I have a rule that we have to use our passports at least once a year and we try to visit at least one major-league ballpark that we have never visited before. This year we went to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and we are visiting Safeco Park, home of the Seattle Mariners, in late summer.

Jacqueline Swank

Marketing Manager
AUL Corp.

What drew you to the automotive industry?

Like so many, I came into this industry by accident. Initially, I studied business and worked for a real estate investment firm. In 2007, I was approached by AUL regarding a sales and marketing position that has resulted in a tremendously exciting career. The automotive industry is unique and changes so rapidly that my job is always exciting and expanding into new areas.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

My generation prefers more transparent business transactions and a company culture they can identify with. We are also a very impatient group that wants information now and at our fingertips. With that said, technology will be improved, more transactions will be done on the Internet and, with the current strength of social media outlets, a company’s brand and reputation will need to be pristine. Having the opportunity to shape AUL’s messaging, branding and responsiveness to these trends creates a terrific environment to be constantly learning and growing professionally.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

I have been fortunate enough to work alongside and for the best of the best. This industry is truly limitless. If you’re willing to work hard, be open-minded and a lifetime learner and you will do extremely well. The secret to my success so far has been to stick with people who are smarter and more experienced, which has enabled me to learn so much. I have the greatest appreciation for those who gave me opportunities and those who trusted me to get the job done.

What do you like to do in your time off?

When I am not working, I love to spend time with family. My 6-year-old daughter, June, is the greatest joy of my life and the one I truly want to make proud. My hobbies include travel, cooking and fitness.

Garrett Thorpe

Vice President
The Impact Group

What drew you to the automotive industry?

The first word I ever spoke was “car.” My interest in the automotive industry goes back so far that it feels innate, though my father’s career surely played a key role along the way. When I was very young, my dad had left the retail side of the business and was managing F&I for Mid-Atlantic Toyota Distributors. I was thrilled whenever Dad arrived home driving a new demo I could play in, or days I could join him for a sales meeting or Saturday visit to a dealership. I paid close attention to the business as I grew up. I learned a lot and became excited to enter the industry and gain my own professional experiences.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

Even speaking as a software provider, I’m excited to watch our industry find a healthy balance between innovative, new technologies and personal interactions. My generation has grown up with technology, social media and information at our disposal. We observe social interactions constantly and differently than generations before us and have a keen perception of what is genuine and honest versus what’s disingenuous or fake. We love the convenience technology creates but recognize and appreciate skilled, capable, trained professionals who educate and assist us in making important decisions. I think my generation will strike that balance and enhance the experience for today’s automotive consumer.

What advice would you give to young people entering the industry?

Apply the same degree of professionalism every day that you would expect from any professionally degreed individual or trusted adviser. Our focus needs to be on changing the negative perception of our industry that still exists for so many — and enhancing customers’ experiences with us is where that begins. Listen and learn more than you speak, seek advice from experts and make it your primary goal to help others solve their problems.

If you are part of a family business, what are the key elements of making it successful?

Phenomenal people, tight processes and a team approach. Everyone has a voice and a valued role in steering our company’s direction. We work very hard for our partners and clients but value flexibility and balance between work and personal life. Ultimately, the goal is to build the company that we ourselves would want to work for.

Mark Timperley

Regional Training Director
Automotive Development Group

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

I’m fortunate to have had many amazing mentors in my life, but two really stand out: The first is my father, Philip Timperley. He taught me to always work incredibly hard and yet make sure to balance your career with your family life. He also taught me to treat everybody with respect and be prepared to dive in and do any job within whatever organization you work for. If you expect your employees to do something, you should be prepared to do that same thing too. Still to this day, he is the most incredible businessperson I have ever been around. The second is the founder and President of ADG, Joel Kansanback. He trained me in as an F&I manager 13 years ago and has taught me so much about the agency side of our industry. Joel has taught me to always do business the right way, even if it means saying “No” to certain dealerships. He gave me an opportunity to get out of the retail side of the auto industry and into the agency side, and for that opportunity, I will forever be grateful.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

The automotive industry is a vibrant and very exciting industry to enter into. It can be extremely challenging and rewarding at the same time. The best advice I can give is to work harder than anyone else around you, never give up and concede early on that you will never know it all.

What do you like to do in your time off?

I love spending time with my amazing family. I have an angel of a wife, Angie, to whom I have been married for 15 years. We have two incredible daughters, Bronwyn, 13, and Teagan, 10. Both girls are very serious about volleyball and, from June to August, we literally spend every weekend watching them play in tournaments all around the country. We love every minute of it!

Carmen Torres FLMI, ARA

Vice President of Marketing and Sales
SouthwestRe

What drew you to the automotive industry?

I landed in the auto industry almost by accident when I responded to an ad for a banking administrator position at what was identified as a local TPA firm. In 2003, I had no idea that the job would have far less to do with banking than with the automotive industry. When I interviewed, it was immediately after another highly qualified candidate and the position had already been filled. I was disappointed because I’d really enjoyed the interview and was intrigued by the company. A few days later, the HR director called and said they’d created a position specifically for me. I was ecstatic!

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

This is a really tough question because I’ve been blessed enough to have been surrounded by great mentors throughout my career. The individual who hired me into client services at SouthwestRe introduced me to the business and gave me the tools and foundation to follow in his footsteps when he moved on. As my role changed in the organization, I was fortunate enough to interact with Jim Smith on a regular basis, which created an enormous opportunity to learn the reinsurance side of the business from one of the foremost experts on the subject .In recent years, Eddie Eckert has been a great source of mentorship and encouragement. He recognized potential beyond my current role and entrusted me with the responsibility to prove it. The success I’ve had is largely attributable to the support I received from my mentors over the years. I’m now fortunate enough to be in a position where I can mentor others, which is one of the most rewarding aspects of my position.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

First, relationships matter most, period. Build, cultivate and maintain the relationships you have, because in such a small industry, the people you work for or with today will potentially be active in the industry for many years to come. Second, take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. When I first started with the company, it offered a professional development program which provided industry-specific business education. I took almost every class available and it definitely helped expand my knowledge base and put me on an upward track. Last, support change. It’s inevitable in this industry, and we’re lucky, because change keeps us all growing and moving forward.

Spencer Wanderon

Northeast Regional Sales Manager
National Auto Care

What drew you to the automotive industry?

Opportunity. I have the opportunity to help build a company from the ground up while also having the opportunity to learn from my father, Tony Wanderon. Regardless of family ties, when someone who has grown several companies into multimillion-dollar revenue streams offers you a job, you take it.

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

The answer is simple: Tony Wanderon. He has given me the tools to be successful in business as well as in life and believed in my ability to correctly use and apply those tools without telling me how to live my life or do my job. He trusts that I will apply his teachings to better my career, the company, and myself. Tony Wanderon is not just my father; he is my greatest mentor, my best friend and, come June, the best man at my wedding.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

The industry is reaching a crossroads. Auto companies will have to make a choice: Stay with the old or adapt to the new. In the Digital Age, the importance of a strong Internet presence is paramount. Customers are starting to anticipate new ideas and services, and soon they are going to demand them. My generation will drive priority to those services while doing it better and more efficiently by utilizing the vast technological innovations of our era.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

My advice is to be patient and open to criticism. Other young people need to know that this industry is unlike any other. It is an entirely different language. No matter your prior experience, there is always room for improvement. Learn from those who have been through it; they know best.

If you are part of a family business, what are the key elements of making it successful?

As with any team or organization, communication is key. Being part of a family leads to a particular understanding of everyone. You know their quirks, habits and way of life. Unfortunately, that understanding sometimes leads to assumptions that cause a breakdown in communication. The foundation of a company is communication, without it there is no chance of success.

What do you like to do in your time off?

I enjoy spending time with my lovely fiancée, Hannah Cleveland, and my labradoodle/human-like dog, Dexter. When they don’t pout too hard about me leaving, I love spraying golf balls all around the course.

Matthew Weil

Vice President & General Counsel
American Guardian Group of Companies

What drew you to the automotive industry?

I have grown up around and been interested in the manufacturing of vehicles for most of my life. The ability to join the American Guardian Group of Companies has allowed me to be involved in both the regulatory and insurance aspects of the industry while maintaining a close affiliation with the vehicle retail environment.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any change?

The increased regulatory scrutiny from both the state and federal level continues to reshape not only how products are created and offered but the entire retail experience. A focus on compliance, transparency and the sharing of information with the customer are important components of the buying experience. At American Guardian, we are committed to assisting our partners with compliance and ethics training through our AGWS University training programs. I believe the next generation of the industry will continue to develop technology as a tool to ensure not only a compliant consumer offering, but also to provide a superior customer experience. In addition, I believe the industry will increase its use of controls, monitoring, data analytics and metrics to ultimately improve the customer experience. As a provider, American Guardian is already enhancing the customer, agent and dealer experience through applications, including electronic contracting, rating and menu services, online claims submission, mobile inspection services, 24/7 electronic training modules and fully automated sales and service reporting.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

It is important to focus on meeting and learning from your associates, business partners and peers. The automotive industry and, specifically, the provider segment of this industry is full of experts. The experience and knowledge these individuals can provide is invaluable. Focus on seizing every available opportunity to listen and learn. When available, seek out cross-training and lateral experiences in other disciplines within your organization or the industry.

Ryan Williams

President
Fidelis PPM

What drew you to the automotive industry?

My love for cars started with my father at an early age. He was a car nut and had many friends who were car dealers, so it seemed like a natural path for me. He was a business owner for 25 years and I knew that I wanted to enjoy a mix of business and cars! I started in retail in 1994 as an intern for Lexus USA and positioned at Northtown Lexus in Buffalo, N.Y. I had a different automotive internship every year in different capacities including with a CNA agent in Denver. After 11 years in retail, I made the plunge to what was then Universal Underwriters, writing commercial P&C and F&I products prior to co-founding Fidelis PPM.

Where do you see the industry going and how do you believe your generation will drive any changes?

Hospitality and entertainment have always been appealing models to the auto industry, particularly their processes and customer experience. For some reason our industry has had a difficult time adopting best practices from other industries, but I see that changing alongside consolidation. Private equity will continue to be attracted to our business and will play a significant role in retail. We have had a tidal wave of buy/sell and private equity deals happening in the aftermarket space with more to come. It is interesting to see how consolidation will play out in the F&I space and how we will all be affected by the retail consolidation. I see our generation bringing solid technology and transparency to this space in ways it never has. Staying streamlined and the ability to maneuver quickly will continue to add value and scale.

What advice would you give young people entering the industry?

It is amazing how technology has changed the world in the last 30 years, but in the automotive space for sure. I would tell any young person to be as tech-savvy as possible to keep your options open in this amazing industry and business. Pay attention to trends in other industries and see how they can be incorporated into the auto space.

What do you like to do in your time off?

Spending time with my wife and two children. My daughter is on the swim team and competitive dance team. My son plays lacrosse and soccer and is on the tournament team for his Taekwondo club, so that keeps us very busy! We all enjoy spending time at the lake where my wife grew up as well as time at the shore. Golf has started to work its way back in my life with my kids getting interested in it as well. My wife, Shelly, is a labor and delivery nurse who was born to be a nurse and mother, and there is no other out there like her. She keeps the family schedule together and active! Her love for travel takes us back to my hometown of Denver yearly, as well as many other places we love to visit together.

This article was written by:

- has written 27 posts on Agent Entrepreneur.

Tariq Kamal is an editor and contributor for a number of auto industry publications, including Agent Entrepreneur and P&A as well as Auto Dealer Today, F&I and Showroom and Business Fleet. He also serves as an organizer and speaker for Industry Summit, Agent Summit and Compliance Summit.

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The views expressed by the authors and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Agent Entrepreneur or any employee thereof.

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