Tag Archive | "Dave Anderson"

An Interview with Jimmy Atkinson


At Agent Summit in May, Jimmy Atkinson continued a long career in public speaking when he joined “Building a Team Theme for Prosperity,” a panel discussion led by Tom O’Neil of O’Neil Financial Services Agency. Upon returning to his adopted hometown of Napa, Calif., the COO of AUL Corp. met with AE to reflect on his work in retail and as a trainer, product provider, marathon runner and long-suffering Braves fan.

AE: Jimmy, it was great seeing you at Agent Summit, and I enjoyed your panel. Great energy, great content, and O’Neil did a nice job as the moderator.

Atkinson: Tom did a terrific job. He was probably the most engaged moderator I’ve worked with. We drilled down on the questions on multiple calls and had a final prep session before we went onstage. Everybody on the panel had a good time.

AE: Do you enjoy public speaking?

Atkinson: I do. I spent about five years just doing training and another three or four years just doing F&I development. I started with MS Diversified, which was later acquired by Assurant Solutions, and then worked with Joe Verde for four years. I started my own training company in 2001. I found I had a real passion for teaching and sharing information. By the way, when I started at Joe Verde Group, the first person to take me under his wing was Dave Anderson.

AE: The same Dave Anderson who spoke at Agent Summit?

Atkinson: The same. And I gained a lot of confidence through that experience. It’s always great to see Dave and listen to his powerful message.

AE: What was your first job in the auto industry?

Atkinson: I started selling cars in March of 1983. Pugmire Lincoln Mercury, in my hometown of Atlanta, had an ad running in the newspaper. I actually replied to the ad at their Chevrolet store down the street. The sales manager at the Chevy store said, “You’ll never make it in the car business,” so I walked down to the Lincoln store.

AE: If only he knew.

Atkinson: Well, I was a bit more shy and introverted at the time. And it was only a 10-minute interview. But I caught on and moved into F&I after 18 months. Then I was promoted to sales manager and then general sales manager. I spent seven years at three dealerships. From there I went to work for MS Diversified as a regional manager and training director — the same work that agents do, but as a direct employee.

About four years into it, I got involved in F&I training. When I started my own company, I figured I would be a trainer and have a few products. In 2002, I received a call from my old boss at MS Diversified. They had been acquired by what was then Assurant and he asked me to rejoin him there.

AE: When did you make the move to AUL?

Atkinson: That was in July of 2010. Luis Nieves, the founder, was a client and friend through Assurant. He called me and said, “I would like to visit with you. I have an idea.” We met and he said he needed someone to come in and be his No. 2.

AE: And that was a big move, leaving Atlanta for the Wine Country.

Atkinson: It was. We had moved around a bit before that, but I was born, grew up and spent most of my life in Atlanta.

AE: I learned most of what I know about Atlanta from “A Man in Full” by Tom Wolfe.

Atkinson: I just read that a few months ago! The way he paints Atlanta is probably pretty accurate. It’s a great city, but you get the sense it’s always trying to prove itself. It is home to a ton of Fortune 500 companies, so it’s always growing and expanding, and that brings a lot of challenges. But I love it because it’s home, and of course I still love the Braves, Falcons, Hawks and Bulldogs. You can’t learn to appreciate the meaning of loyalty and heartache until you follow teams that have lost so many championships.

AE: Actually, I’m from Buffalo, so …

Atkinson: Oh, that’s right.

AE: Let’s move on! We had a nice visit in Napa a few years back. What is it like to live there?

Atkinson: It’s very different. There are things I miss about living in the South, but California is a beautiful state. And people don’t realize this about Napa, but it’s like a small farming town, only with hotels and restaurants and tourism. When I think about living in Atlanta, I picture myself either being at the airport or fighting all the traffic, so the relaxed atmosphere is welcome.

AE: Still, it must have been difficult to leave.

Atkinson: It’s never an easy decision. It was made easier because we have two sons who were grown and moving to Los Angeles at the same time. That’s only a one-hour flight. We moved a couple times when the boys were growing up, and that was probably tougher on them than I’d like to admit. Thankfully, I have the greatest wife and mom in the world, and the boys are now wonderful young men.

AE: What do you do to stay in shape?

Atkinson: I ride a Pinarello road bike sometimes, and I’m terrible at golf, but mostly I run. I’ve been doing it for about 18 years. I have run four marathons and a bunch of half-marathons, including two with my younger son. It relieves stress and gives me solitude when I need it.

AE: Running in Napa must be a lot more comfortable than running in Atlanta.

Atkinson: If you’re training for a fall marathon, you’re running up to 18 miles in the summer. So, yes, climate-wise, it is better in Napa. But both cities have a lot of hills.

AE: How much do you love working with agents?

Atkinson: I do love agents. It’s kind of wild. They’re such a different breed. Not unlike car dealers. They are the masters of entrepreneurship and truly brilliant in their fields. They have that amazing ability to adapt to change and grow their businesses. It’s a neat group of people.

AE: Are you looking for more agents? How does that process work?

Atkinson: Jason Garner, our general sales manager, heads up agent acquisitions. He has a team of business development managers. We’re pretty selective. But if we have an area where we’re underperforming and want to grow, and if we don’t have an agent there, we will look for someone. But we have a very stable agent force. We still have the first agent we signed and the first dealer we signed.

AE: That’s impressive.

Atkinson: It’s all driven by Luis, who founded the company and created this wonderful culture. He is probably the most humble, generous and appreciative person I’ve met. He would give you the shirt off his back. He always believes in doing what’s right, and that’s the real secret.

AE: So what drives you now? What gets you up in the morning?

Atkinson: Well, first, there’s always a million things to do. Second, it’s exciting. You asked about agents. That’s one of the most exciting parts of the job. They bring unique opportunities and problems to solve. One of the things we strive to be is a company that agents can turn to for a new approach and we think we do a lot of it really well. At the same time, you have to find a way to create new value. It’s a tremendous business, and it’s growing. There is nothing I would rather be doing.

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Agent Summit 2016 Motivates and Inspires


On May 9, agents, agent principals, executives and trainers convened at the Venetian Palazzo in Las Vegas for Agent Summit 2016. The event, which attracted about 1,000 industry professionals, included more than two full days of educational sessions, networking breaks, meals and receptions.

As in years past, the agenda was built upon the agency and dealer development sessions the event has become known for. Many of those workshops and panel discussions will be covered in detail in upcoming issues of this magazine. In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the speakers, sessions and networking opportunities that were unique to this year’s show and left a lasting impression on attendees.

Agent Principals Only Breakfast & Roundtable

Last year’s Agent Summit included the first Agent Principals Only session in the event’s brief history. It was such a big hit, organizers decided to expand its time slot and move it to the very beginning of the agenda.

The Agent Principals Only Breakfast & Roundtable began at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, May 9, with a half-hour breakfast. Agent principals in attendance were seated with owners of other agencies of like size and encouraged to discuss common opportunities and challenges.

Mike Godin, owner of Godin Dealer Services in Albuquerque, N.M., had one complaint about the breakfast: It wasn’t long enough. As the owner of a small agency, he says he attends Agent Summit to pick up new strategies for business development and values the opportunity to spend meaningful time with his peers.

“In an open forum like that, you tend to get two or three people who ask questions of the advisers up there, and sometimes it seems that it mostly applies to what the larger agencies are doing,” Godin says. “So sitting around a table with other agents and agencies of like size, to me, proved more beneficial.”

The breakfast was followed “From the Box to the Brand Sign, a 47-Year Journey,” a rousing address from V. Andy Gill, who began his automotive industry career in 1969 as one of the country’s first F&I managers. Gill would go on to form an agency, buy and sell three new-car dealerships, and, last year, join a mergers and acquisitions firm. Along the way, he has collected a lifetime of stories, many of which he shared with the Agent Summit crowd.

The Agent Principals Only portion of the agenda concluded with a panel comprised of Randy Crisorio, chief executive of United Development Systems (UDS) and chair of the Agent Summit advisory board, John Braganini of Great Lakes Companies, Joel Kansanback of Automotive Development Group (ADG) and Dealer Commitment Services’ Glen Tuscan. The high-powered group touched on a number of issues relating to agency ownership, hiring and recruiting, dealer acquisition, regulatory compliance and more.

“Agent Summit is one of the few opportunities in the F&I industry where you can meet and collaborate with all of our colleagues and competitors in one collegial setting,” says Tom O’Neil, owner of O’Neil Financial Services Agency, an Agent Summit regular and a panel moderator at this year’s event. “Everyone seems to let their natural guard down to enjoy the sharing of information and camaraderie.”

“I always find two or three issues that come down the line I haven’t thought of, seen yet, done yet,” Braganini adds. “The agents are always interested in sharing what they’re doing. Nobody seems to have any secrets anymore.”

Dave Anderson and David Horsager

On Tuesday and Wednesday morning, Agent Summit attendees were treated to stirring motivational addresses delivered by Dave Anderson, president of Learn to Lead, and David Horsager, bestselling author of “The Trust Edge.”

“I loved all the sessions. I especially loved the hired speakers, Dave Anderson and David Horsager,” says Brian Crisorio, UDS’s vice president of marketing. “Their message goes beyond success in the workplace and can have positive effects on life in general.”

Anderson’s address, which was sponsored by EasyCare and GWC Warranty, began at 9:10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 10. In “How to Master the Art of Execution,” Anderson didn’t draw exclusively from his experience in the auto industry — which includes management of several highly successful dealerships — choosing instead to touch on themes applicable to any business, personal goal or charitable endeavor.

“Dave Anderson is obviously one of our favorites. He just gets the point across quickly and efficiently,” says Larry Dorfman, CEO of APCO and the EasyCare brand. “He always causes me to look in the mirror and be honest regarding how well I am holding myself accountable to help others be accountable.”

“Anderson was terrific, no question,” adds Greg Gomer, president and owner of Boston-based Finance Solutions LLC. “He is always a pleasure to listen to.”

On Wednesday morning, David Horsager took to the stage to deliver “The Trust Edge,” a fast-paced, high-energy rundown of the principles behind his bestselling book of the same name. Horsager explained how trust is a precious commodity that can only be mined through honesty, accountability and gratitude.

“Listening to David Horsager speak, I couldn’t help but think about all my closest friends and business partners and the amount of trust equity we have built in each other,” says David Gesualdo, Agent Summit show chair and publisher of Agent Entrepreneur and F&I and Showroom. “I imagine everyone in the room felt the same way. It was an incredibly moving session.”

NADA’s Andrew Koblenz

What interest do agents have in regulatory compliance? Plenty, according to Andrew Koblenz, a longtime National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) executive who currently serves as the organization’s executive vice president of legal and regulatory affairs and general counsel. For as long as agency revenue is driven by the sale of F&I products, there will be a pressing need for agents to help dealers create, implement and maintain processes that are compliant with the maze of regulations enforced by federal regulators such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

“The session on compliance was extremely helpful as our business development managers look to assist the dealers in the educational process,” said Rod Heasley, president and CRO of KISS Concepts Group in Fairmont, N.C.

Koblenz presented “Solving the CFPB and Fair Credit Risk Problem” at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday. His presentation, which was followed by a lengthy question-and-answer session, included a review of recent regulatory actions, steps banks and finance companies have taken to mitigate or eliminate risk, and new rules agents and dealers should follow. By acknowledging the CFPB’s concerns and self-policing, Koblenz argued, the industry can remain compliant while preserving the F&I process — which is of benefit to car buyers as well as retailers and providers.

“The whole industry should be taking note of what the agent brings as far as profitability, compliance and training. They deserve more recognition,” Tuscan says. “It’s great being surrounded by people who have their fingers on the pulse. I can’t get enough.”

Technology Sessions

Several attendees identified the two technology-focused sessions as among the most memorable of this year’s show. The first, “Next-Level Product Sales,” was delivered by Mike Burgiss, founder and general manager of MakeMyDeal, on Monday afternoon. It was followed by “Technology on the Move — New Horizons,” a panel discussion helmed by Randy Pazik, president and owner of Accelerated Profit Technologies.

“Certainly the sessions on technology are beneficial, because that’s a moving target,” Godin says. “We need to know how the providers are developing it and employing it in dealerships.”

Burgiss, who is an advocate of making more information about F&I products available online, says he realized speaking about a topic that can spur heated debate would be a challenge.

“As someone that’s focused on technology, I often get misunderstood as someone portraying the idea that technology can replace face-to-face interaction,” he says. “There’s no replacement for live interaction, just like there is no replacement for a live business manager in the sale of a vehicle and its associated aftermarket products.”

Instead, he argued, bringing parts of the F&I process forward can improve production by helping the finance office keep pace with the rapidly changing demands of car buyers. He says the agents in attendance offered “good engagement” and were receptive to his message, and the reviews back him up.

“Hearing the presentation from Mike Burgiss and speaking with other technology providers, it is clear that those guys are really working hard to stay on top of their game,” Brian Crisorio says. “Several years ago, the reaction would have been, ‘We don’t have to worry about that.’ The best point I’ve heard is the drive to put good information about F&I products and pricing online. If you don’t, all your customers are going to see are the complaints and negative information.”

Burgiss was immediately followed by “Technology on the Move — New Horizons,” for which Pazik was joined by StoneEagle’s Thomas Elliott, Kumar Kathinokkula of F&I Administration Solutions, Tony Luciano of Allstate Dealer Services, MaximTrak’s Jim Maxim Jr. and Carrie Profaizer of Protective Asset Protection.

In addition to discussing their companies’ latest efforts in the dealer technology space — including the showroom as well as the finance office — panelists discussed how the role of F&I professionals could change and grow.

“We heard in this exchange the same conversation that plays out in dealerships across the country,” Burgiss says. “The debate emerges between meeting consumer expectations through the use of online experiences versus the potential loss of control. Using technology as a communication platform leads to more engaged consumers who will buy more, and most importantly, allow dealers to maintain control of the deal structure and better manage their profitability.”

Networking and Exhibits

Demand for meeting space and exhibition opportunities forced organizers to open up the show’s floorplan by booking 13 private meeting rooms and opening a separate exhibit hall. Attendees agree the moves took the event’s networking opportunities to the next level.

“I think the show, every year, seems to step up and get better,” Godin says. “Certainly the venues are great and the separate exhibit hall was great. I would expect most of the exhibitors liked it.”

“If you had nothing but that, I could go out on that floor and, in two hours, I could talk to everybody that matters in our industry,” Braganini says, adding that he connected with 10 new providers in the expo hall and spoke with a number of industry professionals who were in transition and looking for their next opportunity. Finally, he adds, he picked up on a new theme: “The agent channel is consolidating, quickly.”

Gomer agrees, noting that it was “amazing” to hear how many attendees were looking for agencies to acquire.

Asked whether the new contacts he made justified the cost of the trip, Dorfman says he doesn’t measure Agent Summit in terms of immediate returns.

“We made some great contacts and have continuing conversations going on with some new opportunities, so that’s great,” he says. “Just as importantly, we had some valuable time to meet up with current partners and others we know and spend some time talking about the business.”

“This is such a small fraternity of F&I agents that the meeting feels more like a reunion,” O’Neil adds. “It is always interesting to see where everyone is coming from and where their businesses will be going forward.”

Braganini agrees, noting that the event offers agents of any size a unique opportunity to keep pace with their partners and competitors in a business that has, in recent decades, been subject to sweeping changes at every level.

“If you don’t go, you reposition yourself in the industry and in the overall food chain. Our industry is highly dynamic. It’s constantly changing,” Braganini says. “You can look to printed media and email and different things like that as a source of maintaining your level of awareness, but there is no substitute for spending three or four hours talking to your peers and your providers. … When I go, I don’t know where or why it happens, but I always leave with three or four takeaways that pay for the trip 25 times over.”

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Anderson, Horsager to Deliver Agent Summit Keynotes


LAS VEGAS — Organizers of Agent Summit have confirmed that sales and leadership experts Dave Anderson and David Horsager will serve as the keynote speakers for this year’s event, which is scheduled for May 9–11, 2016, at the Venetian Palazzo Las Vegas.

“For those who have experienced Agent Summit, you know the keynote speakers are always dynamos in their field, whether it be business expertise, motivational sales tips or the like,” said Randy Crisorio, president and CEO of United Development Systems Inc. (UDS) and chair of the event’s advisory board. “This year is no exception, as we expect to raise the bar to new levels with Dave Anderson and David Horsager. I believe agents will leave these two sessions knowing the secret handshake that turns into cash!”

Anderson is the founder of LearntoLead and an auto retail veteran. His presentation, “Mastering the Art of Execution” on Tuesday, May 10, at 9:10 a.m., will be sponsored by EasyCare and GWC Warranty.

Horsager is the bestselling author of “The Trust Edge” and a nationally recognized leadership trainer. His keynote will begin at 9:10 a.m. on Wednesday, May 11, and is sponsored by Agent Entrepreneur.

To view the full Agent Summit agenda, which also includes pre-conference events and educational sessions dedicated to Technology, Compliance, Training, Coaching & Development, Profit Opportunities and Selling to Dealers, click here.

Registration, hotel and travel information for Agent Summit is available at the event’s website as well as by phone, fax and email.

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Dave Anderson to Bring Leadership Training to Agent Summit


LAS VEGAS — Leadership expert Dave Anderson has agreed to deliver a motivational keynote address at Agent Summit, courtesy of EasyCare, organizers said Tuesday. The event will be held May 9–11, 2016, at the Venetian Palazzo Las Vegas.

“We are excited to share Dave Anderson with all of the participants at Agent Summit,” said Larry Dorfman, CEO of Automobile Protection Corp. (APCO), home of the EasyCare brand. “His leadership and accountability teachings have been instrumental in the record growth of EasyCare over the past few years, and we know that everyone he touches with his powerful message will have a chance to be more successful if they apply it to their businesses and their lives.”

Anderson is the founder and president of LearnToLead, an Agoura Hills, Calif.-based sales and leadership development provider, and an automotive retail veteran. He is the author of 13 books and has contributed publications within and outside the auto industry, including The Wall Street Journal and US News & World Report, and has delivered more than 1,000 workshops and speeches in 16 countries over the past decade.

“Vision without strategy is hallucination, and strategy without execution brings exasperation,” Anderson said. “Thus, I’m excited to share an incredible five-step process for exponentially increasing your business results with my ‘How to Master the Art of Execution’ presentation at Agent Summit in Las Vegas!”

Registration is open at the event’s website as well as by phone, fax and email. Attendees who register by April 4 will enjoy a $100 discount.

To inquire about sponsorship and exhibition opportunities at Agent Summit 2016, contact Eric Gesualdo via email hidden; JavaScript is required or call 727-612-8826.

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