Tag Archive | "strategy"

Raymond James’ Burghart to Bring Investor’s Perspective to PALS

LAS VEGAS — Organizers of the upcoming P&A Leadership Summit have announced that Robert Burghart, senior vice president of investments and complex manager for Raymond James & Associates, has agreed to deliver a featured presentation at the event, which will be held Aug. 30–31, 2016, at Paris Las Vegas.

“I am looking forward to sharing thoughts about ways to help apply new and innovative products and investments to the way dealers and administrators handle premium reserves,” Burghart said. “I think this is very important for the P&A audience. Interest rates remain at historically low rates, but they will likely increase in the future, causing concerns for both perseveration of capital as well as the ability to maximize profit through investment income and growth.”

Burghart’s session, “Applying Modern Investment Theories to Reserve Assets,” will begin at 2:05 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 31. The speaker, who will be profiled in the next edition of P&A magazine, said he planned to share strategies for helping clients achieve a higher than expected return without creating undue risk. Among other topics, his discussion is expected to include structured products, market linked CDs, asset allocation strategies, investment policy development and investment risk management.

“Many investment experts have spoken at these conferences in the past, but few have done so through the filter of the required investment options provided by carriers and or state regulators,” Burghart noted.

“Robert brings a unique perspective and unimpeachable credentials to the PALS stage,” said David Gesualdo, show chair and publisher of P&A. “As our event grows in size and scope, we remain focused on delivering exclusive content that is of use to providers and administrators, and Robert’s presentation fits the bill perfectly.”

To register for the 2016 P&A Leadership Summit, click here. To inquire about sponsorship and exhibition opportunities, contact David Gesualdo via email hidden; JavaScript is requiredor at 727-947-4027.

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4 Steps for Launching Corporate Social Responsibility at Your Business

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become a hot topic in the business world. Companies of all sizes are being encouraged (and sometimes forced) to become more responsible in their communities, reports Entrepreneur. Being a responsible “corporate citizen” includes two important components: 1) things an organization does to society and 2) things an organization does for society.

The first component of CSR requires companies to do no harm to the communities in which they operate. It’s not acceptable to pollute the environment, sell unsafe products, promote unhealthy practices, or mistreat employees. In our new world of social transparency, organizations that do harm in any way won’t survive.

While this first component of CSR is a responsibility of all organizations, the second component is an opportunity. In other words, organizations have the basic responsibility to do no harm, but they also have the opportunity to make a difference in their communities. There are huge advantages to building an organization that does much more than just make money. The entrepreneurs I’ve met across America are passionate about serving their communities and feel the benefits of doing so far outweigh the effort, time, and cost.

Having worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs who are making significant contributions to their communities, I’ve observed a simple process they follow for getting involved.

1. Clarify your values.

Your “why” or purpose for being in business is the foundation for everything you do. Having a clear purpose naturally leads to a set of related values. For example, Richard Chaves’s driving purpose is to create jobs in a city he loves. Consequently, he values projects for his company, Chaves Consulting, that lead to more jobs. He also values excellent training, ongoing education, and community building.

Based on your purpose, what are the things you and your teammates value most? Do you value education, continuous learning, innovation, exceptional service, technology development, health and wellness, teamwork, or ethics and integrity? Clarifying your values is an important first step in linking your business with your community. You want to support initiatives that are consistent with your purpose and values, while avoiding things that aren’t consistent with your purpose and values. Your community involvement should always enhance your overall company brand and reputation.

2. Assess your skills.

After clarifying your company values, the next step is to reflect on the key skills and core competencies of your organization. What are you really good at? What do you do better than other companies? What things can you contribute that other people cannot? Then, looking at this list, which ones are you the most passionate about? For example, you may be great at calculating your taxes but not very excited about this skill. On the other hand, you may be very good at and very enthusiastic about solving technical problems. The key is to list your core competencies that you’re most passionate about sharing. What are you most interested in? What kinds of activities bring you the most joy? What contributions do you want to make? After answering these questions, you’ll be ready to identify potential community projects or organizations you want to support.

3. Find potential projects.

As your business grows, many people will approach you about supporting their initiatives. It’s great if you can help them, but it’s better to select potential projects in advance based on your purpose, values, skills, and passion. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a hodgepodge of projects that aren’t directly related to your brand or community of customers. Creating a list of potential projects is easy: Do a Google search on nonprofits, charities, and social organizations in your area. Many cities also have a nonprofit association that can help identify community needs, or you can call various government agencies and ask which organizations are working on certain problems that interest you: education, human services, workforce services, or rehabilitation. To find the best matches, start with a broad list of projects before narrowing down your options.

4. Select the best matches.

Now you need to select one or more projects to support that are great matches with your overall company brand, including purpose, values, skills, and passion. I recommend you work with organizations that serve the same community you do. For example, our customers in the food business were interested in health, nutrition, and fitness. Consequently, we supported running events, fitness fairs, and athletic teams. If you’re in the food industry, you might support various hunger organizations. If you’re in construction, you might get involved in housing projects. If you’re in computer services, you might support a school computer literacy program. While serving constituencies outside your community is admirable, it doesn’t help you build a consistent brand and reputation.

In addition, you should get involved with local projects and organizations whenever possible. The more interaction you have with people in your own area, the more rewarding the service will be for you and your team. This is easy if you’re building a geographical community but harder if you’re building a niche community. However, you might support national organizations that have a main office or regional presence in your area. While it’s great to send money to causes elsewhere in the world, that doesn’t always bring you and your team together in a community effort.

Creating your community strategy

The organizations we build can play a huge role in addressing the challenges we face in our communities. While we have a responsibility to do no harm, we also have a tremendous opportunity to make a real difference. I encourage all the aspiring entrepreneurs I work with to build a social component into their business plan from day one. At first, the contribution may be time, skills, and expertise. Later on, it may include financial resources as well. Using business models to address community concerns provides great solutions to our challenges as well as tremendous benefits to our businesses. The questions below will help you create a sound and well-planned strategy for making a difference in your community:

1. What is your purpose and the brand you’re trying to build in your community?

2. Based on your purpose, what values are most important to you, your team members, and your organization?

3. What are five to 10 key skills and core competencies that you, your team, and your organization have to offer?

4. From the list of skills above, which ones are you and your team most passionate about sharing with your community?

5. What are some potential nonprofits, charities, social organi­zations, or government organizations in your community that may benefit from your company’s involvement?

6. Select several organizations from your list that you’re most interested in supporting. Why is each a great match with your overall company brand?

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A Winning Strategy for Closing More Business

Let’s face reality. Every day, dealers are overwhelmed by salespeople pitching everything from car washes to dealer management systems. Agents selling F&I products are everywhere, in towns of all sizes, pounding on doors and offering products, training and even free money to do business with them. What sets you apart? Why should they speak with you? This could be a two-day class, but I only have 1,000 words, so let’s get right to it.

In my view, the first decision each of us in this business has to make is this: Are we providing products or solutions? It is a simple question, and most of us would say the latter. However, in many cases, when we get in front of someone, we pull out a pitch book and begin launching into features and benefits and — even more deadly — price comparisons to our competitors. We have no idea what the dealer needs or how we could help, yet we get into a pitch as though we are taking surveys at the mall. So what differentiates you from the many who fail? Here are two things you can do today:

  1. Have a plan to get the full picture of what is happening at the dealership. You should have done pre-planning and homework, maybe even a referral, and met with lower-level managers to understand what’s happening at the store, what’s working and what can improve. Where are they doing well and where are the gaps? Then your goal should be to get the dealer’s permission to do an analysis of the dealership and lay out a plan for increasing production and profitability.
  2. Training has to be a part of any real plan for change. Entire articles are written on how difficult change is (check out John Kotter material) and how hard habits are to break (just check your New Year’s resolution list). You need to be a difference-maker for your customers and create lasting, positive change that produces tangible results.

Here’s my process for accomplishing the goal of closing more dealers and increasing sales.

Pre-Call Planning

As a former sales, F&I and leadership trainer, I know that it takes hours of preparation for every hour of presentation. That’s the only way to be the best and deliver the best product to your audience. The same goes for the one to two minutes you may get in front of a dealer that will determine if you get an audience to go more in-depth. Do your homework. Start with their website, look for what type of inventory selection they have, how long they have been in business, what charities they support and so on. Google the dealer and look at the Web and news results for insight.

The measurement is this: If you stand in front of a mirror and give your two-minute elevator pitch tailored to this dealer, would you want to meet with you? And you must be ready for the reflex objections you’ll get, such as “I’m happy with my current provider.” Have at least three word-tracks prepared to deal specifically with that objection and show the dealer you’re worthy of his or her time.

Income Analysis Tool

Many providers have a tool for you to measure the productivity of a dealership and report back on the gaps and next steps for creating additional revenue by filling those gaps. Whether you call it a “profit gap analysis,” “dealership needs analysis” or something else equally witty, your first goal should be to get the dealer’s permission to meet with his team and identify the opportunities.

There will always be gaps. Why? Because no business is perfect and we all lose focus at times. So the dealer knows you’ll find areas her team should improve on. The real question is, do you have implementable answers for her store and the skills to make them happen? If not, she’ll say thanks and then take your presentation to their current provider to implement the changes needed.

Targeted Presentation

The next step is to schedule a meeting with the dealer and present your findings. This should be a presentation that leads to the two or three key findings from your analysis and your recommendations for how to fix them resulting in additional bottom-line profit to the dealer.

It’s important that the dealer sees you as a credible professional who understands and can address their needs. This comes across not only in your story but how you present your findings and by relating examples of where you have successfully implemented similar processes before. Don’t just present, ask questions, engage your audience and go deep with the dealer to gain agreement and refine your recommendations.

Close and Kickoff

Arguably, the most critical step is to kick off the new account properly. Spend the time necessary in the store so that, after the kick-off, everyone in the dealership knows you and sees you as a member of their team. Invite yourself to sales meetings, save-a-deal meetings and management meetings. Bring in some pizza after the shop closes and hold a fixed ops meeting. From service to used cars and the general office to the F&I office, you are an added value that makes all of them more effective by the skills you bring to the store.

Bringing It Home

Years ago, I was taught that there is a big difference between problems and needs: Needs require action; problems do not. There is an essential skill to transitioning a problem to a need in a dealer’s mind. For example, a problem might be slow used-car inventory turn and the cause could be the wrong or un-prepped inventory, sales staff skills, or maybe the used-car manager has a bias for sports cars in a truck market.

You must show the dealer the financial impact of where they are today, where they could be and, in many cases, what looked like a minor issue can become a need that requires action. These points may not relate directly to your product, but they can still add to your personal value proposition.

Does this approach take longer than just making a pitch? Yes and no. But I guarantee that, the better you are at presenting your unique value proposition and establishing yourself as a credible consultant, the more business you’ll close with dealers who become long-term clients.

So good selling!



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DealerSocket Data Reveals Five Untapped Strategies for Auto Dealers to Acquire More Used-Car Customers

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. – DealerSocket has unveiled a five-step customer acquisition plan for used car dealers, backed by the company’s most recent internal data and a survey of dealerships nationwide. The plan highlights low-hanging-fruit strategies that dealers can implement right away to attract and convert more leads.

“It’s tempting for dealers working in the trenches every day to get ‘tunnel vision’ about their marketing efforts. If the numbers aren’t where they need to be, the automatic response is to just try harder,” said Matt Redden, Chief Marketing & Sales Officer at DealerSocket. “Instincts and subjective observations are helpful, but dealers must also prioritize reliable, black-and-white data. It can reframe challenges and uncover solutions they may have never noticed otherwise.”

DealerSocket recommends implementing the following strategies for the quickest results in lead acquisition and conversion:

1) THE PROBLEM: Phone leads are underperforming.

With lower close rates, longer sales cycles and lower profit margins, phone-sourced leads provide tremendous opportunities of growth for used car dealers. Franchise dealers take 18 percent longer to close phone leads whereas independent dealers take 37 percent longer. All dealers make significantly less profit from used car phone leads than from other sources, with independents bringing in 11 percent less and franchise dealers delivering a whopping 44 percent less profit.

THE SOLUTION: Focus on phone training and call management efficiencies.

Independent dealers make an average of 2.86 outbound calls to each phone prospect, while focusing more time on floor leads (4.13 calls) and Internet leads (3.82 calls). As a result, phone leads have only a 5 percent close rate. Franchise dealers demonstrate an even wider gap, with used car phone leads receiving less than half the outbound calls other lead types receive.

2) THE PROBLEM: Traditional marketing no longer works.

Radio spots, TV ads, billboards and tent sales are mainstays of most dealerships’ marketing plans. But the ROI just isn’t there anymore. Conventional media now bring in an average total profit of $1,702 per vehicle, while digital marketing rakes in $2,514 per sale. In today’s increasingly digital world, dealers must relinquish preconceived ideas and embrace the media that work.

THE SOLUTION: Digital media result in more sales and cost less.

In many cases, a lower price translates to lower performance. But it’s just the opposite with digital marketing, which includes websites, social networks, email, smartphones, tablets and kiosks. According to DealerSocket data, it costs $150 of digital marketing to sell one car. Compare that to $1,581 of traditional media. If you stick with conventional methods, you’ll pay 10 times more than necessary.

3) THE PROBLEM: Third-party lead generation can be expensive.

Some dealers believe they must directly pay for more leads. They don’t think they can produce new prospects organically through resources already in place. While third-party lead generators can certainly work, the question boils down to cost effectiveness.

THE SOLUTION: Optimize your website for maximum visibility and efficiency.

Whether franchise or independent, about one-third of dealers’ leads arrive through their website, making it the No. 1 lead generator today. It’s also one of the easiest to optimize for even more impressive results. Invest in organic search engine optimization and marketing so customers can find you. Also keep in mind that inventory pages are the most visited section of any dealer website. They should be well organized and fully searchable, while offering multiple calls to action so you can secure more leads.      

4) THE PROBLEM: Digital efforts do not account for user demographics.

Many businesses – auto dealers included – build websites for themselves rather than their end user. Do you know who is visiting your site, what they prefer in a user experience, and how your content displays on each person’s device?

THE SOLUTION: Pay special attention to mobile and tablet users.

Franchise dealer websites receive 37 percent of their traffic from mobile devices, and another 11 percent from tablet users. Independent dealers receive about half of their traffic from mobile devices and 10 percent from tablet users. Either way, dealers must prioritize responsive web design that optimizes the user experience regardless of how the user accesses the Internet. Also, get to know your online shopper base, which typically consists of 65 percent male and 35 percent female. While age ranges are distributed fairly evenly, the majority of online shoppers are between the ages of 25 and 44.

5) THE PROBLEM: Many leads aren’t yet ready to buy.

Try as you might to bring in new customers, you may find that the majority of your leads are earlier in the purchase process – making it seem that even your strongest closing efforts fall on deaf ears.

THE SOLUTION: Leverage a data mining solution to boost trade-ins and intercept customers when they’re most likely to purchase.

Data mining tools have long been a staple of the franchise auto industry, with about half of dealers using the technology. The results are clear cut – 75 percent of deals generated from a data mining solution result in a trade-in. On the contrary, only one out of every 10 independent dealers take advantage of data mining, and the small number of trade-ins follow suit (about 19 percent of deals). Today’s market includes affordable solutions geared specifically toward independents. By leveraging data mining to identify and target customers for vehicle buy-back programs, dealers accomplish two desirable goals: 1) Aid inventory acquisition efforts by purchasing quality vehicles from past customers, and 2) Increase sales as customers replace their old vehicle with a new one.

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Why Entrepreneurs Should Use The Strategy Plan Instead of The Business Plan

What is one of the first things people say you need before going into business? A business plan. The basis of this statement is that the business plan is supposed to be instrumental in guiding your business’s path towards continual growth, reports the Huffington Post. Also, the business plan is supposed to establish that you are serious about your business and have put a great deal of thought into its existence and operations. It is the traditional method of business forecasting that is still accepted as the standard blueprint of planning, even though entrepreneurship is supposed to be unconventional by nature.

Truthfully though, in my honest opinion, the business plan is outdated for today’s entrepreneurship. Today’s entrepreneurship is so rapid and not as controlled as it once was. Today’s entrepreneurship is also accessible for anyone to participate within it and thrive. What is important about these last two statements is that the easy access of entrepreneurship has made it easy for anyone to become an entrepreneur but also in turn has made it harder for people to succeed as an entrepreneur. This is due to how hard it is to get noticed amongst the flooded entries into the competitive landscape of entrepreneurship.

So how do you differentiate yourself? By writing an in-depth business plan? No! You do so by developing an effective Strategy Plan.

What is a strategy plan? A Strategy Plan is a framework of effective actions constructed to firmly fit your business model in order to produce successful results. It sounds similar to a business plan but the difference is that with a Strategy Plan you are actively working within your plan as you go. With a business plan its history, research and a little wishful thinking all blended together. But, just because you write it down does not mean it’s going to occur. You most likely are going to put it away to never be analyzed again until “needed” again for a business loan or some sort of investment.

A Strategy Plan forces you to actually do what you say because it cannot move forward without actual progression being produced. There is no half stepping allowed or time allocated towards being lax and to procrastinate. You actually have to be working towards completing those initiatives that are outlined or else the strategy plan loses its purpose. The reason you choose to pursue the course of the Strategy Plan is to stay committed to the plan of action rather than just talking about what you are going to do.

So how does the Strategy Plan work?

1) Determine Your Vision.

The vision is the foundation of your Strategy Plan and should accurately illustrate what you are working towards achieving. The vision serves the purpose of keeping you on the right track so that you are actively moving forward. Your vision should evoke passion and make you want to work hard in order to achieve what you desire.

2) Create Goals & Initiatives.

Goals and initiatives are checkpoints which keep you in line with the bigger picture of the vision. As each initiative is completed and goal is met, you verify that your Strategy Plan is effective in its process. This keeps you constantly busy and works to ensure that your mind is focused on the task at hand. Therefore, your mind is not wandering in ten different areas which is what happens with most entrepreneurs. Staying focused and remaining productive increases your likelihood for success and success is the ultimate goal of the Strategy Plan.

3) Outline the Overall Strategy Plan.

The Strategy Plan is the binding glue that holds this all together. In order for this to all work the Strategy Plan has to be in sync and operate upon a flowing formula. This means connecting all the pieces of the working process in order to produce an organization of effective flowing actions within the Strategy Plan. What is being done at this stage is placing yourself into the preparation for execution. Every aspect of your Strategy Plan has been laid out, you determined the flow of action and now you begin implementing your design.

4) Execution.

The Strategy Plan is useless if it does not work to produce results. What has been planned, talked about and analyzed now needs to be accomplished. Of course tweaks and revisions will occur but as long as you are progressively moving forward, the action of reorganizing is not a setback. The point of this process is to execute and elevate beyond your past and present state of business affairs. You are building towards the future and creating longevity.

If you do not have a Strategy Plan in place, I definitely recommend that you put one together. Being an entrepreneur is hard enough. Don’t be one of those entrepreneurs who lack the foresight on what it takes to be successful within their business.

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8 Essential Security Strategies for Small Businesses in 2015

In the past year a bevy of big-time companies like Sony, Target and Home Depot were hit with data breaches. Amid the chaos, it might be easy to overlook the fact small businesses are just as vulnerable if not more so than their large-cap counterparts, reported Fox Business.

Larger companies typically have stronger security measures in place to ward off intruders, but independent businesses often can’t afford these expensive protections. Either way, small businesses still have access to a vast trove of client information, which makes them ripe for hacks.

In fact, Hartford Steam Boiler (HSB) recently found more than half of all small- and mid-sized enterprises have been hacked at some point, and 72% of those affected by breaches were unable to restore the stolen data.

Fred Touchette, senior security analyst at AppRiver, which specializes in SMB security, has pinpointed eight essential strategies small businesses should implement to strengthen their data defenses.

1. Always Run Anti-Virus and Firewalls

“Firewalls are important as they typically act as the first line of defense against network attacks, while anti-virus solutions serve as a strong last line of defense,” Touchette says.

2. Update All Devices with the Latest Patches

“Attackers and researchers continually find vulnerabilities in software, and a patch, or hot fix, is designed to correct those security flaws,” Touchette explains. “And if unpatched software is left on a device, it makes it easier for an attacker to leverage them. The same rule applies to all software.”

3. Always Use Complex Passwords and Mix It Up

“Make sure your password is lengthy and has a healthy mix of symbols, characters, lowercase and uppercase letters,” he says, adding that using the same password across multiple sites and devices gives the attacker “immediate access” to everything. Therefore, “by utilizing different passwords for every account, the user is limiting the effectiveness of an attack to a single compromise.”

4. Protect Your Personal Information

“Remember, do not advertise sensitive information online,” Touchette warns. “Tighten your security settings on social media” by limiting the personal information (birth dates, addresses) you provide. “This information can be used to fuel custom attacks or [help decode] account security questions,” he says.

5. Be Mindful of Your Digital Foot Print

And be careful what you post online. Touchette says it’s best not to “post anything online that you wouldn’t want everyone in the world to see. Really.”

6. Only Visit Trusted Sites

“There are roughly 252 million registered domains and a large portion of those domains are malicious. Some are quite obvious while other, legitimate sites can be compromised to host malware within its pages,” he says. Sticking to well-known, established sites, the security expert adds, increases “the odds of staying safe online.”

7. Think Twice Before Opening Attachments

“This is a very, very common method for attackers to use — delivering malware straight to your inbox, which is both convenient and highly effective,” Touchette explains. “Do not click on an unsolicited link or open an attachment unless you know it is reputable.”

8. Review Financial Accounts Regularly for Suspicious Activity

“By monitoring accounts on a regular basis, you raise your chances of catching an attack before it causes too much damage … and possibly even catch the attacker,” he says.

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