Tag Archive | "United Development Systems"

Gould to Take F&I to the Next Level at Dealer Summit


TAMPA, Fla. — Organizers of Dealer Summit announced that Gerry Gould, director of training for United Development Systems Inc. (UDS), will lead a session dedicated to F&I product sales at the event, which will be held May 3–5, 2016, at the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel.

“Gerry brings unparalleled expertise and energy to our stage,” said David Gesualdo, show chair and publisher of Auto Dealer Today and F&I and Showroom. “Dealers who have yet to see Gerry speak are in for a memorable and informative experience.”

Gould is a highly sought-after trainer and speaker and a frequent contributor to industry publications, including F&I and Showroom. He will present “Discovering the Need the Buyer Hasn’t Realized” at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 5.

“If you are looking to influence your customers to purchase more F&I products, you must be willing to sell based on their criteria rather than your own,” Gould said. “Empowering your customers to realize that they need the protection that you are offering is essential to securing multiple products and increasing revenue. I am very excited for the opportunity to share proven techniques that bring needs-based selling to a new level.”

Registration for Dealer Summit is now open at the event’s website. Dealers who register by April 1 will enjoy a $100 early-bird discount.

For information about exhibition and sponsorship opportunities, contact David Gesualdo via email hidden; JavaScript is required or at 727-947-4027.

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UDS’s Romani Joins Dealer Summit Roster


TAMPA, Fla. — Organizers of Dealer Summit announced that United Development Systems Inc. (UDS)’s Fernando Romani has agreed to speak at the event, which is scheduled for May 3–5, 2016, at the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel.

“Fernando brings hard-earned experience and market intelligence to Dealer Summit,” said David Gesualdo, show chair and publisher of Auto Dealer Today and F&I and Showroom. “The dealers in attendance will benefit greatly from his session.”

Romani joined UDS last year after a 20-year dealership career that culminated in an F&I management position for which he oversaw 33 AutoNation stores. Romani will present “Learn to Effectively Market to the Ever-Growing Hispanic Population” on Thursday, May 5, at 10:10 a.m.

“Are you prepared to capitalize on the fastest growing market segment in the country?” Romani asked. “Join me at the dealer summit where I will expose how to effectively market to the growing U.S. Hispanic market, from social media to deal structure. You can’t afford to miss this. I’ll see you in Tampa!”

Registration for Dealer Summit is now open at the event’s website. Dealers who register by April 1 will enjoy a $100 early-bird discount. For information about exhibition and sponsorship opportunities, contact David Gesualdo via email hidden; JavaScript is required or at 727-947-4027.

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The Agent’s Guide to Hiring Effective F&I Managers


Among the many facets of the value proposition agents bring to dealers is their ability to help recruit F&I managers. But this is no small task. Real talent is hard to find, and the agent should also therefore ensure that new talent is not wasted or lost by a dealer not having a process in place to train and continually motivate new hires.

To learn more, we turned to the experts. Shelley Boggan-Kirchner of GSFSGroup, Great Lakes Companies’ John Braganini, Brian Crisorio of United Development Systems Inc. (UDS), Harlene Doane of DealerStrong and Automotive Development Group (ADG)’s Bill Kelly all weighed in to help answer three key questions: Where should agents look for candidates, what attributes should they look for, and how can they help put them on the path to success?

1. Where to Look

Most of our experts agreed that although the traditional path from the sales floor to the finance office continues to yield excellent results, agents and dealers would be remiss in failing to expand their search. With that in mind, we discussed a few primary sources to focus on, each with its own pros and cons:

  • Internal candidates: Do not overlook the employees already working in the dealership, particularly especially those who make known their intentions to move to F&I. In fact, this remains one of the best sources to start with, the experts say.

“Top-producing salespeople and sales managers are good candidates,” says Braganini, principal of Portage, Mich.-based Great Lakes.

“We always like to look within the organization first, as there are often a number of qualified candidates itching for their shot at being the almighty F&I Manager,” says Brian Crisorio, vice president of marketing for Clearwater, Fla.-based UDS.

In fact, Crisorio adds that he advises dealers to invest in F&I training for promising salespeople — even before a job becomes available. This strategy demonstrates a commitment to the individual on the dealer’s part, giving them a clear path to advance. It also creates a roster of qualified workers who can step in when needed, be it for a particularly busy afternoon or on a more permanent basis.

  • External candidates: Agents should be constantly on the lookout for experienced F&I managers who may be looking for a change of scenery. One good way to do that is to make sure every dealer client has a career portal on their website. But Shelley Boggan-Kirchner, the executive in charge of the Hiring Winners platform for Houston-based GSFSGroup, says dealers may want to make their intentions known in a number of ways, including asking customers for candidate referrals and conspicuously posting recruiting materials in the store.

“When we go into a dealership, we bring in marketing and recruiting materials,” Boggan-Kirchner says. “We give them signage they can put up — be it at the receptionist desk or customer waiting areas — saying, ‘This is just to inform you we’re always looking for great people. Feel free to visit our career portal.’ We also give it to them electronically. So if they want to take that link and attach it to a community job board, they can market it directly to community colleges and vocational schools.”

This strategy allows the dealership to constantly evaluate and recruit new talent, she adds, so there is never a crisis when someone decides to move on to another opportunity.

  • Outside-the-box candidates: Our experts agreed that smart, ambitious, hard-working professionals in other fields can become effective F&I managers — if you can find them. For all the time and money dealers spend marketing to find new customers, for many, the idea of creating a similar campaign to find outside-the-box candidates remains foreign. For dealers who are focused on the day-to-day operations, taking the time to actively and continuously recruit can be a daunting task. Agents who can weed through and identify the next potential stars — of F&I, sales, customer service or any other part of the dealership — can become invaluable partners. They just have to know where to look.

“Qualified candidates can come from a variety of sources, and those sources often vary from market to market,” stresses Harlene Doane, COO of DealerStrong, based out of Evansville, Ind. She also notes that other sources, such as local job boards, and social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are also good places to hunt for candidates.

From traditional sources, such as the local newspaper, to online resources like Monster, CareerBuilder and Indeed, dealers have a number of opportunities to advertise their stores as friendly, productive work environments with the potential for a six-figure income. The downside, of course, is managing a presence on multiple job sites and sifting through the reams of applications that result.

“You will have to look at many more candidates and applications if you’re only recruiting via the Internet than you will if you’re collecting referrals,” Boggan-Kirchner notes.

Agents can help by managing this process on their dealers’ behalf and making sure the ads paint a realistic picture of life in the box, including the long hours and weekend shifts. That description can prove attractive to graduates of colleges and technical schools, who may be willing to sacrifice personal time in order to enter the workforce in a high-paying position.

Of course, like other outside-the-box recruits, recent grads will come in without the benefit of relevant training and experience. That’s where screening for aptitude, ambition and a willingness to learn and follow a process take on added importance.

“What we look for are people that have certain characteristics that we feel will be the most successful,” says Kelly, a partner at Bloomington, Minn.-based ADG. “Oftentimes, they are people with a proven track record, but sometimes we do come across the right individual that we believe we can train on our trademarked Proactive Selling System.”

2. What to Look For

It is not enough to simply look for any candidate that walks through the door. It takes a certain blend of skills and attitude to be a great F&I manager, so agents focused on helping dealerships recruit the right people need to ensure they are identifying certain key traits.

  • Coachability: One of the first traits to look for is a willingness to learn the F&I process and stick to it. Every dealership will have its own set of rules and procedures that F&I managers will be expected to follow. New hires need to be willing to learn and adapt to that process, whether they are green peas or seasoned professionals.

“With all of the compliance laws and moving parts, a business manager has to have structure and be able to work in a very structured environment,” Kelly stresses. “We are not looking for an individual to go out and create their own way. When the proven path is followed, we have the best results.”

  • Professionalism: Even the most knowledgeable F&I manager will struggle if they do not look, walk and talk the part. They need to be able to put consumers at ease and be capable of guiding them through the entire process. If the F&I manager doesn’t inspire trust, they will not get very far.

“We are always looking for someone that not only possesses the general knowledge, but also has the look,” explains Crisorio. “The ideal F&I manager will present himself as a trusted advisor who is qualified and prepared to help the customers navigate the details of a vehicle purchase. They should also demonstrate a team-first attitude and strong leadership qualities.”

  • Intelligence: F&I managers must build a working knowledge of terminology, deal structure and federal, state and local regulations, often in short order. Does your latest recruit have the brainpower to guide customers through the F&I process and keep the dealership out of trouble?
  • Character: F&I managers assume a powerful position in the dealership. They will regularly face situations that will test their ethics, and ensuring their level of morality matches that of the dealership is a key trait. This can be screened for with examples of real-life situations that came up in the hiring dealership, and then having the candidate explain how they would have handled it. This gives a good baseline for how well they will fit into the dealership’s expectations of its F&I managers.

“Some dealers are more comfortable with the gray lines than others, so the character needs to be in the same circle as the dealer’s expectations,” notes Doane. “Character also comes out in reference checks, if conducted properly.”

  • Chemistry: This is perhaps the hardest trait to screen for. The F&I manager will be working with every member of the dealership staff on a daily basis, and it only takes one bad apple to disrupt the entire culture. Agents rarely have the opportunity to work with new personnel on a daily basis, so the dealer’s expectations must be perfectly clear. The dealer principal should have the final say in all new hires, and, assuming the agent has brought them all highly qualified candidates that meet every other criteria, this should be the one trait they focus on the most when making the final decision.

“You want to be sure the person you’re hiring is oriented to the culture,” Boggan-Kirchner says. “You’ll get a lot of information about their character during the due diligence of the hiring process. But once the dealer has made that decision, the work they do needs to be reflective of the culture. I think it’s important that, from the moment people enter into the dealership, it should be emphasized that it’s a career, not just a job.”

One thing all of the experts agreed on was that, while finding someone with previous F&I training is always a good thing, it isn’t necessarily a requirement. Many of them stressed that either going the internal route, hiring experienced sales people who are looking to move ahead at the dealership, or young graduates just out of school who are blank slates, can both be very compelling options. The first comes with knowledge of the industry, the vehicles and the customers that the dealership serves, putting them one step ahead of other candidates. And hiring graduates means not having to undo training or bad habits picked up somewhere else. They can be taught exactly how this dealership does it, right from the start.

“I like both,” says Boggan-Kirchner. “If you hire experienced personnel, that usually means less down time and acquiring a person with a proven track record. Hiring inexperienced requires utilizing broader recruiting methods, having a commitment to training and utilizing performance assessment tools like Hiring Winners.”

Crisorio agrees, noting that an openness to training is, in the long run, more important than previous F&I experience. Although, he says, having automotive experience of some sort can certainly help. “The experienced individual must prove to be coachable in order to adapt to the processes and procedures that a dealer group has in place. Someone new to the F&I office must share the same trait and welcome the guidance that a reputable F&I company and dealership management will provide. That will give them the best chance at a successful career.”

“We all want to think we’ll get the guy who’s going to come out and run $1,200 per copy,” says Boggan-Kirchner. “But what are the characteristics that will make that person able to do it? You want somebody who’s got drive and ambition. You want somebody who’s motivated by their own performance.”

3. How to Prepare for Success

It doesn’t matter if it is the perfect candidate, or whether they are brand new to F&I or seasoned pros, every F&I manager should get the education they need to start strong and commit to regular, ongoing training to ensure they always perform at the top of their game.

Braganini might look for candidates who have a proven track record in either F&I or automotive sales, however, he notes, that doesn’t stop him from training them. “Both [experienced and new hires] need to complete our basic and advanced FSM schools, complete a development specialist assignment with one of our trainers and maintain strict adherence to our sales process and core competency system.”

“An experienced F&I manager must become familiar with the products being offered, as well as the selling system utilized to offer those products, so menu training and product knowledge training is a must,” stresses Crisorio. “Regarding the inexperienced F&I manager, additional training would be necessary in the areas of compliance, lender relations and objection handling, to name a few.”

“You are never too experienced to receive training,” says Kelly. “We emphasize weekly training for everyone. Someone that is newer to the job will require offsite, multiday F&I development training. All of the offsite training is followed up with in store one-on-one and online classes. Every week, the best business managers make time to improve themselves.”

It is important for the dealership to set expectations early in the relationship, and then give the F&I manager the tools and knowledge they need to meet and exceed those goals. It is not, however, enough to simply have a list of vague statements that are only pulled out when it’s time to do the annual evaluation. “Once the expectations are set and goals are formed, a daily action plan needs to be followed and a six-month trend report should be implemented to track the progress,” Kelly says.

“It depends on the store and market, but goals should all be written, tracked and have consequences,” agreed Braganini. “Assigning a development specialist to the store to ensure performance compliance will ensure the candidate can succeed.”

It is important for agents to manage the dealer expectations, as well. No matter how experienced a new F&I manager might have been before joining the team, there will be a learning curve when it comes to the exact processes and products the dealership uses. This is another area where training will make a big difference. If the dealer is willing to let the agent get the new hire all the training they need prior to their first day in the office, the chances of their success — and the dealer’s — goes up exponentially.

“While it may be understood that a learning curve will exist, especially with someone new to F&I, the targets established are, well, the targets,” notes Crisorio. “As the chosen F&I partner to our clients, we accept the challenge to ensure an individual is ready to succeed on day one. Realizing success immediately is certainly not guaranteed, so I would encourage any dealer to lean on their F&I company to provide dedicated support, giving that new manager the best chance at success.”

In fact, Kelly believes agents play a critical role in this entire process. “Be a coach and always have a game plan when working with a finance manager,” he advises. “Set the objectives and always bring something of value to each session. I very much believe that it is an agent’s responsibility to develop the finance managers. Contract count is nice, but PVR is the measuring stick.”

The further an agent is willing to go to help dealers find effective F&I managers, Boggan-Kirchner says, the more valuable they will become.

“I think that it behooves everybody for the agent to be involved in the recruiting, hiring and training process,” she says. “I think agents should act as consultants to the dealer for anything F&I-related. I also think it’s a selling point for the agency to have good F&I manager development. And I think that when you have an agency that does that, it stands out.”

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Meet the Trainer: Gerry Gould


AE met with Gerry Gould to get an in depth look at his approach to training. Learn how he got started in the business, the areas he trains on, and why Gould says he should be an agent’s go-to source for dealership training.

How did you get your start in the auto industry and how/why did you specialize as a trainer?

I had just gotten married and decided that reconditioning cars was not going to give me a bright future, so I went to the dealership my dad was running and said, “Pops, I wanna sell cars.” Thankfully, he gave me a shot and I’ve been in the business ever since. It wasn’t until quite a few years later that I was asked by the dealer principal I was working for to mentor new sales consultants. It was then that I realized I could really get a message across regarding the development of personnel. Soon, I was developing training programs for the dealer group while working as an F&I manager. I eventually took a job with a nationally known F&I training company.

What areas in F&I do you focus on with your training?

We focus on all areas of F&I development from compliance to lender relations. We place a lot of emphasis on presenting a menu/option disclosure in a manner that is telling, rather than selling, and in a manner that is direct and to the point. We leave any type of selling for the end of the menu/option disclosure. Our motivation for telling rather than selling is to keep the customers attention and make an attempt to gain a commitment to purchase when the customer feels less threatened. This way gaining a commitment becomes more conversational, rather than combative.

Why should an agent call you for a training assignment?

There are a lot of training companies and trainers trying to be different – trying to reinvent the wheel and train from a point of theory or what they think will work without having ever tried it. I can say I’ve been there and done that. We understand the business of F&I and our training is always facilitated from a point of reality with proven results. We also train from a point of opportunism, knowing some things work some of the time, but some things work most of the time; we choose the ones that work most of the time.

What are the top three messages you try to give at each of your training sessions?

1.) Knowledge is power and the more you know about our industry, your products, and your customer, the more success you will have.

2.) You need to look at things from the customer’s point of view and sell based on their criteria.

3.) Tell, don’t sell. Save the selling for when you have the customer’s attention.

What changes in the industry do you foresee impacting your training the most over the next few years?

There is a lot of talk about the Internet’s role in the total transaction. Developing a curriculum for an online transaction may be in order. Then there’s all the talk about the CFPB and their influence on the industry. So I guess that could hinder the rate hounds and we’ll be called to duty. After all, it’s product that drives PVR, not rate.

Tell us about yourself and the kind of activities, hobbies, and interests you pursue outside of training.

I am very energetic and get bored quite easily. Outside of training, I like fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, golfing and making leather wrist bands as a hobby.

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‘Processes and Controls’ Panel Members Named


AUSTIN — Organizers of Texas Compliance Summit have announced that “Where the Rubber Meets the Road,” a panel discussion led by Brian Crisorio of United Development Systems (UDS), will include experts from the dealership, technology and products space. It will be the third panel of the event, which will be held Nov. 16–17, 2015, at the Hilton Austin Airport Hotel.

“Brian has assembled a panel representing three important facets of regulatory compliance,” said David Gesualdo, show chair and publisher of Auto Dealer Today and F&I and Showroom. “I can’t wait to hear what they have to say.”

Crisorio, who serves as UDS’s vice president of marketing, will be joined by Alessandro Meloni, a finance manager at Transwest Buick GMC Isuzu in Henderson, Colo.; Karen Klees, credit compliance specialist for EFG Companies; and Brian Reed, president and CEO of F&I Express.

“I’m excited to have Al reporting from the front lines and Brian and Karen adding their perspective from the technology and product sides,” Crisorio said. “Our multipronged attack on compliance issues will prove invaluable to the audience.”
The panel is part of the “Easy-to-Implement Processes and Controls” part of the agenda and will begin at 4:35 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 17.

More information about Texas Compliance Summit, including registration, can be found at the event’s website. Attendees who register on or before Oct. 26 will enjoy a $100 discount. For sponsorship and exhibition opportunities, contact Eric Gesualdo via email or at 727-612-8826.

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Bridging the Generation Gap


From the earliest stages of the nomination and selection process, we realized that a significant portion of our list would be comprised of relatives of established executives and business owners. Once this became clear, we decided to sit down with their elders to discuss the challenges and opportunities that arise when members of the next generation elect to follow them into the family business.

We quickly learned that, no matter the nature of the business or the role assumed by their progeny, several universal truths apply: There are no shortcuts to success, family members may have to work harder than their fellow employees to prove they belong and, most importantly, their very presence is a good sign the organization is moving in the right direction.

The Ultimate Compliment

When Jim Maxim Sr., founder of Profit By Design — the F&I development company formerly known as Maxim Automotive — received a call from his son, Jim Maxim Jr., asking to join the family business, he was as surprised as he was elated.

“It was one of my most humbling moments,” he says. “Your children know you best, and he wanted to come work with me.”

Compounding the compliment was the fact that, at the time, the younger Maxim was a rising star among the executive ranks of the technology sector, having enjoyed successful tenures at General Electric and Lucent Technologies. Despite the fact that his company’s bottom line had “a few less zeroes,” in Jim Sr.’s words, Jim Jr. was undeterred. “It’s not about the zeroes. It’s what we can make of it,” his father recalls him saying, and their course was set. Jim Jr. was put in charge of a new company, MaximTrak Technologies, which would grow into a leading provider of menu and reporting services.

“The wealth of experience he drew from gave him the ability to think and design globally,” Jim Sr. says. “I’m thankful to God to have a tight-knit family. It’s a dream come true for a father.”

That dream came true twice for Randy Crisorio, president and CEO of United Development Systems Inc. (UDS), when sons Jeff and Brian became full-time employees in 1998 and 2002, respectively. For Randy, the prospect of bringing his sons on board forced him to think long-term.

“We always wanted to grow and get ahead, but I really became aware that I wanted to leave the business in great shape based on what we had built and my family’s involvement in the company,” he says. “I did have the same feelings with employees, but it was heightened by a large margin when family got involved.”

Today, Jeff and Brian both serve as vice presidents with distinct areas of focus. Both worked in the box for dealer clients before joining the executive track, and both have sold and developed new dealer clients, which remains Jeff’s focus. Brian, a marketing expert, primarily works on corporate communications as well as internal strategies and planning.

“I’m already a very lucky guy to have two sons in the business,” Randy says. “But to have two confident, successful sons in the business, for me, is just spectacular.”

For Bill Nisson, owner and president of PermaPlate, the opportunity to work with his son, John, came when John’s former employer, Callaway Golf Co., announced plans to move part of its operations to Mexico.

“I encouraged John to come work for the family business. Callaway’s not a bad job — we’re kind of a golfing family,” Bill jokes. “But he decided that [PermaPlate] wouldn’t be a bad move. He joined the company about six years ago and he has done very well.” The keys to John’s success, his father says, are his work ethic and humility, coupled with a productive partnership with the company’s CFO, Brett Hutchinson. “They just seem to be a great duo. They’re bringing in business and crunching the numbers. I never thought I’d be doing this well, and then the kid came in wanting to do just as well. It’s been great to see him succeed.”

Working Overtime

Bill Nisson notes that it wasn’t he who nominated his son for inclusion in this issue. “I had nothing to do with it. It was his team that put him up because of how well he’s liked.”

John Peterson, the former principal of The Oak Group, says hard work, among other qualities, helped his nephew, Eric Peterson, put aside any fears or perceptions of an unfair advantage.

“Eric rose to the challenge,” John says. “I could lay many accolades on him — hard work, devotion, his empathy, his honesty and everything else. He’s a great, great guy, and Oak was very fortunate that he came to work for them.” If Eric did have an advantage in his rise to the rank of executive vice president of sales, his uncle says, it was the fact that his father served as general manager of several dealerships when he was growing up. “He loves the car business. His passion for the car business gives him a good head start over other people.”

When the possibility of Mark Thorpe’s son, Garrett, joining him at The Impact Group was raised, he was determined to involve his staff in the decision early enough to head off any charges of nepotism.

“Everyone was in favor, but also not exactly sure how it would work out,” Mark says. “In our case, it was easy, because Garrett was determined to learn and grow and the staff saw his dedication and hard work.”

“As a family member, you have to work twice as hard and not just follow the other family member’s success,” says Tony Wanderon, president and CEO of National Auto Care (NAC). “Be proud of where you came from, but set your own path to success.”

Wanderon’s son, Spencer, graduated college around the same time Tony and his sister, Courtney, were launching Family First Dealer Services (FFDS), which merged with NAC in 2013. Tony worked for his own father, he adds, and his wife, Christine, has been deeply involved in the venture as well. He believes that, when welcoming the next generation into your business, it’s important to look at the situation from both sides.

“Remember that it’s hard to work for a family member,” he advises. “Remember that you were most likely very similar, if it’s a son or daughter, and you may see things that they do that remind you of both the positives and negatives of a younger you. … Lastly, just because you are a family member does not mean that you will take it over. That’s something that has to be earned.”

Today, Spencer serves as NAC’s Northeast regional sales manager, and Tony says the “mutual respect and patience” shared between father and son has helped make the marriage of work and family a happy one. “That said, I am a proud dad first, today, of Spencer’s nomination for this recognition.”

Mark Macek’s nephew, Kevin Macek, joined United States Warranty Corp. as a product specialist three years ago after a successful first career as a finance company executive. Mark, the company’s president, is certain Kevin’s future is bright, and it has nothing to do with his last name.

“We put him in charge of ancillary products, and he has done a great job,” Mark Macek says. “He’s been working with vendors and he’s brought a lot of new products to the table.” Considering the company was started by his own father-in-law, Mark says he is fully aware of the added pressure his nephew faces.

“Expectations are higher. The spotlight’s on you a little more. My father-in-law expected a lot more out of me than anyone else, and I expect the same out of Kevin. … We do put higher expectations on family members. I think anyone would.”

“I’ve seen dealers and other people have kids in a responsible position, and they can take it all for granted and really ruin your business,” Bill Nisson says. “They need to bring it. They have dues to pay. They may have to work a little bit longer until they can really prove themselves.”

Enthusiasm vs. Experience

With youth comes enthusiasm, a rare and precious resource that the executives we interviewed agreed should be mined for all it’s worth.

“I don’t know that you should ever mute enthusiasm or passion in anyone,” Wanderon says. “To me, you can teach many things, but you cannot teach enthusiasm. In many cases, letting it go allows everyone to learn how much is needed.”

The passion for technology and relevant experience Jim Maxim Jr. brought to the table were intrinsic to the development of the original MaximTrak menu, and the timing was perfect, according to Jim Sr., who says he had experimented with other menu providers who he believed had failed to fully capitalize on what was still a relatively new concept.

“When I first heard of menu selling, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven,” he says. “The idea that we could present all the products to all the customers and have proof we did it was a very unique idea to every vendor. … Jim was able to bring the training and processes that we needed as a small company.”

“I don’t micromanage. If they have some good ideas, I let them run with it. If they fail, that’s fine,” Macek says. “Believe me, I’ve brought stuff to the table that hasn’t panned out. But that’s the way to do it, in my personal opinion.”

John Peterson would agree.

“I say let them make decisions — and discuss the intended possible positive and negative outcomes — but let them make decisions,” he says. “Decision-making is an important part of management training.”

“Everybody has their own ideas,” Crisorio adds. “They’re individuals as well. I think Jeff and Brian respect the experience I have and I now respect the experience they have. I can tell you that, when they were 14 and 15, they were etching cars on lots with stencils. They’ve been around the industry for a long time.”

“Anyone who has grown up in a family where the dinner conversation is about the business knows exactly what the reality of that business is,” Mark Thorpe says. “In our case, I think there is a great continuity of understanding between us. If anything, Garrett has to be the one to hold me back!”

Changing Hands

Welcoming family members into a business often forces the issue of how and when to transfer ownership — without sacrificing the security of one’s own retirement.

“It’s a dicey situation, to tell you the truth,” says Bill Nisson, who is working with his CFO, attorneys and financial planners to create a plan to pass the business on. “We want to build an enterprise that keeps on going. You do that by transferring stock at different times.”

Mark Macek says he and his wife are among several stockholders in U.S. Warranty and describes the transfer as a “gradual process.”

“Down the road, Kevin probably will have that opportunity,” he says. “We reward our key employees with stock options. … It’s not just family members that are going to take this business further. It’s all those who have dedicated themselves to the growth of the business.”

“You have to start with a well-run company,” Mark Thorpe says, noting that, although he doesn’t have a retirement date in mind, he is already confident The Impact Group could run without him. “I’m very lucky that I sincerely love what I do and whom I do it with. But I’m also a realist and know that there will come a time when I’ll feather it back a bit. As that time approaches, we’ll execute our plan for stock transfers, and I’m confident that Garrett and the rest of his staff will be ready.”

The long-term financial stability of the company should be the paramount goal, Thorpe adds, and that requires input from all sides. “Have a clear, agreed-upon plan for where you’re heading. Innovate, innovate, innovate. Finally, learn to let go.”

Randy Crisorio recommends “a good structure by a competent attorney” and, like Thorpe, has no concrete plans for retirement. “I don’t see a drop-off point where I’m going golfing. I like what we do,” he says. “So I will continue to work for the foreseeable future, and I expect the boys to continue to pay me. The company has been quite successful and continues to be. I have every confidence in my sons to carry on.”

Fatherly Advice

Asked what advice he would give to a colleague whose son, daughter, niece or nephew wanted to join their business, Crisorio says he would offer his wholehearted encouragement.

“I would say, ‘That’s awesome. Get them some retail experience so they understand that side of the business. Spend time talking about what you want to do and look forward to their own accomplishments. Give them room to grow in the business. From your side, it will be great as time passes on, because you’ll know the business is taken care of.’”

“For the man that has a son who has the drive, the desire, the intellect, the capacity and the aptitude, why wouldn’t you support it 100% and let him take the reins?” Maxim asks. “Jim has more capacity than any man I’ve ever met in my life. He was able to take all of that and make MaximTrak a global entity.”

Nisson says he would caution other business owners to gauge their offspring’s performance by the same standards they apply to other employees. “I look at the financial statement. I also look at how the other employees interact with them. … You can tell by the personality of the kid and the types of decisions they make. And if they turn people off, you have to do something about it.”

“You have to be sure that the individual is a good fit, has the ability and temperament for the work, and is willing to earn their credibility through growth and hard work, not birthright,” Thorpe says.

“Make them earn it. Set them to a higher standard,” Macek adds. “Don’t show any favoritism. It won’t help you or your company if everyone else has to work harder to advance. Nepotism is human nature. You have to fight it.”

Peterson agrees, noting that applying a “universal” standard of success will secure the future of the company and every employee.

“Allow them to earn their own way,” he says. “Allow them to make it on their own, work hard and achieve something. I think that’s very important. It allows them to be proud of their accomplishments.”

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