Getting Ready for the Recovery—The 2010 NADA Convention and Expo

There are a lot of retrospectives about 2009 being published in magazines and across the web right now, so I won’t bore you with another one. Suffice it to say, it was a tough year. Things, however, have started to turn a corner. The stock market has risen dramatically since its low in March and more importantly, last month the unemployment rate actually fell slightly. Now I’m not a Pollyanna who is going to tell you everything is fine and there is no more need to worry, but I’m also not Chicken Little. I am realistic, however, and it is time to take a serious look at our businesses and decide where we want to go in the next year and into the future.

After the past year, it’s easy to feel shell-shocked, but we need to move on; we should learn from history, but we can’t let it paralyze us. Now, as the market is taking its first baby steps towards recovery, is the time to grow your market share and seize your share of business as people return to buying cars.

As consumers return to the dealership, many dealers may be tempted to go back to their old ways of doing business; after all, they may think, “if it worked before, it will work now.” It is easy to think this way, but this recession is not like the recessions of the past; it has severely impacted consumer confidence and behavior in ways that are not likely to change simply because the recession has ended. This new consumer mentality, coupled with the new budget and regulatory realities brought on by the recession, mean that dealers are confronting a very different business environment than just a few years ago.

With so much going on in the industry, it is incumbent upon dealers to stay informed and network with each other to determine how to proceed in the year ahead. The best place to do this is the 2010 NADA Convention & Expo in Orlando Florida. The theme of the convention this year is “Vision for Tomorrow” and there will be five tracks for dealers to attend, depending which parts of their dealerships they need to concentrate on.

Track One, “Strategic Business Management and Succession Planning” is a track that many dealers will find useful. Topics range from “The Pitfalls and Solutions to Successorship and Estate Planning in 2010 for the Dealership Family Business,” with Chris Martens, where he will discuss “10 pitfalls to successorship and estate planning, as well as solutions to counteract each pitfall” to “Synergistic Expense Control: Reducing Expenses Without Sacrificing Services” with Stephen Larrimore where “participants will examine areas in their operations where they can reduce redundant costs by consolidating or even eliminating certain third-party vendors.” Other topics will include “25 Best 20 Group Ideas to Get Through 2010” and an “Update on Federal Regulatory Developments Impacting Automobile Dealerships.”

Track Two, “Business Development—Finding and Keeping your Customers,” is something that can benefit all dealerships. Imagine how much you could save if all of your customers came back the next time they needed a new car or vehicle service! This is a subject that touches on every aspect of your dealership, from the service bay to the front desk; customer retention is key to a successful business. One of the ways that the internet has changed the way that car dealers do business is through social media. In order to help understand this complicated and dynamic aspect of the internet and internet marketing, James Ziegler will discuss “statistics and demographics of the four most aggressive social networks in the North American markets: Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter,” in order to help dealers better use these channels to market their dealerships and build online communities of loyal customers and fans.

Other topics will include “How to Deliver eMails in a SPAM-Filtered World” with Peter Martin, where he will teach dealers how to keep their emails out of the spam box and keep their dealerships front of mind with customers and “Where is Everybody?: Five Ways to Get Your Customers Back,” where Bruce O’Brien will show dealers that “by correcting a few simple mistakes, you can drive extra fixed operations revenue, decrease advertising costs, and significantly increase customer retention.” In addition Patrick Ritschel will show dealers how to have “Guaranteed Phone Success,” something that all dealerships could use and Howard Polirer will cover integrating traditional and online marketing in his workshop “Integrating Online & Traditional Advertising Tactics.”

Track Three, “Vehicle Sales—Performance and Profitability” is for dealers who need to concentrate on finding credit for their customers, proper inventory management, and proper vehicle appraisal. The sessions will include everything from “The Secrets to Credit Approval in Today’s Market” with Tony Dupaquier, who will discuss how “by asking the right questions and taking a closer look at the credit application, virtually every customer has the ability to finance a vehicle” to “Inventory Management: Today’s Technology, Today’s Profits” with Doug Hadden who will delve into how “inventory management today consists of four unique but interlocking activities that ensure that dealers achieve maximum profit and return on investment.”

Other sessions in Track Three include “Turning Adversity into Opportunity: Using Online Auctions to Boost Sales and Increase Efficiency, In Any Economy” with Andrew Iorgulescu and “Used Car Dominance/Lower Costs in the New SAAR ERA” with Dale Pollack.

The service drive can be one of the most profitable parts of a dealership, as well as one of the best ways to find customers. With consumers hanging on to their cars longer than in years past, this is one area that no dealership can afford to ignore. In order to help dealers navigate the new service landscape, the NADA Convention & Expo will include Track Four: “Fixed Operations—Advantages of Unity.”

Track Four will cover a range of topics. Starting with “The Four Essentials to Achieving 100% Service Absorption” with Don Reed where “participants will learn how to develop business plans for achieving 100 percent service absorption, increasing net profits, minimizing expenses, and building owner retention” to “Internet Marketing for Fixed Operations” with Lee Harkins, which will teach dealers about website modifications as well as give “examples of ‘free’ advertising and new ways to integrate online video into the customer communications process.” Other sessions in this track include “The Road to Dealership Growth Goes Through your Service Drive” with Steve Emery, “Drive Customers by Building a Better Online Parts Department” with Famous Rhodes, and “Daily Inventory Control-Beyond Perpetual Inventories” with Jim Phillips.

The final track, Track Five: “Human Resource and Development” is another aspect of the dealership that has grown in importance with the current economic slump. Sessions in this track will cover all aspects of the human resources department. From “HR Problems? Rules of the Road to Avoid Liability” with Keith Watts and “The Five Toughest Decisions Dealers Face Today” with Joe Verde to “The Power of the Pay Plan” with Jim Mueller and Travis Mazza and “Dealership Department Development-How to Eliminate the Cost of Ineffectiveness” with David Worall, this track covers all aspects of HR in today’s dealership.

This is by no means a complete list of all the classes and workshops that are available at the 2010 NADA Convention & Expo in Orland Florida, for a complete list visit NADA, however, is more than just a good place to learn how to better run your dealership; it is also simply the best place in the world for auto dealers to network and share ideas, as well as find business partners and vendors that can help grow their businesses. Sure you could skip this year’s show and save a few bucks, but what will it cost you in the long run?

It’s time to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and get back to doing what we do best: selling cars. We’ll see you at the convention!

Michael Bowen


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