A few weeks ago, I was invited to speak at a Honda Grassroots Meeting for Zone 8 by the zone manager. For those who know me and the Paragon dealerships, Zone 8 is not my zone. In fact, it is far from my zone, in the upper Midwest.

 

It’s always a great opportunity to spend time outside of my bubble and see how the rest of the country does business. Brainstorming and sharing knowledge is critical to building each other up, because as Honda dealers we should be allies instead of foes.

 

I was honored that Honda corporate thought that my thoughts and business philosophies would be valuable enough to share with fellow Honda dealers, particularly in a market so different from New York. And yet, the central theme of my presentation was one that affects all dealers across the nation. I believe our industry is under attack in the form of Tesla, Google and Apple. The warning signs are here, and there is no mistaking the direction in which the consumer wants our industry to evolve. That evolution may not include us, the dealer.

 

Hope is not lost. The best part about these warning signs are just that – they are signs, signals of the impending change. We have time to adjust and to adapt before the rain comes. Adjust your business models and adapt to the consumer while times are good.

 

Fix the roof while the sun is shining.

 

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Photo: This photo was taken during the presentation at the beautifully classic Renaissance Blackstone Chicago hotel.

Last week, Paragon Honda was honored with the distinction of #1 Honda Certified Pre-Owned Dealer in the nation for 2015. Several wonderful folks from American Honda visited Paragon Honda to personally deliver this award, including Mr. Hiroshi Aizawa, Mr. Ray Mikiciuk and Mr. Sam Dolente.

I am incredibly proud of my team for working hard every minute of every day of 2015 to earn this award. It is a significant accomplishment. It speaks to our ability to provide the right product at the right price to large numbers of people, and our market has responded favorably to this value proposition.

 

#1 Volume Dealer Award pic

 

Cover Photo: (From left) Hiroshi Aizawa, Honda Division Coordinator; Ray Mikiciuk, Honda Senior Manager U.S. Field Sales; Sam Dolente, Honda Zone Manager, from American Honda present Paragon Honda with the #1 Honda CPO Dealer Award 2015.

Post Photo: Several members of our Paragon Honda management team. (From left): Rob Patel, Jason Graciano, Mike Adovic, Sasha Kekovic and Ariel Munoz.

I had the honor of being the keynote speaker for the 2016 Automotive Leadership Roundtable in Miami, Florida. It was an incredible event, attended by the best and the brightest in the industry. Shared wisdom only makes us collectively better.

My presentation topic was one that I’ve been speaking about for quite a while now, and something that has me very, very worried. As an industry, we need to wake up and acknowledge the dangerous external threats we are facing in the form of Google, Apple and Tesla. These tech titans have declared their intention to build their own vehicles and disrupt our industry in measures not seen since widespread adoption of cars decades ago. It is time to act, get your own house in order before it is too late. Fix the roof while the sun is shining on us.

Photo: Backstage view during my presentation at the beautiful Fontainebleu Hotel in Miami, Florida.

That quote is from Arnold Schwarzenegger. Champion bodybuilder, A-list actor, successful politician – the man has achieved everything he has set out to do.

This video, narrated by Schwarzenegger, speaks about his drive and motivation to succeed. Perhaps most importantly, Schwarzenegger describes his plan and worth ethic to the path of greatness. He did not stumble upon success. He had a plan, and he worked tirelessly to achieve his dreams.

A plan and work ethic – two things I respect most. Enjoy the video.

Video: http://bit.ly/1SYoCXa

Donald Trump knows how to be successful. Whether you agree with his political opinions or not, The Donald has achieved what few people have been able to accomplish: “Trump” is no longer just his name, but a larger-than-life brand recognized around the world across multiple industries.

I found this interview with CNBC’s Erin Burnett on “The Billionaire Inside: Donald Trump” from over a decade ago, long before he declared his candidacy for President of the United States. He described three basic principles for success:

  1. Know your subject
  2. Negotiate face to face
  3. Build your brand

Even though Trump wasn’t specifically talking about the automotive industry, I think these principles are more relevant in today’s automotive environment than ever before. As margins continue to shrink and consumers become more educated, we must know our product inside and out. We must be able to build a trusted relationship with our customers beyond mass mailings. And perhaps most importantly, our businesses must have solid reputations that speak for themselves.

Video link: http://bit.ly/1Lg61mY

 

Within the most innocent interactions lie the greatest lessons.

The other day a man approached me in Paragon Honda’s showroom. I didn’t recognize him, so I asked him his name and how I could help him. He told me that I had sold him his first Honda vehicle – a Pilot – ten years ago when I was a General Sales Manager at P.S. Honda in Queens.

“You don’t remember me, do you?” he said. Surprised, I admitted that I did not.

“You sold me a Pilot ten years ago at P.S. Honda. I told you I would come back when it was time for my next car – and here I am,” he said, and he pulled out a business card of mine from over ten years ago.

While I had no memory of this customer, nor of his Pilot that I sold him so many years ago, this simple interaction reminded me of perhaps the only rule in sales that matters: if you treat a customer the right way, a customer is a customer forever. We sold him a new 2016 Accord, and he walked away a happy customer – again.

 

Photo: The featured photo is my old business card that the gentleman presented.

As dealers, we have a lot of details to keep track of. It’s a huge operation to ensure everything runs smoothly every day. It’s easy to let details go since they “don’t matter anyway.” I’ve heard that a lot lately.

Friends.. details are what sets you apart. The details put you from good to great. Small things like making sure all the vehicles in the lot are aligned perfectly, or that every vehicle adorned with matching hangtags and license plate inserts. These are the things that our customers notice first even if we notice them last.

Pay attention to the details. They will get you far.

 

Photo: The Paragon Honda Certified Pre-Owned staff early in the morning, making sure the lot is perfect with just a porter and a string.

White Plains Honda decided to celebrate the season of giving with a “November to Remember” event this past November, promising to donate 20 cans of food for each car sold on Saturday, November 7. The donations would be donated to the Food Bank for Westchester.

White Plains Honda had homemade food, subs and other refreshments on hand to celebrate as they sold an incredible 31 cars in one day. Led by new sales manager Chris Paranzino, White Plains Honda donated over 620 cans of food to the Food Bank just before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Congratulations, White Plains Honda team! We’re already looking forward to the 2nd Annual November to Remember Event later this year.

Photos: Chris Paranzino, White Plains Honda Sales Manager, assists with the canned food delivery for the Food Bank for Westchester.

 

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