I look for a CEO that is committed, who has integrity and who treats employees fairly.
For two decades, Mark Boyd has invested in digital technology to provide solutions for the auto industry. Lots of them.
From his earliest days in automotive, Mark Boyd has had more good experiences than bad. In fact, his most commonly used phrase when describing his time at Dealix, Chrome, LotLinx and many others is, “That was a fun run.” And he means it.
“I got into the auto industry in 1986, in my garage with one PC and a 10 MB hard drive,” explains Boyd with a laugh. Boyd, then in the marketing department at Hewlett-Packard along with his neighbor Celas Hug, a programmer for Oregon State University, discovered that dealers had a problem they had the skills to solve. The issue? The time-consuming task of updating pricing from manufacturer’s ordering guides and brochures. The solution was PC Carbook (Chrome Data Solutions). “We started selling software to dealers one by one, just getting on the phone and telling them we have this cool program that can take their two hours of pricing and melt it down to about 2½ minutes, and it will cost less than a cup of coffee per day.” It was an instant hit. The company eventually landed a Chevrolet Motor Division deal, becoming the official ordering system for General Motors as GM Autobook.
That experience would be the launching pad, and defining moment, in Boyd’s successful career in automotive. “We learned a lot about dealers and we learned a lot about ourselves and the value we were bringing to dealers,” he says. “But more importantly, we learned to do the right thing for the dealer, meaning we kept evolving the product to get it better and better.”
A better experience should be what drives vendors and dealers, notes Boyd, who shares his sage advice with both parties.
Hey, Vendors! Want to attract investors and sell to dealers?
Do the right thing
“There have been a few smaller companies that I was involved with that were not successes, but do you know what it came down to in those companies? It was the leader. The person, the CEO. It was the person’s character, the honesty level and how he or she dealt with the business. Did that person have the raw passion to truly help dealers sell more cars—not just a focus on money? The money will follow, but it’s doing the right thing for the right reasons for our dealers—and that’s what I look for. I look for a CEO who is smart and committed, who has integrity and who treats employees fairly—because they are an extension of who he or she is. Denise Chudy, the cofounder and CEO of LotLinx, is an example. Awesome person, wicked smart. She’s taken our company to the next level by translating incredible value for the dealer. That’s what I look for—and the idea doesn’t have to be great, it just has to be good and deliver value. People come to me with a great idea, but they say, ‘Sign an NDA [nondisclosure agreement], because it’s worth millions of dollars.’ My first response to that is, ‘Well, an NDA is not worth the paper it’s written on.’ It’s the execution of the idea that has value. And if it’s a long-term value and high value for the dealers, it will be a very successful company. The right motive is doing the right thing, bringing great products that are disruptive and helpful for both the dealer and the consumer—and the marketplace we’re in—that’s what’s exciting. That’s what makes me sit up in my chair and truly take note.
Burn your ships, not the relationships
“Another component I look for in a company is its need to survive. If I have $500 million sitting in the bank, first of all, I am going to have an ego problem. Number two, I’m going to think I don’t need dealers, screw dealers, I am going to cut around dealers. There’s attitude. I like startups that really have burned their ships, meaning they’ve come to America and burned their ships. They have no way to go back—they can only go forward. That’s what I love about startups: They have no other option. If you’re hungry, you have to make it work. I think it’s better for the dealer, better for the consumer, better for the experience all around. They’re going to do the right thing and not just throw money at it. It will be built with stability, with input from the dealer. There’s a personal stake involved. That’s what I’ve seen in the most successful startups. A little money helps—don’t get me wrong—but too much money hurts. And I’ve heard a few companies say they were going to put the dealers out of business. Really? Dealers are powerful. They are to be respected and they are to be worked with. Helping the dealer is a successful path, not eliminating the dealer. Even if a consumer doesn’t feel like they have to have a dealer because of a bad experience. Yes, vendor, create a great consumer experience, but you need to work with the dealer, too.
Hey, Dealers! Want the best from your vendor and to stay in front of the pack?
“When you chose a vendor, you chose that vendor for a reason. Don’t just throw the baby out with the bathwater. I see a lot of dealers hiring people, then firing them the next month. They didn’t give time for the product or service to work. Have patience, dealer. Yes, make sure the ROI is there, but that’s your responsibility and the vendor’s responsibility. Communicate with the vendor. Say, ‘Hey, I don’t think it’s working.’ The vendor may say, ‘Did you flip this switch?’ Well, flip that, and aha, it really works now. There’s sometimes a simple solution. Dealers are way smarter today than just 10 years ago. They are hiring smart technical people and marketing people who are digital-savvy, a new generation raised on this stuff. They are smart about selecting a vendor. They vet it carefully to see who has a shiny object but no depth underneath or who has that shiny object with white papers and dealers using it and it actually works. I look for that.
“Many dealers are still fearfully motivated when it comes to the big third-party lead providers. They are worried that, if they cut them off, their sales will drop and their competitor will get those customers. They’re doing well, but they’re afraid of losing their momentum. Other dealers, who don’t care, cut third-party lead providers off because they have that decision-making capability and guts. They are seeing no loss of business. This is the trend. And these aggregators are slowly changing their business model. If they don’t, they’ll be irrelevant. Smaller dealers need to wake up a little bit and start reading blogs and sites that share this information. Dealers, you better see what’s out there and listen to some of these new ideas—but vet it, with the ROI and other dealers using that service. Do your research. Go to the Digital Dealer and Driving Sales events, for goodness’ sake; it’s worth the investment because, when you see the products, you’re exposed to new ideas, new concepts. Dare to be different.”
Chrome Data Solutions/Cofounder, Board Member
Dealix/Investor, Sr. VP Strategy, Mergers & Acquisitions
CARgigi.com/Cofounder, CSO, Board Member
LotLinx.com/Investor, Board Member
Ignition Auto Marketing/Partner
OP Connect/Board Member
Boyd Ventures, LLC/Owner
Boardwalk Aviation, LLC/Partner
Brokered PickUpTruck.com to Cars.com
This article was published in the Winter 2016 issue of Strategy Mob.