WardsAuto: Does the retail management system replace the DMS?

Lamb: A DMS is great at counting the money, and that’s important. But when you talk about retailing and putting customers in the right car and servicing the cars and bringing in digital marketing, you are fundamentally in a different place.

When I became the company’s president, I said DMS has passed us by. I went around internally and talked about retailing, the impact of megatrends and what the dealership of the future would look like.

A woman who had been with the company 25 years left one of my presentations crying. She had raised her hand in front of 80 people and asked, “Does this mean we have to rebuild everything? What’s wrong with what we got?”

I responded, “The answer to your second question is that what we’ve got is not going to be what’s needed in the future. We’d go out of business. The answer to your first question is, yes, we’ve got to build everything from the ground up for it to all work.”

This was 2009 when everything was going down. We basically bet the farm. DMS became so ingrained in our psyche. But we had to start thinking of ourselves as a retail-management system company.

WardsAuto: Why was she crying?

Strawsburg: She had been around a long time, built a lot and was proud of it.

Lamb: Her career had centered on our accounting platform, and she had done a fantastic job. But to hear we have to rebuild all that drew a “what-the-heck” response.

And it had been a long time since the organization had been challenged. I’m not a subtle guy. The status quo will lead to death. Dinosaurs once ruled the world, but there aren’t any of them left.

By the way, that woman ended up playing a critical role in helping to reshape the new foundations.  

WardsAuto: Is DMS now a forbidden word at Reynolds?

Strawsburg: It’s still a foundation. The DMS is the system that keeps the records.  It contains information such as that a customer two years ago bought a particular pickup truck, with this engine and these options and paid this much for it, and got this much on the trade in. All that is in the DMS.

Now, with, say, our integrated phone system, when that customer calls, that information automatically appears on the computer screen of the dealership person taking the call. Data on service visits also pops up. With information like that readily available, I am prepared to talk to you.

Lamb: We offer DMS, and that’s all some dealers want. But a smaller, emerging trend of dealers really is going after that Disney experience. It gives them a competitive advantage.

WardsAuto: What is the general acceptance level of something like that?

Lamb: Most dealers say it makes a lot of sense. A dozen or so dealers said, “I’m drinking the Kool-Aid, I want it all.”

WardsAuto: What are the demographics of the Kool-Aid drinkers?

Lamb: A 3-, 4- or 5-store person who recognizes that to get to more stores and operate at that Disney “wow” level, you’ve got to make changes.

WardsAuto: Are they doing it as a reflection of their success or are they looking for a life preserver?

Strawsburg: They are dealers with the confidence to implement a process. They have the organizational strength to get their people to use the tools to improve the dealership.

Lamb: Hundreds of years from now, a year that will stick out will be 2007, when smartphones got put in virtually everybody’s hands, and everyone had access to nearly all the world’s information. Between Google and the smartphone, everyone has that access, all the time and everywhere they go.

I looked at megatrends like that and thought, “Being the best DMS company? I don’t know.” You see companies that miss big trends, and what happens to them is not a pretty picture. I kept talking about it, drawing diagrams and writing on napkins until I literally was told: “OK, do it.”

sfinlay@wardsauto.com