State of the association – opening remarks from NIADA 2021 Convention

Let me tell you a story …

In October, I was hired by the Board of Directors to be NIADA’s Chief Staff Officer – the CEO.  I bring to NIADA 35 years of trade association experience and more than three decades impacting policy in Washington, DC.  I bring to NIADA a lifetime commitment to helping entrepreneurs.

I sought this job believing NIADA to be a great organization.  What I found, is this is an amazing organization.  I sought this job because I wanted to work with great entrepreneurs.  What I found, are amazing entrepreneurs essential in their communities.  I sought this job because I wanted to help take the organization to new levels of success.  What I found was an already successful organization primed to achieve the next levels of greatness.

I took over NIADA standing on the shoulders of greatness.  NIADA under Steve Jordan’s leadership achieved unprecedented levels of growth and success.  When Steve left, Shaun Petersen was tasked with the unenviable role of interim CEO.  Shaun rose to the occasion and helped steer NIADA through the worst year any of us have ever experienced.

You two are a hard act to follow.  We will build on your success and take NIADA to new levels of service to the members.  Let me tell you how.

Immediately upon being hired, I began a listening tour.

For thirty-days, I spoke with every Board member, every staff member, every state executive, every state board president, key segment leaders, and key vendors.  I asked what they liked and didn’t like about NIADA.

What we did right and what we could do better.  What they thought the strengths, opportunities, weaknesses, and threats to the industry and the association.  I compiled all of my notes and reported them to the Board.

The Board, staff, state executives, and I began drafting a strategic plan.  By my 90th day, in February of this year, the Board adopted a written strategic plan to guide us on our journey.  I re-organized the staff to better meet your needs and implement the strategic plan.  Let me walk you through the key points of NIADA’s strategic roadmap so you know where we are going.

The Board adopted what may be the first vision statement for the organization.  It’s the statement of why we exist and what we are trying to achieve by our existence.  “A robust, ethical, and professional independent used vehicle market trusted by consumers.”  Note the inclusion of consumers.

The Board revised the mission statement.  The mission statement guides everything we do.  “Promote, educate, and advocate for ethical independent automobile dealers and their consumers.”  Again, note the inclusion of your customers because they are part of your story.

The strategic plan puts our members and our state associations front and center, let’s take a look at the seven strategic goals.

  1. NIADA will help the industry continue to grow with a minimum of regulation in a fair and equitable marketplace.

This, is advocacy.  This is your voice.  This is our seat at the table.  Because, in Washington, DC and our state capitals, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.  To achieve this goal, we hired Brett Scott to be vice president of government affairs.  Brett is our first, full-time advocacy staff member in Washington, DC.  We will add to Brett’s team to amplify your voice.  We’ve expanded our Legislative/Regulatory Committee and our Buy Here Pay Here Commission so that you have more input.  It’s working.  Working with our GPS partners, we beat back damaging GPS regulations in Illinois.  Working with the New York – New Jersey association, we beat back damaging recall legislation.  And, there is neither GPS nor recall provisions in either the Senate or House infrastructure bills.

We are meeting regularly with the CFPB and now the FTC.  We are active in coalitions.  We are becoming well known in DC.  NIADA is at the table.

  1. NIADA will be the authoritative voice of the used vehicle marketplace.

At this meeting, we are unveiling our totally new website, which is clean, professional, and easy to navigate.  We will expand research and information to help you better manage your dealerships.  Look for the introduction of the Daily Independent, that will provide timely, highly impactful information relevant to you.  Through our 20 Group Program, we have more information about the used vehicle marketplace than anyone else, yet we don’t do anything with it.  That will change.

  1. NIADA will create a demand among consumers for using NIADA members.

It is unacceptable that a web search for how to buy a used car does not bring up NIADA or any of our states in the first 10 pages on Google!  We will be on top.  We will add consumer education videos and guides on the website and told why it matters.  Imagine if NIADA members were identified on used vehicle websites.  While Saint Matthew is the Patron Saint of Tax Collectors and accountants, we can learn marketing lessons from him as well.  At Chapter 5 verses 14 and 15, he tells us to take our lights out from under the bushel basket so that it can shine bright.  That’s what we will do for consumers.  Oh, and just you know, for me Matthew 18 verse 20 says, “wherever three or more members are, that’s where we’ll be.”

  1. NIADA will attract more members to the Association.

Nothing speaks louder in Washington or in state capitols than having a lot of members.  A lot of employees.  A lot of votes.

NIADA is working with the states to develop comprehensive marketing and member engagement materials so that we can grow.

The state executives formed a marketing and membership committee to achieve the goal of improving our communication with members – without beating you to death with emails – and to increase membership.

  1. NIADA will help improve the operations and reach of the state affiliates.

Nothing is more important to the success and growth of NIADA than the success and growth of our state affiliates.  The members and the states are at the center of the strategic plan.  In addition to the marketing and membership committee, the state executives formed an app committee, and a continuing education committee to develop education for the state executives and all of our boards.  The state executives are driving the bus.  NIADA staff is providing staff support to these committees.  Working together, we can change what ever we set our minds to.

  1. NIADA will offer exceptional member benefits.

We are restructuring how we work with vendors to ensure that agreements are a win for the vendor, a win for the members, a win for NIADA, and a win for the states.  The new website will make finding these member benefits easier.  It will become a virtual trade show.  It will have a benefits calculator to show just how many multiples of your investment is returned to you.  We will establish relationships with credit unions and community banks.  We will work with the auctions to address concerns about condition reports.

And, at this meeting, we are launching a new, expanded, and greatly improved certified pre-owned and warranty program that will allow you to compete head-to-head with franchise dealers.  The CPO program benefits you, it benefits your state, and it benefits your customers.  The CPO program is one more way NIADA is helping members benefit, profit, and grow.

  1. NIADA will help members optimize their business to compete in an evolving marketplace through 20 Groups, best practices, benchmarking, education, certification, meetings, and networking.

We brought Chris Leedom back and formed a 20 Group Steering Committee.  We’ve hired three amazing new moderators, Ed Curry who brings retail and service experience, Bill Elizondo and Ben Goodman two buy here pay here experts.  In addition, we have two guest moderators Mau Esposito and Randy Brinkman.  The Steering Committee will help us standardize the experience 20 Group members have.  As we create new groups, we will do so cognizant that not all members can afford resort meetings.  Before you join a group, we want to know what you expect and we want you to know what to expect.  We now have the breadth of resources to offer 20 Groups to every level of member, whether buy here pay here, retail, or service.

We will bring back the Certified Master Dealer program.  We will offer a national learning management system, white labeled for the states, that consolidates on-line training resources so you can manage the training of your employees in one easy to use place.

You’ll notice at this meeting that we’ve expanded education.  The tracks are clearly defined and identified.  The sessions were developed by dealers for dealers.  New this year is the Service Bay.  These micro-sessions are designed to quickly provide you with information and ideas you can immediately put to work.

Education is a key to success, and NIADA is committed to your success.

This is your plan.  It’s what you said you wanted NIADA to be.  We’ll know we’re successful, when you say, “I can’t run my dealership without NIADA.”  So,

Whether you say “y’all or youse guys”.  Whether you’re “fixing to” or “gonna”.  Whether you’re sweet or unsweet.  Whether you are buy here pay here or retail.  NIADA is your home.  Your voice.  Your association.  And, I can’t tell you how happy I am to be a part of you.

Thank you.

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