We were lucky enough to run into Brandon Kamigaki after Automotive News’ 40 Under 40 show where he was recognized. We asked if he would be available soon for an interview. He agreed, so the following day in the noise and people of the NADA expo, we hit record and chatted with him about his part of the industry.
ASOTU: Tell us about where you work and the role you fill in your company.
Kamigaki: I work at Servco Pacific Inc. We have nine dealerships across Hawaii. We're also the distributor for Toyota, Lexus, and Subaru, and we have one Chevy store.
I'm the product manager for automotive retail, so I develop products for integration or our own use. A lot of time and money is invested in using technology to do business better, whether digitally or in person. The company is working to figure things out, and it's nice to build that tech arm.
ASOTU: Being part of a dealer group, you must be first to find out where customers want those investments most.
Kamigaki: I started off in the dealership. When they wanted to gather a digital strategy team, they pulled me over from the dealer side so we could bring insight from the view of the customer, rather than just a corporate team.
I didn't want to be a cog in the wheel. I quickly said, "that's not going to work." I had to learn to be more progressive and forward-thinking, and not be too fast with that initial rejection.
ASOTU: So, you switched from dealership to development, but how did you initially get into the auto industry?
Kamigaki: It was actually my first job out of college. I applied to the University of Oregon Business School, got into the Lithia Motors management program, spent a few months in sales, then moved to finance.
While I was in finance, our main store merged with a giant superstore. It became the flagship, and I moved there. After 8 years of working in finance, I went to sales manager, finished my MBA, and started this work.
ASOTU: How do you feel about the 40 Under 40 Award?
Kamigaki: Everybody was so great! I was listening to what they’d done and thought, "That's what I wanted to do next, and they already did it! How did I get selected for this?"
I think the pandemic forced the world to change, and my company's work became more essential, so I'm lucky to be in this space. Dealers had to adapt, and because of my experience, they trusted me and let me help them.
ASOTU: Sounds like you worked hard for the trust beforehand and did well with the opportunity to help in the crisis.
Kamigaki: I was always one of the people the company would pull in to do new stuff. While I was working on commission, the long meetings were hard, but when the opportunity to work with all the stores and GMs presented itself, I took it. It's what I like.
ASOTU: What's next?
Kamigaki: I want to finish my doctorate. I went back to school because I realized we can't just build things and expect people to use them. Change management is a big piece of it.
When trying to be agile, there are a lot more feedback loops to do. This Organizational Change degree will help close gaps between technology and adoption that wastes dealer money.
New things come to the store, and everybody kinda hates it until it makes sense. I don't want to build things that are not going to be useful.
ASOTU: What do you love most about the job?
Kamigaki: It is exciting to work with so many new things. I am in a position where I can learn more. Sometimes I learn about automotive, sometimes I talk to customers, and sometimes something weird happens, you know?
In this position, I have more time to work with nonprofits, so it is fulfilling in many ways.
ASOTU: Nobody will hold you responsible for varied results, but what tip would you offer to the folks in automotive?
Kamigaki: I'm not really a car guy. I don't change my own tires, and my car is late for service. But you can come into this business from any direction. Working hard and learning scale in any industry. Tech and the industry are evolving; someday, they may not be looking for car people.
Surround yourself with people you trust. Be transparent and lead with empathy. You can't build better tools and processes until you understand peoples’ situations.