ASOTU CON Sessions Episode 18: Brian Clemens

October 26, 2022
Brian Clemens and Michael Cirillo sit down to chat at ASOTU CON 2022.
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Brian Clemens and Michael Cirillo sit down to chat at ASOTU CON 2022.

Brian Clemens is the Sales Manager at Burns Buick GMC Genesis Hyundai

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Paul Daly: 0:03You're listening to the ASOTU CON Sessions by Effectv recorded live in Philly.Michael Cirillo: 0:11

All right, I'm sitting down now with my pal Brian Clemens from Burns Hyundai Auto via ASOTU CON Sessions powered by Effectv thanks so much for joining me today.

Brian Clemens: 0:20

Thanks, man. Glad to be here. All right, so a lot of hype, we

Michael Cirillo: 0:23

were walking down from the VIP lounge and Danielle's saying to tell him why you're here. So I said, Don't spoil it. Why are you here?

Brian Clemens: 0:33

Well, I've been listening to folks like, you know, Paul, Kyle, yourself. I'm very new to the automotive industry, when you look at it as a career, I've only been doing this about three, three and a half years, kind of risen through the ranks, I'm always looking for the next opportunity. But what I was finding was, it's hard to find like minded people of the old school versus New School Month mentality, if you will, in terms of how business is conducted, how you're training, people empowerment. And there's a lot of folks that you guys have had on your, on your podcasts and YouTube videos, that seem to be like minded people. And that was one of the reasons I came out. Luckily, this was in my backyard, where I work is only in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, it's, you know, 30 minutes away. But honestly, I think this would have been in Buffalo or Cincinnati or Louisville or Texas. You know, it's it's nice to know that, you know, for someone who doesn't have 20 years experience, like, hey, there's other people out there who have similar thought patterns to you're not crazy. You're not You're not, you know, you got your GM sometimes, certainly, oh, you know, I've been around for 35 years. And that's just not how we do business here. Right? And being like, well, actually, you know, there's more than one ways to get to the to the store, you know, maybe it's a left that that light or straight or right here. But, you know, it's nice to know that there's some validation, and people are having success, not just in business, but putting the people first and knowing that the business will be successful because of the people.

Michael Cirillo: 1:59

It's funny you say that I remember, as a teenager, my buddy said, here's the challenge, we both got our licenses. So we're new drivers. He's like, we have to make it to your house from my house only taking right turns. It took a really long time. But we made we actually made it and that's what you made me think of talk to me a little bit about. So you said just a minute ago, you're new to the business. What do you mean by that new is in

Brian Clemens: 2:24

New is in like, so. My father had a car detailing business when we were growing up. So one of the first exposures I had 13 14 years old, obviously getting paid under the books, helping your dad out, we're doing service washers for power washing a lot. And I'm the youngest of seven brothers and sisters. So he had a good workforce there for a while. And you know, a lot of them, you know, obviously gravitated towards what was right in front of them, whether it was a service mechanic technician, you know, my sister's a controller of a smaller Auto Group. Or there was one of the, you know, top selling salesmen year over year at where he works. I joined the Navy. That's

Michael Cirillo: 3:03

what I did. Oh, you're like, I ain't going? Yeah, I didn't I do to not do this.

Brian Clemens: 3:07

I knew I needed something, you know, different, you know, the right. You know, I think I think I was very smart. Knowing that if I went to college, my discipline level at that point wasn't going to make it right. And maybe I was a little afraid of my dad in terms of like, I'm not paying for that. If you're not going to follow through on it. You know,

Michael Cirillo: 3:22

I'm afraid of my dad. So I'm gonna join the Navy. Yeah. Which

Brian Clemens: 3:25

to be fair, he was in the army. So it was also, you know, like, I was making them happy in some regards, as well. But yeah, I mean, I knew I had to do something a little bit different. You know, I was very, very blessed to have amazing leadership throughout that time. And I think being I was on a submarine, being in a community that's a lot smaller, also allowed some of that leadership to be there, where there's a lot of thoughts about, you know, how to treat people how to grow people how to develop people, and most of the military does have it, but it's not as command and control as you would think, which, ironically, is what I see at a lot of, you know, dealerships and I hear about, or it's a lot more command and control versus the people empowerment and collaboration and, you know, idea generation. And, you know, I heard a great, great comment in one of the talks this morning, about there's a dealership out there that has everybody from the lot attendant to the general manager and like in like a meeting, so where they're all having these ideas about their different pressure points, and how they all fit together. And that's something that we would have done in the military in terms of like, we had a daily meeting of like, how are we going to deconflict work? What if the hydraulics go down? How do I do this electronically if this isn't going to be on and that was a daily meeting. And to me, it makes sense, right, right. Because I was born in that environment. But then you take it out to an industry like this. And it's like a it's like a hot new idea. It's like, oh, wow, everybody in all levels of the industry to be able to or the business to be able to deconflict work to make it more efficient. That sounds like a great idea. And to me, that's why I came to SOTL con because all these common sense ideas are out there by these people on the podcast. And I'm like, I want to talk to these people, I want to connect with these people, I want to I want to meet them and say, Hey, I'm over here to doing that same stuff. And I'm trying to, you know, change what I can, where I am.

Michael Cirillo: 5:17

Yeah, I love that. Well, first of all, thank you. Second of all, thank you also for your service. Thanks, man, really appreciate, you know, doing that. And it speaks volumes, you know, just to a servant's heart and know that, at some point, you know, I'm fascinated by by you, and individuals that choose to give them themselves in that service. You know, sometimes I can't wrap my head around it. So definitely a heartfelt appreciation for that. But you're right, this, this concept of, I'm intrigued by this concept of reactive kind of action versus being proactive. And that a lot, you know, I come back to a phrase of preparation eliminates fear. And so as I was listening to you talk, that's the word track that kept coming back to me, you know, if we can anticipate and prepare to your point, the dealerships going to look a lot different, the business is good, not just dealership, any business is going to look look a lot different. So from your vantage point, working inside of your store, in your sphere of influence, what should the first thing B that we focus on? What do we need to be doing in order to kind of create that preparation culture?

Brian Clemens: 6:37

Well, I mean, number one, everybody is experiencing the same things in terms of what pressure points we have right now with lack of inventory, interest rates, where they may go, right, and it's all interesting, but to me, I've seen it from just pre COVID, because again, I haven't done this very long and obviously doing COVID And then output kind of the post COVID era. And honestly, all the objections are there that a customer may or may not have, but they're just different, different phrasing. Meaning like, it doesn't matter in terms of what cars I have in the lot. Is there a market adjustment? What's the person's credit? That doesn't matter? Right? If I know that I have someone coming in, let's say at a Hyundai Tucson? Why don't I not have a Hyundai Tucson out in front of the dealership ready for that customer to see, knowing that they're probably going to want to look at that. The same questions you're going to ask when a customer comes in? What drew you to that vehicle? What you know, what are you driving currently, you know, that kind of preparation, that that, like you said, eliminates the fear, because eventually these practice responses, you're gonna hear the same thing, right? I need fuel efficiency, I need safety, I need reliability and comfort, right? None of those things have to do with our inventory levels or interest rates or anything else, you're just, you know, helping the consumer, you know, move from one direction to the other. You're a facilitator of change, if that makes sense. Yep. You know, I recently purchased a home, I had an amazing realtor. Part of why he was so amazing was because this is a stressful process that takes a long time. And he was there to help facilitate the change throughout the process, with his follow up with his questions with getting the right people when he didn't know the answer, who were experts about those things. But luckily, in the car industry, all of these things are things that we can practice about having the product knowledge, knowing the right questions to answer, anticipating the customer's needs, because you've had them say the same things to you probably 12 to 14 times in a given week of interacting with them, because most people right now what is it, it's gas prices, they want something fuel efficient, they want a hybrid, they want a plug in hybrid. But sometimes they're driving a car that might only be getting 70 miles per gallon. What is really fuel efficient mean to them? That's important. Like that's what separates really good sales folks, from people who just take take orders, you know, at a restaurant, you don't I mean, and even though people at the restaurant will upsell you, when you're trying to get a dessert, they'll be like, hey, you know, so that talents out there too.

Michael Cirillo: 9:12

How do you admit it? So the other thing that comes to my mind is, in order to do this effectively, you have to be willing to address problems, like you said, kind of this removal of friction or this, the removal of roadblocks or whatever it might be, you have to be willing to admit that there are problems in place. And the challenge that I see our human nature kind of wants us to shy away from that because it feels too negative. How do you balance that to say, hey, no, like we are going to address problems and we are going to call them out but we're going to we're also going to maintain a balanced psyche, if you will, where everyone's not just discouraged all the time.

Brian Clemens: 9:55

I think what's key is is understanding what the customer needs. needs and then understanding what we when I was a recruiter and the Navy would call it the need behind the need. People can ask for certain things, and they saw it online, it was what their neighbor had told them, you know, but effectively when you actually understand why they want that thing, sometimes you do have a product right then and there in order to help solve it. But the other thing is, a lot of culture now is built on an instant gratification. If I don't sell you a product today, I will never see you again. And you know, to be fair, statistically, that may be true in our industry. But if you approach it with an attitude of if I'm doing my best to help, knowing that this customer will walk out and go to six different places that have the same issues that I do with not having the right product for them at that given moment. And by just treat them with the right level of respect and transparency of, hey, I know this might be spinning our wheels for an hour, but I'd rather sit down educate you tell you the best I can offer it to you the best timeframe I can offer it, and hope that I can earn your business, or at the very least maybe give such a great customer experience, even though you do buy the car down the street, maybe you still say hey, they just happen to have it. But gosh, you should really start off at this place over here. Because that's the unknown. You can't measure that, you know, not everyone's beating down the door and saying, I'm only coming here because I didn't buy a car here. And I referred my friend, right, we'd like to hear that. But all of those things again, I think that adds up to a better customer experience. And realistically, that's what's gonna make the gross volume and the sales volume. And the dealerships gonna grow anyway, by almost detaching yourself from the immediate results, and really just caring about the customer. And what you have to offer them. Yeah, sometimes it's just an educational conversation.

Michael Cirillo: 11:45

Yeah. And to that point, I mean, then the people in the business are going to be happier because they're fulfilling on real tangible expectations, knowing how to do it like clockwork, speaking of preparation, you know, all of all of this planning we put into a socon. And we didn't think open doors may be a fly. Well, are you seen that fly rolling around? There's a fly rolling around? I promise. It's not because Brian and I smell bad. It's just legit. It is so into the conversation that it has to hang around. Talk to me a little bit about the the Navy. So submarines is that?

Brian Clemens: 12:24

Yeah, yeah. They, they offered me a couple of different jobs. And they said submarines paid more. So I said, sounds good to me. Sounds good to me.

Michael Cirillo: 12:31

Did you ever have moments of extended periods of time on on the vessel where you were like, and definitely still underwater? And in a metal tube? Like, how do you deal with that, um,

Brian Clemens: 12:45

I always like to read as a kid. But is because I always was a troublemaker, which, ironically, is soda gun. So I was often put in my room to read because that was like the way of like, hey, we, we don't want to punish you, per se, we want you to do something productive with your time. The isolation never bothered me. But like, so much goes on in the operation of something like that at any given moment. It's not as boring as you think. But it's not as super stressful, because we're very prepared. We literally would practice every kind of drill imaginable over and over and over and over again, to where it becomes muscle memory, because unfortunately, or fortunately, depending I look at it, you know, there's a casualty on board a fire flooding, there is no time to think it needs to be handled immediately, because there's no fire department to call, right. You have to know everything inside and outside that submarine. You know, we could sit here and talk about if I take a drop of sea water? How do I make that into a breathable air for me on the submarine like that is something that they do through a process, you know, using all the equipment on the submarine, you have to know all of that because God forbid, the worst case scenario happens. I need someone who knows how to do my job. And I know someone has to do their job to to a bare minimum level. But theoretically, could I have with the guidance of some other people started up the nuclear reactor? Well, at a certain point, yeah, everybody's got to do that my job's communications. So that guy who could start to nuclear reactors got to know my job, too. You know, and I always learned,

Michael Cirillo: 14:19

learning, there's never this like, well, that's not my job. So Brian should be the one to do that. That's his job.

Brian Clemens: 14:25

I mean, there's always human nature of pushback of who wants to become an expert at something and who wants to kind of be a jack of all trades. But no, literally, there is a warfare pen that you must earn by learning all of this knowledge. This is a job requirement. It's understood that a less extreme emergency that it's not really going to come up but a lot of people take pride in the knowledge that they got and still continue to have three, four or five six years after they got it because of what it meant to get that that warfare pen like anything else anything worth having is is very difficult. You know what I mean in the easier It is probably the lessons worth having. And they earned this war for a pen, it takes six to nine to 12 months to get the knowledge go through the requisite exams and boards and everything else to get this thing. It's a really, it's a badge of honor, that you really wear a uniform that you had to earn, you know, similar to things that winning awards for being a top dealer or a top salesman or anything else. It's a lot of work.

Michael Cirillo: 15:23

I love it. Moving from military into dealership, I'm sure you had a lots of ideas on how things should go, what was maybe the biggest eye opener, kind of taking some of that culture from military and injecting it into the store? Was there an adjustment period? Can you get away with, you know, discipline on the same level? Or do you have to make some adjustments in the business world?

Brian Clemens: 15:48

I think. I mean, the adjustment really comes down to the urgency, I think that was the hardest thing, in terms of the really only negative I think that I took from the what I did the military was the sense of urgency and accomplishing tasks or completing the mission, if you will, right isn't the same. You only mean you have time to do things, you know, a customer waiting because finances backed up or customer coming back two days later, because they got a check engine light on a car, they just bought things like that happen. How I would respond to the military to something like that the level of urgency the intensity level that that automatically gets trained into, you might be a little bit different. But generally, most of the most of the stuff was very positive in terms of having the discipline to do the things that most people don't like to do, like, for example, following up with customers, right, you know what I mean? Like that's nobody likes doing that it making cold calls, you know, think things that really separate you from the average person that really are our jobs. Like, that's just standard thing that we're supposed to do. But we all know that everybody likes to hang around and get some coffee and you know, and you know, that's okay to be there for eight to 10 hours a day. But the discipline aspect of the military really helped to say okay, I can still be task focused, I can still complete my tasks, I can still be very efficient because I can want to change processes and systems to be efficient. But I think the only real downside was really the the urgency level, I had to dial back a little bit because look, finance being backed up isn't same thing as a fire in a

Michael Cirillo: 17:26

Right? Yeah, fair enough. Man, so much fun. submarine. Brian Clemens. Thanks so much for joining me on ASOTU CON Sessions by Effectv.

Paul Daly: 17:35

Thank you for listening to this ASOTU CON Session by Effectv if you want more content like this, you can check out our other podcasts we have a daily show called The automotive troublemaker Monday through Friday, here and podcasts also live streamed on YouTube, and LinkedIn and Facebook. We also have a long form podcast called Auto collabs, auto collabs. And if you just want to go a little deeper into this community, you should sign up for our regular email we put our heart and soul into it. You can get it for free by going to We'll see you next time.

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