Eating Your Own Dog Food with Lindsay Ciavattone

October 26, 2023
Anecdotes and tactics abound in this chat with Lindsay Ciavattone.
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She has a treasure trove of stories from her time at a Pontiac Oldsmobile dealership. She'll walk us through some memorable moments, like the time she had to sell a Pontiac Aztec with quite a few miles on it.

Lindsay also has this unique method for remembering names, which involves a touch of melody. It's these little insights that make her journey in the auto industry so intriguing.

As we move forward in our conversation, we'll delve deeper into the nuances of finding that sweet spot between work and personal life, especially in the fast-paced world of cars. We'll also discuss the innovative approach of the West Herr Group, where they've come up with a system allowing employees to collaborate and work just three days a week.

For those curious about the auto industry, we'll shed light on the accessibility of the field and the varied paths to success.

So, settle in for a thoughtful and engaging conversation with Lindsay, where we explore the many facets of the auto world.

Lindsay Ciavattone is the Director of Dealer Relations at CarGurus.

Michael Cirillo: 0:00So I have a confession. This is auto collabs and the confession is and I think the two of you will get. Is this really the place?

Kyle Mountsier: 0:14

I have to pick a bone, because I feel like auto collabs has become Michael's confession, michael's Serylou confession.

Paul J Daly: 0:20

I'm going to get like the the confessional thing and put the priest collar on like go ahead, my son.

Michael Cirillo: 0:25

Right, my confession. I think you guys will understand this one, not totally out of left field, because I know you're both sound engineers. I know both music production like I have. You know we're all sound engineers.

Paul J Daly: 0:37

Okay, okay what.

Michael Cirillo: 0:39

I sing people's names to remember them.

Paul J Daly: 0:42

I don't think it's anything to do with sound engineer.

Michael Cirillo: 0:44

Yeah, because it's like Lindsay's, you ever told me, lindsay's, you ever told me right. And that's who we're talking to today. Like the only way I remember her name is to hit that baseline on to the tonic.

Kyle Mountsier: 1:00

Yeah, that's, I get it. I feel that you pick up like it's like a Jim Quick trick.

Michael Cirillo: 1:05

That is kind of like a Jim, yeah, like your name, kyle, is like a, like an AT&T, like you know, like a little Kyle Mountsier.

Kyle Mountsier: 1:16

That's fair. I'll take it. I mean Jim Quick, record that for my LinkedIn audio thing.

Paul J Daly: 1:25

I see a freeze frame at the end of that Dun dun, dun Right, like breaking through all. You need to make that as ringtones Perfect. This is, this is sad. Why do people even listen to the thing?

Kyle Mountsier: 1:33

Speaking of LinkedIn, we definitely, we scoured the LinkedIn of Lindsay because I can't wait to ask her some of the some of the questions about her history in auto. You know we've gotten to know her a little bit over the years but it's always great to see new faces around the esotiverse. So we hope you enjoy this conversation.

Paul J Daly: 1:53

Lindsay. See you, hey, it's a got it. No, I got it, hey, lindsay. Thank you so much for joining us today. We're excited for the conversation. Awesome, I am too. Thanks for having me.

Lindsay Ciavattone: 2:04

Hey, rumor has it that you may or may not have actually sold cars before that rumor is true.

Paul J Daly: 2:11

It is.

Lindsay Ciavattone: 2:12

Anyone's talking about that rumor?

Paul J Daly: 2:13

I'm not.

Lindsay Ciavattone: 2:14

Do. We've heard it all over. It was in a soda.

Kyle Mountsier: 2:17

All over, there was a Reddit thread about it at the convenience store this morning was talking about it.

Paul J Daly: 2:26

You heard you were going to be on the show.

Lindsay Ciavattone: 2:27

Yeah, when you find out what it was. Maybe this will turn into a little bit of a topic of conversation, but I'll set the stage for you. So, this was a Western Massachusetts Pontiac Oldsmobile dealer. So you know, really aging myself here, yeah, Lots of linoleum, and you know there's like black, shiny metal chair.

Paul J Daly: 2:49

Brass everywhere. I can smell it too. Yeah, I can smell her Sure.

Lindsay Ciavattone: 2:54

Yeah, so we had felt cloth seats.

Paul J Daly: 2:58

Oh my God you know the Aztec.

Lindsay Ciavattone: 3:01


Kyle Mountsier: 3:01

Oh yes. So why did? Why do we keep making cars that look anything?

Paul J Daly: 3:06

So I don't think we do. That was a pretty unique one. Well, it's like the other.

Lindsay Ciavattone: 3:10

I remember. So I remember being in the dealership and we had the concept car poster on the wall and I was like that's pretty cool and I mean I'm 17. I know nothing right Like this is. I started at that dealership to like make phone calls to people and I was like, oh, that's kind of a cool car, our car shows up on the lot. And I'm like what the hell happened, like from concept on the? Oh, yeah, a lot. So we had, we had a couple in our loaner fleet, which our loaner fleet was probably like four cars, you know, and so I sold the cherry red Pontiac Aztec with 20,000 miles on it. I have to water fleet. That was a very exciting moment for me. So it was a yeah, it was a good time.

Paul J Daly: 3:54

Whatever I, whatever I think of. So you sold, like how long were you selling cars?

Lindsay Ciavattone: 3:59

I mean, I've sold cars for years.

Paul J Daly: 4:01

Do you tell people? About this, I feel like you don't tell enough people about this. I and I have this thing Whenever we have a guest on the show who is maybe she does, you don't know her whole history.

Kyle Mountsier: 4:12


Michael Cirillo: 4:12

just say Pontiac Aztec. You know come in here.

Paul J Daly: 4:19

And so I have this thing where when industry partners have sold cars and they don't talk about it enough, I get upset because I feel like that is the most relevant point of connection you can have with any dealers. Like, oh, because once you sold cars because I never sold cars, I helped service cars, I worked in the back but like there's a thing because, like I sold cars, and they just kind of look at him a little differently than they look, Lindsay's.

Kyle Mountsier: 4:42

like it's actually how I start every call. You're just angry? No, I don't think she does. And whenever I think about an.

Paul J Daly: 4:48

Aztec with that red color. All I think of is the hood of a Pontiac with no clear code on it anymore. I don't know why that's right.

Lindsay Ciavattone: 4:55

Somebody is still out there hosing out the back, like there's one out there. Someone's like hosing out the back? Check this out.

Paul J Daly: 5:03

Like it's a hoser. Oh, there's the Canadian showing up. You got your green card. Now Leave us alone.

Lindsay Ciavattone: 5:08

Oh yeah, right, right, right it's funny though I do try to tell people about this and I always feel, you know, it's one of those things like I don't know that I'm the best like promoter of myself. Um, so my team members often will like jump in and be like did you know Lindsay used to do this and uh.

Kyle Mountsier: 5:26

So yeah, I think it's it is a great connection point, Like it is Well, but there's a fine balance and I get it, Because now that I'm like two years removed from being in a dealership, you like there's there's an element of like once been in a dealership. It's like training wheels kind of thing. You've always kind of been there, but the market moves so fast and the further you get from it, like you almost feel this like apologetic, like I don't want to tell them that I used to work for a dealership, like I know what I'm talking about. There's some elements that I do and some that I don't you do. You get that like kind of like fine balance.

Lindsay Ciavattone: 5:58

So, absolutely, I mean we'll be having conversations and I'm like, yeah, it's been a minute since I wholesaled a car myself, right, like, but fundamentally, I can you know there's that shared experience, um, but that's very, very true. Like I'll tell people like hey, I know this, but also we've been moving it like light speed over the last three, four years, and so you know, some of that can be outdated, um, which is why we're doing some of the work we're doing here.

Kyle Mountsier: 6:26

Yeah, and you, I mean your trajectory. You were on a fairly quick path to executive leadership in a dealership. What, what do you think contributed to that, that path to success?

Lindsay Ciavattone: 6:39

Um, kind of a funny. This is a little bit of a story. Very quickly, though, one of my general story yeah, yeah. So I was at, I was at Mercedes Benz store and at the time I was an F and I and the manager just like, randomly I'm standing at the desk or whatever. He's like why are you so motivated? And I thought that was like the weirdest question and I was like, well, I was like I'm not independently wealthy. Like I said to him, I was like listen, I'm not independently wealthy, like I don't have the luxury of like not working or like you know doing a passion project, job, um, and I said, but here's the thing like I'm not going to waste my own time when I'm at work, right, it's like why should I show up and put anything less than the most I have that day into whatever we're doing? Because it's like I'm wasting my own time. And I tell that to people all the time. Like, be selfish, like think about yourself, like what are you doing for you right now in a good way? Right, like how are you getting something out of this?

Paul J Daly: 7:42

So what do you mean? Like? So what do you get? Like, just keep unpacking that one Right. When you are working hard, with motivation, with intention, what are you giving to yourself?

Lindsay Ciavattone: 7:52

I think that's just knowing, like when I put my head down on the pillow at night, like I did the best that I could that day. Right, and it's it's values alignment of like if I'm going to show up, I'm going to be all in. This is the kind of person I am.

Paul J Daly: 8:04

You're reminding yourself that that's kind of person you are. I bet you learned a little bit more too.

Lindsay Ciavattone: 8:11

I learned a ton. I mean the other thing too, though to that point like, let's, let's be very real here. I had some excellent, excellent mentors through my time at the dealership. Right, I got really lucky, and I had a few people early on like take me under the wing, show me how to do and operate in this business successfully. Without that I would not have gone as far as I did, 100% Like. I did not do this by myself in a vacuum, without a very strong team of people around me.

Paul J Daly: 8:44

Ben, I think we can end the podcast right there. Yeah, I know, I feel like we've got more substance out of them for six minutes in.

Kyle Mountsier: 8:52

Cirillos just got his mind blown. He just came in thinking we were talking about as as tax and all of a sudden you know where. So it was like, yep, we're good, can't even say where, okay, so this is. This is a question because I asked. I get asked this question a lot too, but when you spend so much time on the retail side and there's an particular energy yes, there might be long hours, but also the growth trajectory what was like? What was there a guiding reason in your life that said, hey, this is, this is my time to leave the retail side?

Lindsay Ciavattone: 9:24

100% yes. So I will tell you, there was a day I was sitting at my desk, I was at Portia like the dream job, right, like I'm a GM at Portia, I have an awesome team, everything's wonderful. And I sat at that desk and I thought to myself oh my gosh, my son is starting school in the fall and I cannot keep him home on Thursday anymore Because we had Thursday. I had Thursday, sunday off, right, so Thursday was like my day with him. And then I saw him on Sunday and then I realized he's actually going to be in school. I have to send him to school and I'm going to see him one day a week. And you know, you dealership hours, right, it's like early mornings, sometimes very late nights, like. So that to me I was just like Holy crap, like that's not something that I'm willing to do, and so that was really the tipping point to start looking and that's a great reason.

Kyle Mountsier: 10:22

I'll take that.

Lindsay Ciavattone: 10:24

Yeah, I mean it's you know, and I think I hope and I wish this for many people that at some point we can figure out whether it's like hiring people in pairs or putting them on like teams, where we can better balance out that. You know dealership like working hard, getting the job done with also making sure that you can.

Kyle Mountsier: 10:47

You know it's so tough because it is. It's like it is retail, right, but when I like, people say that to me all the time like, but it's retail, you're in a retail environment. Yet the people that are in auto, making the money that people are making in auto, especially at an executive level, like nobody else in retail anywhere. Like go find a retail spot at the mall where a general manager makes general managers no chance, right yeah. Yeah, and so the only people that are making that type of money in the world are working, typically at least Monday through Friday. They might be working like make working long hours, but they're working. That so it's. It is because you see so many people kind of like get to this level and then their family grows and it's like can't do it anymore. So I do. I think. I think that not for everybody. There are some people that that's a trajectory that they'll take and they'll love it and it works for their family. But I do hope that there are dealerships and dealership groups out there at least attempting to solve that for executive leadership. And I love. Actually we were at, Do you know, the West her group.

Lindsay Ciavattone: 11:59

Yes, yep.

Kyle Mountsier: 12:01

So the West her group is working on this with their frontline employees, especially like sales people. They are there, they're giving them this like pair up thing where they both work three days a week. That's awesome, but it's basically like they hire one person.

Lindsay Ciavattone: 12:16


Kyle Mountsier: 12:17

Yep, which is wild to me, you know, and these people are all making great money because they basically sell, like between the two, 35 to 40 cars a month, because there's no like, there's no fight, it's just we're working on this together.

Lindsay Ciavattone: 12:30

But deals? There is nothing. There is nothing. I hated more. But everything was split deals. I was just, it was the worst.

Paul J Daly: 12:37

Well, because you had the ethic you had. So everybody wanted you on their split deal. But you don't want to be on anybody else's split deal.

Lindsay Ciavattone: 12:44

I was managing the sales. Oh, that's all. It's the word. Right, yeah, that was pretty bad.

Michael Cirillo: 12:52

You know what I like?

Kyle Mountsier: 12:53

Yeah, and you think about that, like why couldn't we have managers that operate in the same? You know? Yeah.

Michael Cirillo: 13:00

I mean, on the flip side, guys, Retail automotive might be the only retail industry in which general managers can wear something other than khaki cargo pants, tube socks and sandals like we're well dressed, but I was. I was gonna say, though you know, to the point you were making about family, one of the things I love about automotive is is what you've just shared kind of actually contrasts the you know this, this Adopted hustle grind till you die, till your eyes bleed narrative. That's out there that we see all the time on social, which is actually retail automotive. There there's space For everyone, for all different definitions of success. You're you're saying, hey, family is important to me, I'm gonna find it now there is a trajectory that I can follow To pay attention to the things that I've deemed are most important to me, and that you're doing it well is just, I think, a Huge show to the world like, hey, there's space here, you can architect your own growth and you can achieve whatever desired outcome you want to achieve. So I think, I think that's a special kind of underscore to it, to what you just said.

Lindsay Ciavattone: 14:15

Yeah, that's a great point. I would say to, though the. So the barrier to entry in a dealership is, would you say, fairly low, right, like?

Michael Cirillo: 14:24

our go pants and tube socks.

Lindsay Ciavattone: 14:26

Well, we're ready to train people, we jump in, um, but for the surrounding parts of the industry, much more difficult, and I think overall hiring practices are evolving and those things are becoming better. But for somebody like myself, I'll just be very transparent. I don't have a college degree. I didn't have that opportunity. It did not work out for me. I also have ADHD, which I didn't know until three years ago, so I spent the majority of my life and it was just a complete pile of crap. It's explained so much, all right, and so for somebody like me to say, hey, I want to go outside of the dealership, but I want to branch out a little bit, I want to go to some other place, like a little bit more difficult, but I agree, I mean, you can. This industry is so exciting, it is so much fun and there is definitely a place for everybody, and it's just figuring out how to put all the pieces together.

Kyle Mountsier: 15:24

It's great. Now I have to get to this because I would be remiss. Now you're obviously with CarGurus. You've been, you know, you've had some time with Ally and now with CarGurus. But one thing that always strikes me is when you start to get into like what a company actually does and get to know the people in it, it's typically a lot more expansive than just the like general knowledge style Like CarGurus third party listing site. Right Now, the people that know CarGurus might know that there's like ads, capacities and a lot more going on like behind the scenes or the ability. But I want to zero in on one thing, because you said something that I stopped you basically mid sentence, right Before we got on the podcast about where maybe one or more of your employees actually work.

Lindsay Ciavattone: 16:10

Yeah, Tell me about that. So I'll give you a little like I'll set the stage.

Kyle Mountsier: 16:14

Give me the backstory and then jump in.

Lindsay Ciavattone: 16:16

So our I'm on the commercialization team it's a long, stupid name, but anyways. So we're on the commercial side of the business. We've primarily focused on digital retail and wholesale parts of CarGurus Very exciting place to be feeling very like, like we on this side kind of operate more startup mode and like our listings and core business does. And so when my boss was hired, which was a few years ago, you know, he came over from many years of experience at Amazon and immediately said like we need dealership subject matter experts, like we need to get these people in here to help us build what we're building. And so one of the first roles that he hired for was mine and, lucky enough, I was able to get in on the ground level and when I built out my team, my like no, you know, I would not concede to this at all the requirement was that whoever I hired had to have worked in retail automotive like, hands down, the majority of our organization. Of course, that is not the case, like we do have people here and there that have come out of that environment, but my team is comprised completely of people who've come out of retail automotive and we're doing some super exciting things and actually partnering very deeply with a few dealers where they are 20, you know like all week they're sitting in a dealership working with the dealer to achieve the goals that they've set out, and so we're learning a ton Like we are hungry for insights and learnings so that we can drive better products, we can drive better enhancements, we can be more connected to our dealers than ever before, and so that's what I'm running with right now there's a word that we like to use around here called collaboration, and that's what that sounds like.

Kyle Mountsier: 18:15

To me Sounds like a little collaboration.

Lindsay Ciavattone: 18:18

Sounds like a little troublemaking, all of it A little bit, a little bit, a little bit.

Kyle Mountsier: 18:22

How many of those people do you have across the country?

Lindsay Ciavattone: 18:24

I have four. I have four right now. We're in planning stages for next year, so that could change, but it's it's something that has been extremely rewarding and we've built some really amazing relationships by doing that.

Kyle Mountsier: 18:41

What kind of learning? Okay, give us like one or two learnings that have come from having people planted at dealerships full time.

Lindsay Ciavattone: 18:48

Yeah, so here's a good one. We always we talk about here like let's eat our own dog food, right? Which is like let's figure out, like, maybe, how things aren't working the way we expect, and so one of those things is the way our leads show up in the CRM. Now, we know dealers are using like a whole spectrum of CRM systems, and so there are times because they're also customizable where our leads are not displaying the way that we would want them to, to delineate, like where this customer came from or what type of lead it is, and so something that we're working on really right now we literally had a conversation this morning about it and so lots of work being done to figure out how we can optimize that for the dealers, so they don't have to do anything extra, and then we're making sure that information is getting across the line. So that's one example which is super important.

Kyle Mountsier: 19:42

If you've ever been in a BDC or read a lead, you know that there are some leads that you're like can't wait to get that one and other. We just were like gonna have to fish everything out of this. Yeah, you know, oh man, lindsay, we, this is like the role of the end. But there's like I can see in Paul and Michael's faces over there they're like you cut me off. But I'm gonna cut them off because we're gonna allow people to connect with you. But this has been an absolute great conversation, from the one liners of leadership and motivation that you had at the beginning to the cool stuff that you're doing with CarGurus, and I can't wait to continue connecting and see what comes out of this really cool team that you have. So thanks for joining us here on Auto-Collapse.

Lindsay Ciavattone: 20:28

Awesome. Thanks for having me.

Paul J Daly: 20:34

I really like her. She is awesome. I've never had a conversation with her before, but she's awesome, she's one of our people.

Kyle Mountsier: 20:42

Easy. This is that time where you you know and this is why I love Auto-Collapse so much Because you've got small companies, big companies, small dealerships, big dealerships, people all over the country that you either think you have nailed or you've met someone, and it gives you a perception of a company or of an organization. And then, like, you open up this sliver right, because CarGurus and I think everybody at CarGurus would notice that like there's kind of a split audience on the perception of these big brands, like that, and that probably comes with any brand. But then you like open up the sliver and you're like you just get a peek in and you've got Lindsay and her director, her boss, enabling this brand new team that works out of dealerships so cool To collaborate and solve the real problems that they're dealing with every day, not from the perspective of tech, but from the perspective of activity. That's next level, total next level.

Michael Cirillo: 21:42

Yeah, I mean like our industry is a Russian nesting doll of perceptions. You know, like look at what we're doing with more than cars. It's like let's open that up. The perception that the public has of dealer probably not accurate. The perception that dealers sometimes have is of quote unquote vendor service provider, like you said once. You like slice it open a little bit and look inside you're like oh dang, like there's a lot going on.

Kyle Mountsier: 22:05

Yeah, yeah, this young lady sold Aztecs and then or Aztecs, aztecs is the Mexican place down the street we're getting close to lunchtime Hungry.

Paul J Daly: 22:14

Yeah, it was the natural Libre reference of Russian nesting dolls.

Michael Cirillo: 22:19

But yeah, and then was a general manager of a Porsche dealership Like she knows what's auto nation right For Petsky I don't know if this is the right place to close this thing down, but the one of the notes I took today was does anyone say Porsche still anymore? And now I know one person, and it's Kyle Mountsier.

Paul J Daly: 22:40

Porsche Well on that note on behalf of Kyle Mountsier, Michael Zerillo and myself, thank you so much for listening to AutoCollapse.

Speaker 2: 22:50

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Paul J Daly: 23:26

Are we rolling.

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