Liza Borches is the President and CEO of Carter Myers Automotive.
Jennifer Swope is the Vice President of the Swope Family of Dealerships.
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Kyle Mountsier: 0:00This is in the dirt with ASOTU.
Paul Daly: 0:04
So we're here at the TrueCar booth in the most comfortable seat. I've sat in all day. So this might be a longer conversation. But Jennifer, Liza, thanks for joining us.
Jennifer Swope: 0:13
Thank you for having us. Yeah, excited to be here together.
Paul Daly: 0:16
I know, I know. We told you to you get like we can be on all at the same time. And they were like, yes. Like, why don't we start by letting months give us a little bit of the history of your relationship?
Jennifer Swope: 0:28
Goodness gracious. I mean, I think that I met most of you guys on clubhouse right. And I, I mean, I've been fangirling over Liza that since the first time I heard her speak directly to one of my heroes.
Liza Borches: 0:40
I think we we met for the first time maybe a digital dealer in Tampa. It sounds right. Yes. You all thing. Family Reunion. I think that's where I met in person for the first time
Paul Daly: 0:51
that Yeah, that's actually where I met you. For the first time in person. It's right. You were sitting outside. And we're like, we know each other.
Jennifer Swope: 0:57
That was such a fun show, because everyone was just so excited to be around.
Liza Borches: 1:01
Yeah, like, it was that first event after kind of COVID down. And I hadn't been to digital dealer in years. I was like, I just want to go see people. Yeah. And then actually you always event I think it was the thing that triggered me say, well, then I was speaking and so I was like, Alright, I'm
Paul Daly: 1:14
gonna try to get the bear. That's the first time I've actually ever met Kyle in person to that
Liza Borches: 1:20
life changing event than the four of us sitting here. Sounds like it's awesome.
Paul Daly: 1:23
Isn't that funny? Have you think about that? Those two days? And that was two years ago? Yeah. And so much has happened. And now here we are on a hold? Feels like a whole seemingly different trajectory?
I would agree.
Kyle Mountsier: 1:34
Yeah. Yeah. You know, was that enough? But yeah, there it is? To hang out? No, yeah. Well, and you know, you both said it, but like, the memories that we get in this industry are connected to when we met people, right? Like, How had I not like connected a lot of things to that digital dealer I'd have been like, was that digital dealer two or five years ago, I can't remember, right. But I can remember meeting specific people and, and communicate them now. Like relationships that go deeper into business and life and all that type of stuff. I just love that part of the industry. You know, I'm gonna, I'm gonna throw this out here. We haven't talked a ton about this with you. But I want to know, when you came up, you said this phrase back. So this would have been like five months after that event. But we asked a bunch of people to give us a phrase that they would encourage the car industry with, we put them on little cards, and your phrase was love people more than you love cars. Was that kind of like a new thing for you? Or have you been saying that for a while.
Liza Borches: 2:40
So I used to not want to admit that I'm not a car person. I am not, I don't get excited about the product at half the time, I don't really know much about the product that I'm driving. And I think it was the reason that I first didn't want to come into this industry, because I thought you had to love the technology and the product of cars. But when I decided to come into the retail side of the industry, it was because I was traveling around the country with Honda at the time watching how dealers were making an impact on their associates in their dealerships, and how their associates were making the impact on their community. And this moment, I said, this industry is not about cars, it's about people. And we are so blessed to be in an industry that makes such an impact on people's lives. So I've been saying it in a different way for a long time. And when when we were starting to really think about who we were as a company back in 2010, as we started to grow, that's when I probably said a different version of it, which is, yes, we're an automotive company. But our culture is all around our people. And that's what we love the most. And it's what wakes me up at night it which gets me excited to be in this industry. So I think evolved to what you all put on the sticker nicely over the last couple of years. I probably only say that a couple years.
Paul Daly: 4:00
That's a great I didn't know the backdrop to that story, except for we heard it through the shirt, threw it on the stickers. And now every time
Jennifer Swope: 4:08
on your shirt right now. That's great. And every
Paul Daly: 4:11
time somebody sees it, they say, where did you get that? And I always tell them like that's Liza Borches, and you can get one at asotu.com. And typically speaking about 10 20 minutes later, I'll see an order come up from the website. So I love it that the shirts from that mentality are starting to kind of pervade across the auto industry. So
Kyle Mountsier: 4:31
you know, what I think is really interesting about the two people that we have sitting here, Paul is they have similar stories in that they are generational dealers, where they are multi generation dealers serving and now women leading these organizations, which is like a wild actually, I was telling you know, we've been doing interviews all over the floor all day today. And I was like, Man, I'm just looking for like dealer badge. cuz right you see the color and I'm like, I'm just trying to find more, more women that I can just hear their experiences. So I'm like really excited, like, Okay, now we got him to sitting down next to us, right? Like, tell me a little bit about your experience kind of growing up around the industry. And then like, you know, lies that you just said, like, I wasn't falling in love with it until I found what was what was Was there a moment in time where you were like, Okay, fine. Yeah, this is gonna be me.
Jennifer Swope: 5:25
There was a moment in time, actually. You kind of asked two questions. So what was it like growing up in the industry? Yeah, I'm gonna start there. And I think I said this to you the other day. So I might be repeating myself. But I mean, to me, the car business as a kid is literally Christmas dinners. And everybody is sitting around the business table, because it's not the Christmas table. It's the business table talking business, right? So then there's the kids table, and we're like, no one wants to get stuck at the at the big table. Right. And so now that's shifted to where I mean, my whole family is in the car business. So my all of my cousins all of us are now the ones talking business. And the adults are like, we're sitting at the kids table. He did art. So I mean it for me, yes, there was absolutely this this thought like, I don't want to have anything to do with the car business. I don't I don't like cars, right? Like not a car person. I can't tell you anything about cars. So I was in Nashville for school. And I was a music business major. So I graduate, it's the recession. There aren't a lot of jobs and obvious path to automotive vital, right? It's interesting. I had no
Kyle Mountsier: 6:26
clue this story, I'm gonna tell you my story.
Jennifer Swope: 6:30
So I didn't do the best job at networking in the music business because I was in college having a lot of fun. And I didn't get the right internships. And I mean, it really was so much about who you know, as life is, right? So I'm finding myself as a graduate with a recession, not a lot of not, you know, no job, like nobody in the entertainment industry is hiring because in a recession, entertainment is something that people don't spend as much on. So, I mean, everybody's getting fired left and right. So I couldn't find a job. So I find myself at a dealership, you know, working in the service department, doing the exact same job I did when I was 14. answering phones and, you know, cashier,
Paul Daly: 7:11
a moment of levity. We're like, oh, this again, like you'd look at the phone, you're like, Yeah,
Jennifer Swope: 7:17
you know, I felt I felt I'm licking my chops for a little while. I'm feeling down on myself. But the more that I and I'd worked there for about a year anyway, I that's another story. But anyway, I'm at the dealership, and I'm just like, I love all of these people. Like I love the techs. I love the service advisors. I love my the crew that I work with cashiering like, I love everything about everyone. And oh, yeah, I've loved working in the dealership when I was a kid too. And so I'm out there looking for jobs. And I'm like, why am I looking for jobs? Like I this is what I love. Like, I Yeah, so I do love this. So I actually I had worked in the office with the CFO, and I walked into her one day and I said, okay, like, this is what I'm going to do. Like, I'm going to be in the car business. You guys are building a new Toyota store. And I know you're going to separate GMC. So do you need do you need a finance manager? Like, whoa, cashiering in the service department? I'm like, Yeah, we probably do. So because I built that relationship with her when I worked for in the office. I mean, it's just I talked my way into it. That's amazing. Store for like 10 years, I was there for nine and a half years and then finally moved home. But I knew in that moment in the service department, okay, this is my life.
Kyle Mountsier: 8:24
That's amazing. So just real quick, short story. I was a church music major, didn't network well in the music industry and started selling cars. And here I am 13 and a half years later. So yeah, that's wild. That's really well,
Paul Daly: 8:37
we're heading into a year of change. Right. And I feel like we've been saying that every year. But I think we have enough stability now to at least say, we can kind of strategically push forward into the change instead of just being ready to react to whatever crazy thing happens next, I'll say that and hope that that stays true for 60 days at least. But but as we do that, everybody's at the show and everybody in general, the conversations we have are around like, what is the one trajectory we can take that like we should focus on? And there's variation, right, different dealers, different groups, different sizes, but I'd love to hear both of your opinions on that in 2023 What is one lane of focus that you think is the most critical lane? Well, we'll go Jennifer first.
Jennifer Swope: 9:25
That's interesting, because you've already used the word like my my word for 2023 is literally focus, right? Because we we've had a couple years that have been a boom and we've been kind of shift and pivot we've been Okay, let's try this. Let's try this. Let's try that and it's almost gotten to the point where in you know, in my store and in in my market, we just need to get back to the details to the processes so the the things that make us successful, right, and it's just I don't know we've we've lost some focus. So you know, we're the used car market is gonna normalize like, we haven't been very good at used cars. I'm just gonna throw this out there. We let a lot of inventory age, we we sat back let a lot inventory age. And then the last few months, we've looked back and said, Whoa, we know what we're supposed to do. Right? We know that we're supposed to turn him within. I mean, I like them gone within 90 days, right? We want a 30 day turn we we need to price them correctly, right? I mean, this simplest thing basics. Yeah, yeah, fundamentals of the game. Yeah.
Liza Borches: 10:23
If there was a lot of discussion yesterday about what do we need to do to go back to the basics, and then combine that with new innovative ways of doing business as margins are going to potentially change this year? I think there's, there's two things that I'll mention if that's okay, one, tagging onto your thoughts about the used car business, we've actually discussed that we need to focus on 30 day time periods that we need to be buying and selling used cars within that same 30 day period. Because I do think that 2023 was going to be another roller coaster of used car values. There's, there's so many think outside levers that could be pulled that are going to create that rollercoaster. So we're focusing on a 30 day period, buy and sell the same 30 days, and get significantly better internally within our group of making sure that at the end of that 30 days, does that car need to be priced correctly and put on a different lot? Does it need to be wholesaled? What is the outlet, but at 30 days, it's gotta it's gotta go somewhere, we were always at a 70 to 90 day mentality, and we're bringing that significantly down. Yeah. The second thing, though, and you mentioned your word, focus, we do the one word practice for the year as well. And my word this year is depth. And Kyle actually came down and spent time with our team in January. And one of our biggest goals this year is to create deeper, stronger, fewer relationships with our vendor partners. And really evaluating everybody who we do business with, and Kyle helped walk us through this. What problem are they solving? What, who in our company needs to be the champion and owning that relationship? What does success look like to that partner? What does success look like to us? How do we measure it? And so really going deeper into the relationships we have in this industry, and making sure we're getting everything out of them. And we're giving everything to them that we need to because I think that as we go forward, we've got to be even sharper around our marketing and our technology. Yeah. How about
Paul Daly: 12:17
that same question. But from focusing on people since we started they're kind of coming full circle. Picking a lane when it comes to people specifically, what would you say is a primary or foe area of focus? With with thinking in the people lane?
Jennifer Swope: 12:34
I think training I mean, so again, like a closer together, right? Yeah,
Paul Daly: 12:38
back to basics, just kind of pouring time with people. Yeah, we develop them.
Jennifer Swope: 12:42
Exactly. I found myself over the last three or four weeks spending so much more dedicated time one on one, again, used cars. I mean, that is just where we've been. But I have sat, you know, side by side, we we're sending people. So we use NCM as training, we have a subscription, we send people through their used car program. I mean, we send people through lots of programs. So really just making sure that we're pouring in to make sure that we have, you know, we're working our processes, we're training those processes we've been working on, again, focus, process manuals, at least, in my Hyundai store, we have a process manual for sales and service like, and if we have a process, we document it. So that helps with training because then okay, this is what we do, it's black and white. And if we need to shift, it will shift it, we'll take it out, we'll adjust it and we'll you know, put a new one in. But we're trying to get really focused and pour in with training. So
Liza Borches: 13:35
I think there are three things that we're doing on the people side this year. The first one, we talk about training, we have a lot of people, especially on our sales teams, who just joined us in the last three years. And they've never done business in an environment where it's not taking an order and selling it stickers were was actually sales. So we have gone back and started looking at what were the basics of sales training that we haven't been focusing on. But also there's some good habits that we've picked up in the last three years that we actually need to be incorporating into our future sales training. So we've really revamped how we're training salespeople starting in January 2023. The second thing is the investment in our apprentice Technician program. We invested about a half a million dollars last year in this, this program to build the next generation of technicians. And we are doubling down on that this year. One of the things that we've done from a recruiting standpoint, so we actually have a storefront in the mall that is a CMA all about what a career path being a technician means in our industry and specifically to us why and so we built this out, it opens in a couple weeks. Yeah, I'd love to send some pictures. So significant investment in that next level of technicians. And then I think the final piece in our people is around how when we're recruiting, attracting and recruiting. We're looking at new assessment tools that haven't been normal in the automotive industry, because I think that Um, too often, we always say if someone doesn't succeed in our company, it's usually our fault for hiring them wrong or our fault for training them wrong. And we have noticed that that hiring piece we've got to get sharper and, you know, we sit here the interview questions, but we've learned that there are a lot of other ways to assess the skill set and even core value matching and things like that. So we're revamping the types of tools we're using in our recruiting process.
Kyle Mountsier: 15:26
Well, Liaz? Jennifer? It's been really fun talking to you getting to know some backstories on some stories, seeing where you're headed, realizing you're not alone in your career path, realizing that there's other people that have failed at the music industry.
Jennifer Swope: 15:41
Stop telling people that because that's what people like key on do when I get presented somewhere. What do they say yesterday? 40. Under 40. She faced the music and headed back home I'm like, oh, no, stop telling people I had a failed.
Fun introduction actually was creative.
Kyle Mountsier: 15:58
It was thanks for hanging out with us. It's been a pleasure and congrats and continued success to both of you this year. Thanks for having us. Thank you for listening to in the dirt with ASOTU. We love the automotive industry and the people who make it run day in and day out. We would love to connect with you more through our daily dose of fun, a free email that you can sign up for at asotu.com That's a s o t u.com. We put our heart and soul into it every day. Thanks again for listening. Join us next time for more Conversations in the dirt with ASOTU