Loading the Statue of David with Michael Cirillo

November 3, 2022
This might be the most we’ve laughed on a podcast.
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Normally, Auto Collabs is hosted by Paul J Daly, Kyle Mountsier and Michael Cirillo, but during a special in-person recording in Atlanta, Paul and Kyle turned the tables on Cirillo, interviewing him. It almost doesn’t need to be said, but what followed was full of laughs, Cirillo’s amazing word pictures and a lot more insight into the Real MC.


What we talk about in this episode:

0:00 Intro with Kyle Mountsier.


2:10
The interview starts with Paul J Daly and Kyle Mountsier explaining a new podcast that ASOTU just launched called “In The Dirt,” which of course, Cirillo makes fun of them about.


4:57 Michael talks about how for the last 60 years, Cirillos have generated their own revenue. He then tells a story about how his dad started a phone book company.


12:59 The tech and marketing business that Michael had its start in 2006-2010. Michael shares how it came about and grew into what it is today.


19:18 Bring about meaningful change is actually going to take hard work, but doing that work will scale into something amazing.

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Unknown: 0:06This is Auto Collabs.Kyle Mountsier: 0:09

Well, welcome to Auto Collabs. And it's just me Kyle Mountsier normally you'd see Michael Cirillo, and Paul J. Daly and myself jamming about a guest that we're about to interview. But today you get something a little bit special. It's a special episode because we were on the ground at the 800% Elite automotive club event. And we actually got the chance to sit down in person with Michael Cirillo. So Paul and I turned the script on him and decided to interview him and get a little bit of backstory on his work with the Dealer Playbook and everything that that's been going on in the past as well as Flex Dealer and the technology that they have there. So welcome to this special episode and we hope you enjoy this interview with Michael Cirillo.

Paul Daly: 0:51

He just did a tour of Atlanta in the back of an Uber. i He was like, let me out in every neighborhood. I want to walk the streets.

Michael Cirillo: 0:58

No, it was more like are we supposed to see Welcome to Alabama signs. Balls are we well?

Paul Daly: 1:04

Oh boy. But coming coming. Coming from a place that doesn't have much traffic. Yeah, I don't understand why anyone lives in a place with traffic. Yeah, fair. Well, I fly. What was that they have I fly? That's true.

Michael Cirillo: 1:21

What do you have where you live?

Paul Daly: 1:23

Clean water. A lot of Rolling Rolling Hills, hills, gorgeous landscapes five minute commutes anywhere.

Unknown: 1:34

beautiful lakes, shall we

Michael Cirillo: 1:36

go on? Is everybody ripping around on scooters now you live? Well. There is

Paul Daly: 1:40

one downfall of where I live in Syracuse, which is stay snowy for a while.

Michael Cirillo: 1:47

Yeah,

Paul Daly: 1:48

all the good things I just explained was like three weeks.

Michael Cirillo: 1:52

Make the most of it. Yeah. Hi, guys. Hey, it's been a while. Oh, Todd

Unknown: 1:57

has it as well.

Paul Daly: 2:00

Let's see. We are here on the ground at 800% elite event last time we were on the ground

Kyle Mountsier: 2:07

but we're in the dirt. We are in the dirt we did there see this? This is real actually doesn't even know this is a new podcast you're on? You didn't even know it. Okay,

Michael Cirillo: 2:14

what hobbies are start podcasts.

Paul Daly: 2:19

One per month. What is this podcast? It's

Kyle Mountsier: 2:22

called in the dirt with a so do your your on in the dirt?

Michael Cirillo: 2:27

In the dirt with the same dudes from the other show? Wow.

Paul Daly: 2:32

Technically not a reg there are no regular. Well, they're no regular hosts of the show. So the in the dirt show is basically whenever we're on ground, whether it's us or somebody else, maybe one day, we're going to flip you the podcast kit and you're going to be hosting the end of there. I know you will. He's like he's like I'll take your right now.

Unknown: 2:47

It's the Portuguese.

Michael Cirillo: 2:50

You said free right.

Paul Daly: 2:54

So yeah, whenever we're on the ground, this is going to kind of be the catch all for when we just get like we were at NAMAD a couple of weeks ago. Right? So we did because you want to do a podcast but you can't like launch a podcast for every time you're on the ground somewhere. So ended there. It seemed like the right move.

Michael Cirillo: 3:08

That makes sense. Good for you. Good job. How does it feel?

Paul Daly: 3:11

It feels like you're making fun of me.

Michael Cirillo: 3:13

I'm not making fun of your good job. I mean, you did the

Kyle Mountsier: 3:16

thing Hey, we not all of us can be in 80 countries. Okay, so

Michael Cirillo: 3:19

100 and

Unknown: 3:21

100. And now this man margai VPN. You

Michael Cirillo: 3:24

know how long it took me to teach my mom Nord VPN? Yeah.

Paul Daly: 3:29

I didn't even know they had Internet access. Starlink

Michael Cirillo: 3:32

they have Starlink? Like, isn't that the island that Tom Hanks filmed Castaway on how did they get internet?

Kyle Mountsier: 3:37

What's your link? All right, we're interviewing you

Paul Daly: 3:40

what's happened that we're doing

Kyle Mountsier: 3:44

now Okay, so here's the thing tomorrow, we're talking a lot about technology. And a lot of people actually don't know this about you, that you even though you are a massive podcast personality, have the silky smooth this voice and automotive. And

Paul Daly: 3:59

he set you up for something very nervous, right? So nervous,

Kyle Mountsier: 4:02

and have spoke in front of 1000s of people across the country on massive stages. You also you also have a technology company that kind of like circles around agency and marketing but also you have leaned into some of these like, by default, you just saw opportunities and created solutions for dealers. Can you talk through like the migration of going hey, we're gonna start dealers as an agency. It started as I know, it was like newspaper, direct mail type stuff back in the day before like you were even a part of it. And then all of a sudden you're creating technology for dealers. What's that look like? How does that move happen?

Michael Cirillo: 4:39

So one of my one of my things that I'm I'm extremely proud of for the Cirillo family, which is why I wear this honkin ring

Paul Daly: 4:46

is that I always wondered why.

Michael Cirillo: 4:48

You see this is a family friend that

Kyle Mountsier: 4:50

camera right up there. That's a fancy family crest look,

Michael Cirillo: 4:52

one of the things that I'm extremely proud of is there hasn't been a time in the last 60 years that the Cirillos is haven't generated their own revenue, like with no capital to start no bank loans, no nothing like we just go for it and we do it. And so my dad started a phone book company back in the like, like 1979 He started a phone book company, and it was deeply rooted in. There's no cost, like,

Paul Daly: 5:16

three years before you were born. Uh huh. I saw your birth year in the

Michael Cirillo: 5:22

Yeah. And so he did that. And he did success successful about how do you read your wiki? You volunteered the information on Facebook, fingerprints, too. So he started that company out of desperation. Right, which is I think a lot of good things actually come from that have to do it, right. You have to do life or death. I got four little babies at home, I don't know how I'm gonna produce, hey, nobody's doing this thing. I'm interested. So he actually, he's got one of those really cool stories where he spent his last dollar walking into a pawn shop buying a typewriter, no way. And he drove dump trucks like garbage trucks for the city during the day. And then he would come home at night and copy names out of the phonebook. One at a time on his typewriter, taught himself how to sell went around to businesses in the in the Vancouver area sold. He's like, I don't have the book yet. But like, you're just gonna be like, yeah, so they he gets around to to basically teaching himself everything that he needs to know about how to do this and publishes the first phone book, gets a call from the Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Commerce is like, we're mad at you was so mad at you. And they're like, he's like, What did I do wrong? He's like, You didn't ask all of the businesses that are members of the chamber if they wanted to advertise in your book? Like,

Paul Daly: 6:35

oh, oh, shame on me. Right. So will you take me back? Let

Kyle Mountsier: 6:40

me check with the accountant. Hey, hey, honey, raise the price.

Michael Cirillo: 6:45

Let me check with the accountant. You're good with it. Yeah, I'm good with it. And that's where the voices Yeah. So he did that. We he built it up, you know, sold franchises of this telephone directory right across Canada. saw the writing on the wall, you know, 95 96, something like that. He was like, this is not going to end very well. So he sold the franchise. Right as the internet was coming around. I remember my dad pulling us into his home office. He's like, Guys, come check the family council.

Paul Daly: 7:14

He pulls out what it's called. Yeah, Cirillo family kept Cirillos unite. You know, you hold the crest up, right. Everybody touches rings. Yeah.

Unknown: 7:23

How did you know? Fire?

Michael Cirillo: 7:26

Ground in dirt nude. And, and he's like, watch this what is happening, you know, like aliens. Before time began, there was the cube like, that's sort of what's happening. He's like, this will kill the encyclopedia salesman. Literally. Yeah, I was like, Whoa, he's like this right here. So there were like four websites available.

Paul Daly: 7:57

Right? It's like, Britannica.

Michael Cirillo: 8:00

Gate. Game gang. Get it was like the statue of David. And we're like, taking so long for his penis to load. We're really waiting for that. I was like, is he gonna be wearing shorts? This is gonna kill the encyclopedia salesman and that's me podcast episode. I'm gonna talk a little bit about this tomorrow and the next day whenever whenever I talk about it. But that sent me down a path where I was like, what is what is the implication of this? Because I remember people coming to my doorstep like Watkins salespeople, ointments in their oil, the encyclopedia,

Paul Daly: 8:31

it was the best value proposition for a salesman ever. Right? Right now you think like, well, cars a good value prop? It's like, do you want your kids to be stupid? Because all your neighbors bought this one. Your kids are gonna be the dumbest kids on the block. You're like, okay, I get Oh, and you get World History volumes one through three.

Michael Cirillo: 8:49

Right? It's right. Because we were always like, why are there more than 26 volumes?

Kyle Mountsier: 8:52

I was like this used to happen. Oh, no. We had an encyclopedia. You can remember the salesman though? Oh, yeah. Without a doubt. We have different versions. World Book Whirlpool book. We had a World Book, we had a Brittanica we got you know, what's even more crazy about it is like, got them up. Now. What's even more crazy about it is you had to buy a new one. Every three years you updated version. You were like, You were totally writing papers the wrong way your score history changed.

Michael Cirillo: 9:19

Yeah. Think about this, think about this. It took 1500 years to go from a chariot and horses to a horse and buggy. Like it took 1500 years for someone to be like, but what if the kids want to come with them? Right? Oh, and my spouse, cuz there's room for one like that. And so to your point, updating this thing, every three years, my dad, my dad saw the writing on the wall. He was like, they're out. And sure enough, here we are all these years later, but that set me down a path. I just took such an interest in that. But you know, in in many cases, you know, family businesses are often born out of necessity. So I remember my dad coming to me one day after he had So the phone book franchise he took a few years off. I don't know did like, what? Yeah, like you're like he came back. I remember distinctly you went on a motorcycle trip to Washington. Oh, he really did it. Oh, yeah. He was like, yes, have long mullet mustache and he came back from that motorcycle trip, I must have been 16 17 years old. And he's like, you're gonna learn to sell and I was like Cowabunga, because I know you're gonna learn how to sell. There is no competition to AutoTrader in Canada. And that was the beginning of it. We didn't have mockups. We didn't have anything. That's how that so he knew print. He took the the next opening that he saw in familiar territory, and he's like, you're gonna learn how to sell so we literally split the valley. Well, not literally figuratively splitting the valley that we lived in and a half years. And he was like, You're gonna go north and visit all these old dudes, right? Because now like, Look at the face of car dealers that we have here. When I was 16 because these were they were not this young. Right when I was 16. They were not this young. They were old. They were all named Dave. For starters, they're all named Dave every single day. Oh my gosh. They're all grumpy. They were all loud talkers. You know, I'm saying like they're all loud talk because you'd come in and be like, Dave so loud to take time. I remember walking into dealerships you know, 6 17 year old Michael talking to 67 year old Dave who's like,

Paul Daly: 11:37

what do you want kid they saw you coming up and they said to the guy watch this was

Michael Cirillo: 11:42

gonna make 30 seconds the nervous. The nervous. I'm, it's gonna be a double page spread, bred, and I'm gonna have high gloss and you know, so, you know, but I'm grateful to my dad, you know, both of my parents really for knowing that I was going to be so awful at that. And, and in some way putting the like the outcomes of a family. I can't imagine what my dad was thinking like he's driving to the other side of this valley in rural British Columbia being like, hope my son doesn't eff up the business plan today, driving in his Kia Rio, like, down the freeways trying to get to dealers. But, you know, that was successful around around 22,006. I saw the writing on the wall. So I'd kind of cut my teeth and I'm like, Hey, um, here's some rumblings dealers are like, there's this website, craziest thing. So that's when I came to my dad. It was around 2010. I came to my dad and I said, I gotta kill your whole business. He's like, what you're talking about? Like, remember that

Paul Daly: 12:50

family council? Yeah,

Michael Cirillo: 12:52

I'm like, watch this earth. did stand up for five minutes. And I was like, now back to business. I was like, Hey, we gotta kill the whole business or else we're going to be out of business. Right? We're going to be out of business. Oh, 809 wrapped like raked us over the coals. Dude, we were watching clients leave. Oh, yeah. Right. Because they were sure. Like, look, we all wake up and I do this. Sometimes you wake up on the wrong side of the bed. What's the first thing that gets axed your marketing budget? Shot over?

Kyle Mountsier: 13:19

Where's the market one has ever done that in this room. That's a dealer ever there.

Michael Cirillo: 13:24

I'll get rowdy up there. Put the chair back stroke Schneider. So, I was like, we got to do something about this. I contacted my best friend growing up who who's our CTO today? And I'm like, Hey, I don't know how we're gonna pay you. But can you join this thing, I have this vision. I want to I want to basically go and as a value add to people that advertise in our magazine as kind of a transition period. If they do a double page spread, we'll put their entire inventory online for free on our on our portal site. And he's like, first of all, do you have a portal site? And I'm like, first of all, I don't know what a portal was. draping it to that way I

Unknown: 14:15

need you.

Michael Cirillo: 14:16

I heard it somewhere. Someone's right.

Paul Daly: 14:19

One time the statue of David. I don't know. It was gonna tell you.

Michael Cirillo: 14:24

Let me bring it back to family council. Right? And he's like so cuz you know CTOs. They're always like, they bring you right back down to the dirt as quick as possible. It's gonna take

Kyle Mountsier: 14:34

$38,000,000.74 months with 58 devs. You ready for that?

Paul Daly: 14:39

And that's if we get the Israeli dev team on board.

Michael Cirillo: 14:43

That's right. So we came to him I was like, we're gonna need to build an inventory management system because how else are we going to get this inventory online? Naturally, naturally, we're like, what's the what's the you know, let's do everything ourselves. Critical, baby. I I called you know, those were our moments of ignorance as we're trying to sort things out. But all these years later, you know, so we were selling Tech, we built our own CMS, we built our own inventory management system, CMS content management, system, content management, so manage your own website, do all those sorts of things. We built all of that. And, you know, that was like, that was like my career Rumspringa because you know, those moments as an entrepreneur where you're like, I frickin suck, I don't know what I'm doing.

Kyle Mountsier: 15:28

I mean, three o'clock, this morning, five o'clock.

Michael Cirillo: 15:31

You're like, cool, look at that gazillion dollar business that's well funded doing the thing that I thought I was clever at. And you know, they're doing it in 83. I know, I'll be a podcaster. Instead, I'll be a podcaster. You know, so we built this thing, and it did quite well. And then I had an idea, which was, how can I cleverly and in a good human kind of way get to know all of our competitors out there better than our competitors know, themselves, create an agency arm. And that blew up like that took off, it did so well. And that's what you know, part of our company does that today. But now we're at a place where as the agency has kind of continued to grow. And we've proved our thesis that you can, in fact, be and not just say, transparency, but actually demonstrate it and behave with transparency. Now that we've proven that that works, we've revisited back to this tech piece where we're like, wait a minute, why are dealers paying five six? Why are they paying all this money for something that we've had all along that they could deploy and use and scale without a three month learning curve? You want you want to get your inventory managed and know how to do it in 30 minutes? shabam I'm like frickin Emeril Lagasse over here. So plow. Wow. So yeah, and then it just works. So. So the soundtrack the side note is so all that we say we've nicknamed our tech Bobby after Bobby The Wonder Dog. I don't know if you guys know the story of Bobby The Wonder Dog where I do not okay, so by reading the story of this, Bobby Brown a family drove across the country on a family vacay their dog gets lost at like a truck stop somewhere on the other side of the country. They're on the east coast from the West Coast. Months go by they're like Bobby dead like there's no way like he's lost a bus down this look them up a dog found his way home. This dog found his way home. I think we both made a Disney movie about that. It's kind of like bolt. And so we nicknamed it Bobby because we're like, no matter what we do, we've tried to kill it. I just keep finding that way that test. So we've decided to really lean heavily into this. We've got about 67 rooftops now that are using this 30

Unknown: 17:43

About 6735.

Michael Cirillo: 17:45

Yeah, about 60 to 62.

Paul Daly: 17:49

I haven't checked my phone since I've gotten on the

Michael Cirillo: 17:51

pod. Yeah, let me just see every time my phone dings, by the way, that's a new sign up, because it's just that good. Oh, yeah, there's another one. So about 68 now. And we're just leaning into that. So it's, it's a lot of fun. But you know, here's, here's my controversial statement of the day. Okay. It's not about it's not about what you have. It's about how you use it.

Paul Daly: 18:15

Something about you in that statute, David? Yeah, I was like a statue of David knocked it out. Yeah, you know.

Michael Cirillo: 18:24

And that seems to be the the thing that I kind of picked up on early on in my career was, you can have all the bells and whistles. The problem with it is if you rely too heavily on the tool, you're a tool and makes you a tool. You're an idiot. Because and now that's not any, that's not the end users fault. Not not by any stretch. It's it's I think, how we position things, it's the marketing speak, hey, if you do this, it's gonna last so the sun, the moon, the stars you're in, you're gonna be able to do all these things. And we're like, I want to do all the things. Right, silver bullet, right, you fork out for it. And you realize, holy crap, this actually required way more on my part in order to make technology frickin sucks. What was kept from Napoleon Dynamite talking about frickin loves technology. But, you know, I try to be a realist, because I think one of the things that our industry deserves, and it's high time for, which is why I love aligning with you guys. And, you know, the stuff that we're working on together and whatnot, is because it's high time, somebody stood up and says, Here's what it's actually going to take. Sorry, if that sounds different. There's your first Canadian sorry, of the podcast or sorry, sorry. Sorry, sorry, if it looks different than what's been fed to us for the last 30 years and

Kyle Mountsier: 19:39

it might actually be hard it might actually take work but you know, what, on the other end of hard work is scales, it scales so there you're talking 800% Potentially Well, thanks for hanging out with us on ended their this today and you know, doing a podcast when we already have a podcast about podcasts and all of that.

Michael Cirillo: 19:56

Thanks for Thanks.

Kyle Mountsier: 20:00

Sign up for our free and fun to read daily email for a free shot of relevant news in automotive, retail media and pop culture. You can get it now at asotu.com That's ASOtu.com. If you love this podcast, please leave us a review and share it with a friend. Thanks again for listening. We'll see you next time

Michael Cirillo: 20:31

Welcome to Annika Are we recording