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Dashboard Dialogues Ep.11 – How to be a Tremendous Vendor and Where to get the Best BBQ

In this Episode, Dashboard Dialogue’s new host, Jake Silveira, interviews Josh Thermos to talk about managing vendor relationships, vetting a new vendor for the dealership & the best BBQ is Saint Louis.

Transcription:

Jake:

Good morning and welcome to another episode of Dashboard Dialogs. My name is Jake Silveira. Today I will be interviewing Josh Thermos, Saint Louis, blues fanatic, barbecue aficionado, tech wizard and vendor expert at Johnny Landon Chevrolet in Saint Louis, Missouri. All right, Josh, so tell me a little bit about yourself, what you’re currently doing. I know you’re over at Johnny Land Off.

How long have you been there and what do you like most about it so far?

Josh:

I really enjoy working for the organization. An organization has been great, started six years ago, came in to the role as a coming out of a managed service space and to the private sector more. And I’ve enjoyed it so far. It’s been, you know, the owners, great organizations, great expanding, which is always a good thing.

Jake:

So especially in this market, right?

Josh:

Yes. Yes, it.

Jake:

Is. So how are you guys expanding? I know you guys opened the super center not long ago. How are you guys expanding now?

Josh:

We’re actually expanding that. So as of I think it was mid April, we had broken ground and started building our service center out there.

Jake:

Okay. All right.

Josh:

That started that. That plan has been in the works now for probably going on nine months. So it’s been been a lot of work and we got a long way ahead of us.

Jake:

Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, one of the questions that we like to start with is telling us about your first car. What did you drive? How nice and fast was it?

Josh:

So my first car was actually a total rebuild me. My dad works in the auto body business and they had a four door. It was a red car. I can’t remember what it was now. It was the Chevy. I do remember that much. My first two cars were both Chevy’s, but it was a car that had gotten wrecked and I bought it to put a little bit of work into it and started driving it.

Jake:

Absolutely. How long did you drive that thing?

Josh:

About six months.

Jake:

It took you six months to run it to the ground?

Josh:

Yeah, pretty much.

Jake:

Okay. So one of your roles at the dealership is obviously managing vendor relationships. I know you and I have spoken pretty extensively over the last several years and we’ll get to the barbecue in a minute. That’s that’s definitely going to be coming up. But I’d like you to tell me a little bit about the process that you go through, vetting a new vendor for the dealership and helping your dealerships, efficiency, the bottom line and if you could give us the difference between what you feel is a good vendor and a great vendor.

Josh:

Well, so typically I start off with, you know, I one of the first things I do when I start looking at vendors is I’ll go, of course, like anybody does, go online, start looking them up, seeing what’s out there about them, right? In our case, when meeting you guys for the first time, Brad had come into the dealership and introduced himself.

Talked to him for a little bit and then went out. And you did a little bit of research about you guys, found out what you guys were about. You know, how long have you guys been in business? Just getting a little bit of information that, you know, helps me make a good informed decision. From there, you know, I talked to, you know, we get demos, then go through everything.

I get a feeling for how my team feels of it as well. And then comes down to pricing, too, a lot. And at the time when we were looking at dealers, we were a the auto customer. And the auto is just getting to the point where every time we turned around it was, Oh, you want this? Okay, well, you got to pay another $500 or so.

It was becoming really hard to manage a software when every time you turn around to get added features to do this, to do that, it was a huge price increase. And that was, you know, and I know that’s with a lot of companies, but that was one of the nice things. When I sat down with Brad the first the second time and told him, You know what, we were really wanting to be able to do and how to do it.

I was really pleased that he’s like, This is the package, this is what it includes. And then it was from there he goes, there’s stuff you can add on. But everything we wanted, he gave to me in one shot. So that’s very nice. I you know, when we went through a phone system changeover and the vendor that had our old phone system and I asked him for told them what I wanted, and they came back and they’re they’re like, here you go.

And I’m like, This is and everything. I told you, I want it. Well, we’re just giving you some rough numbers. How rough are they? Give me some information. They wouldn’t they would never answer my question. So I just I dropped in them and told them I went with somebody else. They were like, oh, man, we had all these deals we could get you.

I was like, I asked about that. You guys wouldn’t tell me about that. So one of my biggest things is I like companies that are upfront about what their products are about and being able to really understand what they’re about. I don’t like companies, you know, day before we go to sign over, sneak in their send you want you said something about this feature did you still want it?

And I’m like, yeah, that’s important to us. Why wasn’t it in on the original quote? Right. I can record it. It’s like, well, now you’re, you know, you’re out of the ballpark for what we’re looking at doing. So we said, that’s very important to me. You know, I just went through that. I did switch some other software around here recently.

I’m actually making the final changes this weekend on that. And that was another thing I had a company I was looking at. One company was very straightforward. Me said, unfortunately at this time we weren’t going to be able to work together. They were hoping that their software was going to be out of the their beta release, but it wasn’t.

So I thought, okay, well next year we’ll try again.

Jake:

Right? And so it sounds like, you know, cost isn’t the only factor there. Obviously, if you can save money and get a better service, it helps, you know, but it always does.

Josh:

It always it makes it it makes the big guy happy upstairs.

Jake:

Absolutely. Absolutely. We don’t want to we don’t want to make Mr. Schlöndorff unhappy. You know, you won’t be going any more blues games, right?

Josh:

Exactly. No, I, I you know, so I do the best I can when I come to that. But I also want to make the best decision for the dealership and what we’re putting in, you know, yes, price is always a factor. But if that price is so cheap because we’re missing ten things that ex company was going to do for just a little more money that we really need, I’d rather spend a little more money or talk to them about it and say, Now we can do this for this price, but we’re going to be able to have all these added features for this over here.

So it’s e it’s one of those things where I got to kind of figure out what’s going to be best for the store, but also make sure I’m making the best financial decision.

Jake:

Absolutely. Absolutely. So kind of building off of that with your experience and what you do, how do you stay on top of the trends that are going on in the automotive space and the dealership environment right now?

Josh:

It’s tough no matter what we do. I mean, I’ve got just like the I.T. world. I mean, I can I can learn, you know, get informed something on a monday that Microsoft’s making this change on Tuesday. Well, come Thursday, they’ve had to revert the change back because the x x broke or oh, they had to add this additional thing step in because X was broke.

And the only way to do it was by doing this. Mm hmm. So it makes it tough, but, you know, I do what I can to best stay up. You know, you just it’s tough. No matter what you do. The technology world is ever evolving. Cars are getting smarter than they ever have. So that that also makes it tough.

You know, when, you know, back in the day when cars where you didn’t know a car didn’t have a computer in it at all other than maybe what the radio needed to run. Now, when every component of the car is controlled by the computer, from the lights to the windows to the radio, to the buttons on the steering wheel, everything.

Everything is controlled by the computer. Sure. Yeah. You just I mean, even the technicians here, that’s one of the things they talk about. It goes, you know, some of the older technicians are like, I didn’t think I’d ever be a computer repair tech. And that’s what they feel like they are now, because that’s all the car is on the computer.

Jake:

Yeah, absolutely. It keeps you on your toes. It makes things interesting. What’s some of the coolest software that you’ve seen specifically for the dealership, whether it’s, you know, for sales or if it’s for service or a CRM type feature. What’s one of the coolest innovations you’ve seen in the last several years?

Josh:

Back in 29 teen, we were invited to a showing of a new DMS hitting the market that DMS now has is growing. Like I’ve never seen a technology company grow to be honest. They’re expanding, they’re always changing and they’re a great company to work with. They’re when you say they have everything built into one set of screens, one log in, they really do.

I can go from CRM to DMS to, you know, and all aspects of the DMS. I don’t have to hop out of this section to go to this section. It’s click, I’m in service, click, I’m in parts, you know, and everything talks nicely with each other. You’re not having to wait for some API, call at night to run to get information from service to accounting, parts to accounting.

Everything’s live, everything’s rolling through the day. You can check your reports and know what’s happening as things change. There might be, you know, a ten minute delay going into some of the reports, but most of the reports are within seconds that I have ex information in front of me. Okay. So that was it was really impressive to see.

And after a lot of talking that we did, we decided to make the move. It would have been the it was the first DMS move the land off organization has ever gone through coming off they’re going to tachyon, they that was the first move they have ever done and it was one of those things where it was nerve racking.

You know, they had spent 40 years with CDK. They were one of the first dealers in St Louis to be on it. And, you know, you you make a big move like that. It’s, you know, it’s nerve racking from the top down.

Jake:

Oh, absolutely.

I’ve never dealt with one before.

Jake:

Sure.

Josh:

But to see the growth that this company has had through since November of 2020, when we made the changes, it’s eye opening to know that a company actually cares about the dealers and not just what goes into their pocket.

Jake:

Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think that’s it’s definitely a hallmark of a company that has the customer’s best interests in mind instead of you know, complete profit and revenue. Just sometimes you have to give up a little of that profit revenue to ensure that your customer base is happy. So you offer incentives or you you offer additional training or additional products, and it all costs money.

But yeah, in the long run there’s nothing greater than good word of mouth and there’s nothing greater than making a customer happy to where they don’t want to leave for another system. So that’s great. That’s awesome.

Josh:

You know, and it’s it’s the same with you guys, too. You know, you guys have you guys stand up with what you guys say. And I always say that’s one of the reasons why I stay with companies. I don’t care how cheap a product is if they’re not going to stand or, you know, whatever the case would be, you know, if they’re not going to stand behind, if I’ve got support issues that hang out and just continually hang out there, that’s always a problem, you know?

Absolutely. Like you guys tech in the same way, you know, you guys, I report a problem, I get answers and that’s what I like. Sure.

Jake:

Absolutely. Um, kind of switching gears a little bit. You you handle some of the new car ordering or at least you’re part of that process at the dealership, is that right?

Josh:

Oh, correct, yes.

Jake:

So what do you see for the future of commerce in the automotive industry? How do you think the modern dealership, what we know as the dealership is going to be affected either positively or negatively?

Josh:

That’s something we’ve been talking about for a while. As you know, what’s going to happen right away. It’s it’s right now 90% of the stuff we order by the time it hits our lot is sold with the customer’s name on it, ready to go out the door when it arrives. We’re ordering more vehicles than we ever have specifically for customers.

Just received a 2500 heavy duty truck in this morning for good friend of mine. We ordered that thing six months ago and finally hit our lot today. You know, these guys are like car owners are used to being able to go to the lot and buy a car. And unfortunately, it’s not like that. You know, it’s if you want to use a vehicle.

Yeah, there’s used vehicles out there. But the new vehicles, it’s unfortunate that we can’t get them like we used to. Now we’re used to seeing five, six transports a week drop in anywhere from two to 4 to 5 cars off at a time. Now, we’re lucky maybe 1 to 2 a week at getting a handful of cars in.

Mm hmm. So, yeah, it’s it’s definitely one of those things where it’s it’s it’s tough. It’s tough to do business. It’s. And then you’ve got the customers like me and what’s going on with my vehicle. I ordered this thing five months ago. Yeah, but we’re dealing with the plant with, you know, plant and transportation. And transportation has been one of the biggest headaches.

You know, when you get a vehicle done and it takes three months to make the track, make the trip of 1100 miles, because, you know, there’s no trains available. There’s no trucks available. Whatever the case may be, it it’s tough. And that’s one of the things we’ve been dealing with. And, you know, unfortunately, it’s it’s what dealers are used to, but the consumers are not.

Jake:

Yeah, no, absolutely. I think the the biggest thing there is consumers are not used to it. They are used to the instant gratification for lack of a better terms. They can go down to the lot and they can drive a new truck or a new SUV. And if they like it, they can make a decision right there. They don’t have that ability.

They have to go online. They have to order a brand new vehicle. They have to go to the dealership and speak with somebody. Well, I can’t show you one here, Mr. Customer, but I can show you my computer screen what it looks like. Yeah, and go ahead.

Josh:

The tougher thing is, is, you know, they’re like, well, is there a at least in in the area I can look at now.

Jake:

Right?

Josh:

Yeah. You know, when I was helping my buddy with his truck, he’s like, is there at least one in the area we can take a look at as like put it up on my I’m doing a 1000 mile search right now. There’s not one like you wanted in this area right in the thousand miles of us.

Jake:

Right?

Josh:

So that that makes it tough because customers like to be able to see, touch, feel, get a feeling for what they are. But we are able to unfortunately, do that now because we can barely keep 20 cars on 20 new cars on our lot.

Jake:

Right.

Josh:

And I will say the other thing that’s crazy, too, is is the amount of business we’re doing outside of our area.

Jake:

Sure.

Josh:

You know, you’re used to selling, too, unless you know somebody you’re used to selling with in your area. We have more people call in from all over the country because they find that we have a vehicle on our lot that they are specifically looking for and they’re like, we’ll fly down and get it. Okay.

Jake:

And that does bring me to my next question specifically with it comes to inventory shortages. Obviously, they’re very commonplace both on pre-owned and the new, as you kind of alluded to. Yeah. How have you guys managed to keep up with the demand of your customers? And what advice would you give your peers that may not have the foot traffic you guys do?

Josh:

One of the things that we’ve started doing is Facebook browsing. So browse the marketplace on there. And what we’ll see somebody selling a vehicle and we’ll message them and we like we’ll have a check in hand when you arrive. And we’ve we’ve done a lot of sales like that. We’ve bought a lot of vehicles that have come in like that.

And it’s one of the things that has worked out well for us. It’s it’s crazy. That’s what it’s coming to. But, you know, if it works, you know, that’s what we’re going to do. Our Supercenter Auto Flex Store, one of the guys out there or two of the guys out there really, really done well at it. And we’re starting to train some guys out at our Chevy store and they’re really starting to get a grasp of that as well.

Jake:

Sources like the auction and just our producing the vehicles that you guys probably want to sell to your customers because a lot of that stuff is rough. You know, obviously trade ins are getting fewer and fewer because customers want to hold onto that stuff. And so, you know, I definitely would see private party being a big player and consumers, you know, CarMax has been doing it for years.

Hey, we’ll buy your car. You don’t have to buy one of ours. And it’s virtually like dealerships have to kind of go that that route or that direction to stay competitive in the market. That currently does not really it’s not conducive to a volume type situation at this time. But values are coming down and and we’ll start seeing that kind of stuff.

But moving on to the next question, which kind of builds off of that, is, you currently the market we’re looking at average of 5 to $700 car payments depending on if you’re looking at pre-owned or new vehicles, you know, $31,000 is the average right now in America for a pre-owned vehicle, and that usually comes with pretty high mileage.

Do you see customers accepting what is when it comes to the market or being more apprehensive as we continue to loom on through this period of higher vehicle prices?

Josh:

I don’t think the consumers have ever really I think they’ve become more understanding more than anything now. You know, they’re still trying the best they can to get top dollar for both their vehicles and also get the best price on whatever they are buying. Sure. So but yeah, you’re right. I mean, it’s it’s a market right now, too, where, you know, consumers and consumers are willing to pay.

And unfortunately for everybody right now, it’s with the inventories and the way the market is and everything, it is probably the toughest it’s ever been to both be a buyer and the seller and the vehicle market has, you know, you you got to consumer wanting to get as much for their trade in as they want, but yet they’re also trying to drive down the vehicle that they’re buying.

And it’s just, you know, dealerships are still trying to make a profit. And that’s you know, there’s it’s just tough. We’ll just put it that way. It’s tough. It is even you know, it’s it’s the same way on the service side as well. Consumers just don’t they don’t they? They have a hard time understanding that, okay, your car’s broken, but sorry, we can’t fix it right now because there are no parts in the country to fix it.

Jake:

Sure. Absolutely.

Josh:

And an indefinite back order. And there is no date currently of when we’re going to see it. Unfortunately, it’s a game. It starts on the sale side goes the service goes back to sales.

Jake:

Absolutely. It’s a circle of life, right? Yeah. Where’s the Lion King music when we need it? Right. Let’s as we go to close the show, you know, obviously, I’ve been out to Saint Louis. I’ve I’ve definitely enjoyed some really good barbecue with you, my friend. But my question for you is, what are the top three places to get the best barbecue in Saint Louis?

Josh:

Oh, man, that is always a tough one. The top three in Saint Louis right now. I would say Pappy’s is always a very popular one. Sugar fire is a really popular one. And salt and smoke is another really popular one. They’re all three really good. All three have slightly different versions of what they do. Sure, Sugar Fire is a fun place to go because they have some consistence on their menu, but they also do some crazy inventions.

Right? I mean, I’ve I just I don’t know where their chefs come up with what they cook some days, but some of the stuff.

Jake:

They actually open is sugar fire up here in the The Orchard Shopping Center, just not far from the office. I don’t know if they’re still open, but I did. I did take a venture over there just because I know, you know, they they came from Saint Louis and I had to try the barbecue. You know.

Josh:

It’s always good, but it’s one of the places that they cook, what they cook for the day. And that’s it. So, you know, 7:00 at night, they only may have a pork steak left for you.

Jake:

Absolutely.

Josh:

Yeah. This or that. So it’s but yeah, they’re they’re all three very good places and I like to frequent them when I’m not using my own smoker at home.

Jake:

All right. Well, that sounds great. Josh, thank you again so much for your time. We value you as a customer and I certainly enjoy coming out to Saint Louis and enjoying good barbecue and sitting down and kind of chat a little bit about what’s going on for you. So I look forward to doing more of that in the future.

And it is 4th of July weekend, so have yourself a wonderful and beautiful 4th of July with your family.

Josh:

I will do that and you do the same as well. Enjoy and look forward to getting you back to Saint Louis so we can enjoy some time together and go get some good barbecue.

Jake:

Absolutely. All right, Josh, thanks.

Josh:

Have a good one.

Jake:

You, too. Thank you for joining us today for another great episode of Dashboard Dialogs. You can follow and listen to Dashboard Dialogs on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts. Also, remember to follow our socials on LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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