The Unobvious Ones is a monthly look at movers and shakers who fly below the radar in the Canadian auto industry.
HE’S IN OTTAWA TO MAKE SURE GOVERNMENT LISTENS
Representing the needs of auto dealers at the federal-government level means the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association (CADA) in Ottawa needs to have boots on the ground.
“Automobiles touch so many different policy areas, from financial to trade, safety, taxation, and emissions standards,” said lobbyist Huw Williams, 53. “The rules made in Ottawa end up impacting car dealers directly.”
Williams was always interested in how laws shape society, and he earned a degree in political science from the University of Calgary. Straight out of school, he became a legislative intern for the Speaker of the Alberta Legislature, and then worked for then-Constitutional Affairs Minister Joe Clark. In 1994, he joined the CADA in his current role as director of public affairs.
“A lot of associations don’t really understand government, and when you don’t, it’s hard to influence it. The CADA waslooking for someone to run its Ottawa office, and I liked the challenge of combining what I knew in government with an industry that was definitely underrepresented.
“The list of fights we’ve fought is endless, such as keeping banks out of leasing, the tool tax deduction for technicians, and making sure there wasn’t HST charged on the financing dealers made.”
The CADA office overlooks Parliament Hill, and Williams is constantly in touch with MPs, senators, and political staffers, with the CADA executive committee giving strategic direction on priority issues.
“Half the issues we identify because Parliament is talking about it, and half percolate upwards when dealers recognize they have a problem. The biggest challenge is when government changes, and you have to educate new members on why they should care about dealer issues.
“I see what dealers do for communities and charities, and I’m proud to represent them and their employees, and ultimately the customers.”
JUGGLING A SALES JOB AS WELL AS COACHING
Experience is the best teacher, and an Ontario author and car salesman uses three decades of it to instruct others.
In addition to being lease-renewal manager for Lexus of Oakville (Ont.), Everold Reid teaches sales techniques through his own company, based on his book, The Reid Method.
Though he studied aircraft maintenance in college, Reid’s fate turned when he got a summer job in 1989 at Dixie Toyota.
“I was selling cars from day one, basic training and off you went,” said Reid, 49.
“The income was OK so I did not return to the aircraft program, although I later practised as a private pilot. I was there about a year and a half when I got wind of an opportunity when Lexus was introduced in Canada in 1990.”
He got a job at one of the first Lexus dealerships, and by age 21 was assistant sales manager. Two years later, he was sales manager for the store’s Toyota brand. He moved between brands for a while and owned a usedcar lot, but in 2003 went into real estate advertising and stayed for eight years, running his own ad agency for six.
“I traveled extensively in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean, selling advertising solutions. It opened my eyes to different markets.”
He previously worked at Lexus of Oakville, and in 2012 he returned, handling sales and the dealership’s advertising, and getting up at 4:30 a.m. to write his book before going to work. He teaches through online podcasts and in-person workshops while still selling an average 172 vehicles a year.
“What do you do with 30 years’ experience? You evolve, and writing the book was an evolution. Personal development is the No. 1 key to success and it’s one of the key things I teach. I have the same 24 hours everyone else has, and it’s about setting goals and managing time.”
CATER TO CUSTOMERS WHILE SUCCESS FOLLOWS
Even thought he’s in the business of selling vehicles, the 32-year-old general manager of Audi Queensway in Toronto doesn’t focus on them.
“If you can take care of a customer and not make it all about the car, but make them feel appreciated and build a relationship, you’re 99 per cent ahead of others in the same profession,” said Chris Lang.
The son of a lawyer, he studied criminology and anthropology in university, but ultimately decided on a different path. He helped develop Frogbox, a Toronto-based company that rents reusable totes for moving. “But it didn’t feel like a career to me,” he said, and when a friend who worked at Queensway Audi told him about an opening, he got a job on the sales floor.
A year and a half later, he was promoted to financial-services manager.
“That allowed me to have a more well-rounded understanding of the entire sales department. I learned about credit, and tailoring the experience to what works best for the client, since no two people are in the same financial position.”
From there he became assistant sales manager, then sales manager. Shortly after the family-owned store was acquired by the Dilawri Group five years ago, Lang became the general manager.
“We catered to our customers, and Dilawri allowed us to operate under the same principles. Something as simple as having a service appointment go exactly as you wanted impresses the customer. I gave the keys to an A8 to a service customer and said, ‘While you’re waiting, do you want to drive this?’ It was a $130,000 car and he bought it a week later.
“If you’re only thinking of yourself and your personal growth, this isn’t the industry for you. You need the entire dealership behind you to succeed.”