The Unobvious Ones is a monthly look at movers and shakers who fly below the radar in the Canadian auto industry.
MORE THAN CARS, IT’S ABOUT PEOPLE
To enhance customer experience, Porsche Canada works with its dealers on training programs. For that, it relies on Porsche People Excellence and Training Manager Julianna Morris.
“It’s a combination of HR practices to deliver consistency as the industry evolves,” said Morris, 51, who is based in Toronto. “A customer can view Porsche products or talk to a dealer member online. The dealers use that digital plan with our guidance. We ensure they are well-versed in our product and how they speak to our customers and their relationship with them.”
The programs include management training, virtual coaching, employee certification and qualification programs, integrating new roles into dealerships, and “future-proofing” dealers to sell electric vehicles as more are rolled out.
“The programs come from Porsche AG [in Germany], and I add the nuances to make sure it works for our market. I’m the hub between Germany and our dealers, and we deploy [the programs] to the dealers and take them through the journey.”
Morris initially studied fine arts and acted in community theatre and short films. While supplementing her income working in customer service at American Express, she took courses in learning development and eventually spent 22 years in human resources at Royal Bank and TD.
Porsche AG created her role.
“They wanted someone with a different mindset,” Morris said. A bank client familiar with Porsche Canada told her about it and she joined the company in 2018.
“The challenge is that dealers are very good at selling and knowing their product, but now it’s about people development. It’s about getting top talent and training them on the product as opposed to someone who knows the car but doesn’t have good customer relations. We want to connect with our customer, rather than just sell them a car.”
TIRE COMPANY SUPPORT HELPS AUTO DEALERS COMPETE
Despite how important tires are, they can be a tough sell for auto dealers with customers who just want whatever’s cheap. At Yokohama Tire Canada in Brampton, Ont., Jason Clarke, regional sales manager for Ontario and Western Canada, gives franchised car dealers the assistance they need.
“I develop our dealer business and seek out new [automaker] nameplates to join us with national accounts. We have a corporate sales manager, Brandon Saunders, who handles the day-to-day operations of our car-dealership business through the teams that have direct contact with the dealers, and he reports to me.”
Clarke, 50, began his career in project management at a construction company. Wanting to try something new, he answered a job posting at Bridgestone in 1997, working under contract in customer service.
He joined Yokohama two years later after learning of an opportunity there.
“I was interested in a sales role but they wanted me in customer service for a year to learn the business and their brand. A year later, to the date, they put me on the road. I was an account manager for southwestern Ontario, handling consumer, commercial, and OTR [off-the-road] tires for 13 years.”
In 2012, as Yokohama’s auto dealer business grew, Clarke became the business development manager.
“Car dealers were really taking hold of the tire business then, and I was involved in bringing in [automaker] nameplates. I had head-office contact with automakers, and they went to their dealers. But by 2015 our business had grown so significantly we needed to [send our sales teams] directly into the dealerships.”
Clarke’s accounts include 11 automakers, and his teams provide dealer product training.
“Dealers learned that tires are an important part of the business, not just the tire, but getting it off to check for other things. We help them service their clientele.”
HE WAS SET ON HOCKEY, BUT BUSINESS WON OUT
Keeping service-contract programs competitive and profitable is one of many tasks Joe Korab handles as vice-president of sales and marketing at Global Warranty, based in London, Ont.
The company offers vehicle-service-contract products to franchised dealers to sell with their used off-brand models.
It also offers products such as gap insurance and vehicle-protection packages. In general terms, GAP insurance covers the difference between the amount owing on a vehicle and its valuation in the event of a writeoff, such as from a collision or theft.
“I oversee all the sales and marketing activity by our field teams,” said Korab, 50. “We have teams across Canada. My typical day is a lot of meetings. We have a number of products at different levels and I play a key role in developing programs and how we will implement them.”
Korab played hockey in university but couldn’t turn it into a professional career, so he studied business. He was hired by Chrysler Canada in 1996 and was a district representative for six years. He then became a sales manager at a Chrysler dealership, and subsequently moved to British Columbia from Ontario at the corporate level with Honda and then Hyundai.
He went back into retail, including at a Vancouver-based Audi store. But when he and his family returned to Ontario, “a headhunter came knocking on the door with the job I now have, which I took in November 2018.”
It’s an extremely competitive industry, and there’s a constant eye on rivals, he said. “Right now, we’re revamping our tire-and-rim protection packages, so I’ll look at claims to see what parts are failing, what it costs us, and what we need to charge. We’re constantly reviewing where we stack up in price and coverage, and what makes us different.”
He credits his success to his experience. “I’ve been in retail and [with automakers], and I know what makes them tick because I’ve been there. The best product doesn’t mean success. You also have to have great people and a good process.”