When Larry started working at the car dealership, he figured it was only a job to make ends meet. He didn’t grow up in the car business. Nor did he plan on being in it longer than he had to. He was doing it to appease his father-in-law, who wanted assurance that his daughter was in good financial hands with him.
Little did Larry know that 20 years later he would still be in the car business...and will be probably forever.
This is not uncommon for many of us in the business. When I entered it in 2001, my job was with a small software company that got its start providing IT services for local businesses.
I didn’t take the position because I liked cars or wanted to work with dealers. I took it because I aspired to be a web developer. And I am a web developer, technically.
The company’s owner had a girlfriend at the time. Her mother worked for a dealership. That dealership became the company’s first of many dealership customers.
Fast forward 20 years. That little IT services business was acquired by Cox Automotive for millions of dollars. Not a bad outcome for a college dropout who started the business in his parents’ basement.
Back to Larry.
He was young. His dealership work was one of his first professional jobs, and the Internet-thing was disrupting the car business. With few to no resources to lean on for learning and support, Larry did what many dot-com-era youth professionals did. He started blogging.
As one of the first bloggers in the dealer business, and perhaps because of his unassuming disposition, he became a prominent voice in the automotive blogosphere. That online community became a thing of its own, and Larry became somewhat of a celebrity.
But soon innovation plateaued. The car business went from ups to leads to online classifieds to websites and customer-relationship management systems and business development centers.
Before you know it, the disruption of the Internet had caused the car business to resemble the Wild West of the gold rush days. The car business had crossed the chasm into the digital age and was humming along.
For a few years, dealers could get by handsomely without embracing too much change. And savvy dealers who could afford to try new things did just that. Much like when the Internet first hit the car business, some things worked, some didn’t.
Larry was savvy. He tried new things all the time and had a good sense for how to make the Internet work for his dealership.
But he got bored. He continued working at the dealership managing its online presence, processing leads and selling cars. But his job didn’t change much, and his online community became an echo chamber. A resounding cavern of voices preaching to the choir.
As far as Larry was concerned, what was once new now was old. His boredom turned to apathy. He was on a treadmill to blah-blah land.
Unbeknownst to Larry, a volcano was brewing with hot boiling lava that any fair observer could notice. But not Larry. For whatever reason, the fumes from the volcano did not excite him. He yearned for something new and different, but he lost sight of where he was in the grand scheme of things.
Larry was not looking ahead. He was looking straight down.
(Look for part two soon.)
Ryan Gerardi is a 20-year industry veteran who has worked with several tech startups, including HomeNet, HookLogic, and SOCIALDEALER. He heads AutoConversion, a live streaming network, and is executive producer of the AutoConverse podcast. His company website is www.autoburstmedia.com.