Digital Dealer blogs: Barry Hillier

Canadian auto dealer met some spirited Canadians at the Digital Dealer conference in Orlando, Fla. and invited them to contribute blog posts. Here are some observations from Barry Hillier, from Dashboard, a creative agency that serves dealers and associations.

We’ll tell you why you didn’t attend the digital dealer conference and why that needs to change.

Our team at Dashboard have been in the automotive business for ten years and we represent a few of the only Canadians to attend the Digital Dealer Conference in the past three years. Keep in mind that a thousand U.S. dealers attend this conference each year. In all of this time, our experience has shown that one thing is common with dealers on both sides of the border. They’re scared, really scared. Dealers are scared of the unknown and what they don’t know about major industry changes that are affecting their dealership.
The economy is always a concern and the past few years have been an epic roller coaster that everyone wants off. But the real fear is only amplified by the economy. The real fear is the fear of change and what that change represents. Change in media, change in consumers, change in operations and the fear of what confronting change means to their dealership. And that fear grows when you really look at the amount of change happening in the automotive industry daily.
There are so many changes happening that few dealers understand how to even begin navigating that change. What the hell is twitter and how does a bird that banters help or hurt my business? What is Facebook and why do I need more friends? What is all this talk about Googling and why does it sound so dirty? If I do need an Internet department, where do I start and how does it work? In times of uncertainty, what you don’t know or understand is a threat. And we see the fear in our dealers’ eyes and understand that the future is looking uncertain and threatening to many of them. But the digital dealer conference shows that the fear can be overcome and the unknown isn’t as scary as it might seem.
At the digital dealer conference, my favourite seminars are led by actual dealer principals. My favourite topics involve dealers talking directly about change including how they changed their dealership, their processes, their staffing structure, their advertising and pretty much everything that they’ve done to successfully build their business over the past few decades. I enjoy these topics because dealers talk about embracing their fear during this change. They talk about their fear of learning about things that they don’t understand and they talk about the fear of the unknown and how it impacts their business. Will it fail if they don’t change or will it fail if they do change and how will their decisions affect their business and the sum of decades of hard work and ambition of past and present family members. There is sincerity and honesty in the conversation about their fear and the unknown, but then there is hope and the realization that they could learn and change and pass along a viable business down to their children.
It would be easy to talk about all of the things we learn at the digital dealer conference from advertising to operations to sales and so on, but the number one reason you need to attend the next conference in the fall is to remove your fear of change and the unknown. You need to educate yourself on the current state of the automotive industry and you need to hear other dealers talk about what they’ve learned and how they’ve failed and succeeded as they change. You need to see that you’re not alone and that there are many people learning with you and, more important, that they are adapting to change successfully and staying relevant in their markets. FDR once said that “the only thing to fear is fear itself”. It is as true today as it was then. Today, you have the means to confront that fear. We hope to see you at the next digital dealer conference in Vegas this fall.
Barry Hillier

About Barry Hillier

Barry Hillier is Chief Visionary Officer for Dashboard, a creative agency serving automotive dealers, industry associations and other clients. You can reach him at:

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