Monday, April 2, 2018

How I will always remember John Beilein

Part I - Introduction to Richmond Basketball (1997)

In the Fall of 1997 I landed at the University of Richmond as a skinny, high energy freshman; not totally unlike how most begin their college years. That same year John Beilein (now coach of the NCAA Championship bound University of Michigan Wolverines) arrived too. I honestly had no idea what to make of Richmond athletics. I knew we weren't I-A for Football (I-AA) but frankly I had zero knowledge of our past NCAA Tournament success in basketball. I just knew that they didn't recruit out of Florida for baseball (as in visit athletes that far south) and I had some interest in maybe trying to walk on. After one very social weekend I decided rushing a fraternity would be more a better use of my time. In no time at all I would be hardly fit enough to add value to our fraternity softball team, let alone Division I baseball.

My roommate was a small forward from Memphis named Rick. He had been recruited by the previous Richmond coach (Bill Dooley) to be a Spider and he had some concerns about how that might work out over the span of his playing career. (History now remembers Dooley, not so fondly, as the placeholder coach between legendary Spider head coach Dick Tarrant and the arrival of Beilein) Rick was a 3-guard who could shoot lights out but like a lot of guys bound for the college game he had played a lot bigger in high school (F or even C). He had post moves and could handle the ball well for a '6 "4 3-guard. I don't think John liked seeing Rick put the ball on the ground (meaning he would take Rick out if he dribbled, lol). Rick and I became good friends right off the bat. Amazing he did as well academically balancing Division I sports and a lazy roommate!

Coach Beilein during his tenure as a Spider [1997-2002]

Our first game that year in '97 was an unusual one. It was played at our home (Robins Center) but the University of Virginia was given status as the home team. If memory serves me correctly University Hall in Charlottesville was under some construction and the game was moved to Richmond. Even my student ticket for the game was printed on the UVA ticket template.  Ironically growing up in Virginia I was a Cavaliers fan well before I even knew UR existed. Even though I attended high school in Florida I was still a UVA hoops fan for most of my teenage years. In 1997 Richmond had a tough schedule from jump that included 3 of the first 4 games against ACC teams (UVA, NC and Wake Forest). This was exciting as a new student "Spider" fan but I don't remember thinking much of our chances.

Here is how I remember that night. My roommate (Rick) came off of the bench pretty quickly as one of the first subs used. I believe the first shot he ever took was essentially from the scorers table as time wound down in the 1st half. That 3-pointer went in --- and he may have even banked it. This was exciting and we were holding the Wahoos close. Rick finds more minutes in the second half. He's hitting 3's and shooting freely. I think I see Ralph Sampson near my my seat. We go to overtime; then double overtime. Rick hits 6-6 free throws down the stretch and we beat UVA 83-79 with Rick scoring 19 points. "Crap," I thought --- "I'm living with Larry Bird." For any great player it would be a dream stat line for a first game as a true Freshman.

Score Sheet from November 16, 1997 UR vs UVA

Part II - Dinner with John Beilein (2002)

Rick never scored 19 points again but came close several times. John and Rick enjoyed an up and down relationship but I think they'd mostly look back on it as positive (with Rick going through some darker days as a sophomore). That first year John took the Spiders to the NCAA tournament after winning the CAA conference tournament and we beat a 3-seeded South Carolina team in the 1st round. It was exciting. John was doing big things with less talent. Rick and I lived again together as Seniors and as I like to remind Rick those were two great years for the Spiders (2001 saw us win the regular season conference championship just falling short of an at large bid for the tournament).

John stayed with the Spiders for the 2001-2002 season as we left the CAA for the superior A-10 conference but we all knew he wasn't long for the Robins Center. And as John completed his Richmond head coaching career with a respectable home loss to Syracuse in the NIT I had found my way in the world of radio working for our local Richmond ABC and Fox Sports radio affiliates.

So there I was at John Beilein's last live radio coaches show, on the eve of his departure to West Virginia with a group of radio friends, former and current Spider players and college buddies. At some point I believe John saw Rick at our table as he came over pretty quickly after the broadcast. He was kind and talkative and he bought our tab I remember which was a class move. The broadcast that evening may have even involved a friend of ours calling in to ask John who takes the last shot in a close game between Teenwolf, Jimmy Chitwood or Billy from "White Men Can't Jump"?  And that's when the fun started...

"Which one of you is Roshan?" Beilein asked. Roshan waved his hand. "Do you really think Rick should of have had more freedom to drive in the motion offense?" Ok, so I don't remember the specific questions but I had known for years that my friends would write Beilein e-mail epistles about everything from Rick's playing time, to our team merchandising to different match ups that John would recognize on the floor.  "And who is Kai?" John went on and on, calling out all of Rick's friends one by one with specific counter-point advice to what they had been e-mailing him about over the years. It was hilarious and also very telling in that John had read every single email our crew had sent him. I was close to falling out of my chair as the evening came to a close. You could tell that John was pretty respectful for the crew Rick had been able to assemble from day one. He for sure didn't face e-mail harassment from many on that campus.

It was a moment I will never forget and having that small window into John Beilein's personality felt kind of like the icing on the cake to my intimate experience with Richmond basketball at the time. John is an unassuming guy who has always been successful by doing more with less. I believe he runs one of the cleanest programs in modern age (and probably true with the game under so much scrutiny). Michigan is an interesting job for John in that he's able to recruit supreme talent and he's had to extend his vision of the game in my opinion. I've followed John Beilein's career with interest since my Spider days and although he's got a tall order tonight I know he wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The fire department doesn't stop at putting out the fire! Why do you?

When your local fire department arrives to put out a fire you would be correct in saying their priority is to put the fire out. In that moment wondering how the fire began is irrelevant. There could be lives still in danger or increasing damage that can be avoided. But once the fire is out where does the focus turn? Into clues of what started the fire of course. And then that concern or liability in turn becomes a part of public service announcements, community communication and training. 

In dealership operations I feel that many of us are great at putting out fires. We know how to put deals back together, appease concerned customers and get anxious employees to get back on the team bus. 

Where we need to improve is in finding out how the fire started and how to create an environment that thrives on not letting it happen again. How many times do I hear people say, "gotta love the car business" as a way to justify with dealing with the same old problems month in and month out. 

Commit yourself today to not just stop at dousing the flames next time. Commit to discovering how the fire started and how you can eliminate it from happening again. Maybe it's additional situational training, maybe it's better communication. 

Then think about the great things that you could be doing if you weren't running to the next fire.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Through the Eyes of a Service Customer...

People forget that although I am an automotive professional of 13 years, I've bought cars from other dealerships and I've serviced with other service centers. I've worked specifically for 5 brands across 3 dealerships, been a Lube Tech and Sales Manager for an independent repair facility but I've been a customer too.

In my own life I don't put on the eyes of a customer often enough but today I had to out of necessity.

My VW Toureg Diesel demo was giving me messages about an exhaust additive called adblue. If I didn’t add it soon, my car told me it would not start after driving 100 miles.

So without the time to drive to our VW of Gainesville store I found myself at a competitors shop near my house at 7:45 (15 minutes after open) to find my remedy. 


The Service Drive was empty and I was promptly greeted by a “trainee," a former sales guy named Chris. Chris was fairly attentive and asked fairly standard questions related to my needs. 

“Do you have an appointment?” he asked. Sitting in my customer shoes I was a bit taken back. For some reason what I really was thinking he was telling me was because I wasn’t an appointment I would not be a priority even though their service drive was empty…but we kept moving forward. He mentioned because their “system was down” he wasn’t quite sure if I could even be “written up” at that time. Again was this negative information necessary for me the customer?

Chris then took me into to meet an ASM where we repeated the exact same process we had outside. Literally we reviewed every question I was already asked. What shocked me here was:
  1. A lot of what Chris had understood from our conversation was incorrect. This caused me again to have to repeat myself which was irritating. 
  2. When I arrived at the ASM desk he did not welcome me or look up or introduce himself. Once he did engage though he seemed to want to help. He never gave me his name.
  3. "Go to parts and ask for 2 bottles of adblue and I will add it for you” he said. 
I was not walked to parts by Chris or the ASM. When I finally found the retail parts counter no one was there. There was a bell that said “ring for service.” 

I rang the bill and sat for about 2 minutes which felt like 15. I stared past the desk into a glass sliding window where I imagine either warranty or accounting staff stared back to me. I engaged with the lady in the window with a "Good Morning" and she too voiced her frustration at the “system being down" and shook her head. 

Finally someone came to the parts counter. I told him what I needed and he asked me who I was dealing with in Service. I couldn’t say of course because the ASM never gave me a name. He said, “Our system is down so I am not even sure I can sell you what you need right now.” Things were off to bad a start. This happens in our own stores (I'm sure) but I was shocked at the negative emotion and lack of “can do” attitude that had stricken the entire service staff. There was hardly a customer in their lounge; had they never discussed how life would look in the case of their DMS having issues? 

He finally returned with the two jugs of “adblue” and said “I guess I can hand write a ticket to get you moving.” 

Things start to get better. I paid cash and left promptly and returned to my car. William the ASM (I'd finally asked for his name) was already at my car with the spare removed and various nothings from my trunk removed all prepared to add the adblue (which is added under neath the spare tire). Excellent this guy is going to get me moving. He added the adblue and we made small talk. My experience was ending nicely. William hustled to get the spare back into place and showed me how I could do this myself if I ever needed to moving forward. He explained to me the benefit and he helped me load my things back into the car. 

What started as a 2 star experience ended a 4. But think of all the little tweaks that would of had me glowing about this place…

-If a customer has an appointment shouldn’t you know that before they have to tell you? 

-Are there points in your "needs analysis" where a customer is having to be unnecessarily repetitive?

-Always introduce yourself and give instant eye contact and attention to your customer

-Don’t appear to be disengaged or lost in a screen (computer, tablet or phone) when they arrive. If you have to tell them you’ll be right with them at least have introduced yourself and made eye contact. It’s reassuring. 

-Always walk a new customer to where they are going. Even better yet wait with them until someone answers the button ring or they are handed off to the proper department. 

-Things happen in business. Systems go down. Don’t place additional burden on your customer when there is an issue. They don’t need to see you sweat until they do! Be prepared (or mad at yourself that you are not prepared) in these instances. Know where you are going with the ball when it’s thrown to you so to speak. 

I tried to tip William 20 dollars and he wouldn’t accept. I appreciated his hustle and instant attention, though it got off to a slow start. I’d go back there and see him if I needed help. 

I was in and out in less than 30 minutes. 

(Full disclosure - at every point of communication at the dealership I explained to them that I was in the industry. My demo is an untitled vehicle and I had a dealer tag on the car --- sooner than later they would have found this out on their own)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Morgan Auto Group acquires Sun Toyota

Morgan Auto Group acquires Sun Toyota & Scion

NEW PORT RICHEY, FL (February 16, 2016) – Morgan Auto Group acquired Sun Toyota & Scion earlier this afternoon from Jeff Cadwell and Dwane Johansen. The dealership is located at 3001 US Highway 19 in Holiday, Florida. The dealership name will remain the same to capitalize on the strong Sun brand reputation that owners Cadwell and Johansen have built in the Tampa Bay area.

John Marazzi has been named managing partner of Sun Toyota & Scion to oversee operations, adding to his role as managing partner at Brandon Honda. Marazzi has been a successful leader in Florida automobile dealerships for 27 years—first at Ft. Myers Toyota, Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover Fort Myers, and John Marazzi Nissan in Naples, Florida before coming to Brandon Honda.  

"I’ve known Jeff Cadwell for years, initially from our joint efforts in our community hospital system,” said Larry Morgan, CEO of Morgan Auto Group. “Jeff is a first-class gentleman who values his customers and employees alike, just as we do. He’s built a top-quality local dealership that is one of the best in the Tampa Bay area. We are looking forward to following in his footsteps and continuing to build the Sun brand of the future.”  

The hallmark of Morgan Auto Group dealerships is its keen focus on impeccable customer service and direct customer engagement in all departments. Sun customers will enjoy enhanced benefits and loyalty programs not found at other area dealerships. Service department efficiency and affordability will help guests easily blend auto maintenance into busy schedules. Plans include expanding the in-house café operation for added customer comfort and convenience.          

Today’s acquisition brings Morgan Auto Group’s auto dealership holdings to 14 over the last 10 years. In addition to Sun Toyota & Scion, the Morgan Auto Group of dealerships includes BMW of Sarasota, Brandon Honda, Ford of Port Richey, Gainesville Buick GMC, Gainesville Mitsubishi, Honda of Ocala, Honda of Gainesville, Lamborghini Sarasota, MINI of Wesley Chapel, Port Richey Mitsubishi, Toyota of Tampa Bay ǀ Scion of Tampa Bay, and Volkswagen of Gainesville, in addition to Kia of Columbia in Missouri.

Morgan Auto Group is owned by Larry Morgan and his son, Brett Morgan. Both are highly respected business and community leaders in the Tampa Bay area. Larry Morgan is past Chairman of the Florida Automobile Dealers Association, past Chairman of Bay Care Health Systems, Inc., and founder of Tires Plus. His philanthropy and community involvement include past Chairman of the Valspar PGA Championship that raises millions of dollars annually for local charities and a $5 million family gift to establish the Morgan Heart Hospital at Morton Plant Hospital. For more information, visit

Sun Toyota & Scion is located at 3001 US Highway 19 between Moog Road and Sunray Drive in Holiday, FL 34691, on the border of New Port Richey. For more information, call 727.478.0070 or visit


Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Last Days of Scion: A Dealers Perspective

In January of 2016 our Toyota of Tampa Bay store sold 22 Scions (about 8% of our New Car Volume). While that doesn't sound like a lot, we have new car franchised dealerships that play in the same relative ballpark of volume here in Florida (MINI, Buick, GMC, Mitsubishi). So was it a surprise that the Scion nameplate is going away? In many ways yes, but to a great degree it's just the right thing to do. I've seen the media misrepresent this event in their typical fashion ("Millennials are less interested in owning cars, Toyota says" Las Vegas Review Journal) and I felt that my thoughts would paint a picture closer to reality for all concerned. From a dealers perspective and a Scion owner's it's not all positive news but there is a silver lining here. 

First Impressions
Sitting in the showroom of our first Morgan Auto dealership I remember my first impressions of the Scion brand in 2004: Funky, simple to configure, no haggle (pure price) and hell bent on offering a quicker more streamlined process of car buying to the consumer (something dealerships still struggle with 11 years later). The target was younger buyers and I thought Toyota's approach was positive and proactive. Not every Scion model appealed to the target Generation X/Y consumer (xB for example) but overall the Scion brand did its job of bringing first time customers into the Toyota umbrella (70% of Scion buyers were Toyota first timers). Over the next five years I watched as Honda customers got older and Toyota's younger. Scion was a part of solving a challenge that some of Toyota's competition struggled with. 

What Scion did for Toyota
No one wants to know their average buyer's age is growing each year. Acquiring a consumer and creating brand loyalty inside of the 25-34 demo is a huge achievement in retail especially when you have more mature models to bring them into later in life (Camry, Prius, Highlander, Sienna). Plus who wants the stigma of being the most driven car on the Senior PGA Tour (think Buick, Lincoln)? We used to have Scion meetups at the dealership. Scion gave us the right to enjoy the car rally element that only exotic buyers and classic car owners enjoyed. It was always a positive talking point. Their concept models were outlandish and progressive. Then it all just seemed to go away. 

Flyer from a 2008 Scion Event at Toyota of Tampa Bay "Wicked Whips 2.0"

The Beginning of the End
Around 2009 sales began to decrease and the excitement for the brand dropped to a whisper. New Scion models didn't ignite the passion they first had and Toyota annual meetings were spent with mentions of rebooting and revitalizing the brand. Scion tC (Scion's volume model) sales fell in half. The crossover SUV segment was growing and Scion didn't have a dog in that fight. Even the fabled Toyota 86, which became the rear wheel drive Scion FR-S (great car/right price) couldn't bring back the brand. Scion had fallen into a niche and lost all aspirations of regaining growth and of becoming a "2nd dealership" for Toyota dealers. 

What is Actually Happening / Which Scion models are staying with the Toyota brand?
All Scion models will fold into the Toyota brand in 2017 save for the Scion tC which had previously been slated to be discontinued in 2016. So the Scion iA, iM and the FR-S will soon have Toyota badging. Even the Scion CH-R crossover concept will honor it's reported release but as a Toyota model instead. A Scion owners service relationship with their Toyota dealership should remain virtually unchanged. This is good news ultimately for everyone. While I do believe Scion helped bring younger buyers to Toyota over time Toyota was began to do this on their own. It's a challenge to manage two separate brand philosophies under one roof and many elements of the Scion experience are coming to Toyota anyway. 

Is the death of Scion a referendum on "Pure Price?" 
I think to a degree the death of Scion does tell us something about "Pure Price." While the consumer experience is crying out for a new way to engage, interact and ultimately buy from dealers, the appeal of Pure Price within this is overstated. In the past months Toyota has placed a renewed focus on reducing the time it takes to buy a car while encouraging dealers to take advantage of resources that allow customers to do complete a great deal of the purchase from their couch. This is a positive area of investment for dealers. Dealers are re-aligning themselves for this new reality. While there may be generational differences amongst our guests in their level of comfort with negotiation, it is my personal believe that we should trust our customers to be well researched and discerning which can lead to an efficient two way conversation about price.

Scion dealerships need to share in the blame too 
The Scion model of "Pure Price" and delivery within an hour was seldom adhered to by dealers. Competing dealers would use trade allowances, waived dealer fees and free accessories to compromise the element of "Pure Price" and buy consumer favor. Scion as a brand never got a fair look as to the success of this model simply because DEALERSHIPS failed to discipline themselves to it.

Scion: Victim of Its Own Success? 
Ironically Toyota of North America CEO Jim Lentz (and former head of Scion) foretold of this event. "Do you risk alienating the boomer buyer to get to Gen Y?" Lentz told Automotive News in 2002. Scion after all allowed Toyota to market in unconventional ways, breaking ground in event, promotional and social media marketing. "No, it's safer to create Scion and keep the boomer buyer."

He then added, "But in the future, we will have to integrate Toyota and Scion." 

Monday, September 14, 2015

4 Takeaways from the 2015 Annual Toyota Dealer Meeting in Las Vegas

Here are my big four takeaways from the Annual Toyota Dealer Meeting (2015): 

These are outside of the the usual product intro’s which would have been highlighted by the new Rav4 Hybrid, the new Tacoma (hot), a commitment to building more truck, Prius re-design (nice) and we saw the Scion CH-R concept which could make some noise if ever produced. 

The Annual Toyota Dealer Meeting was held in Las Vegas this past September

#1) With hydrogen vehicles launching this year (only in areas with available hydrogen infrastructure) Toyota feels they have covered the gamut between Hydrogen, Electric, Hybrid and Gas products. Also an all new Prius and Prius electric is coming our way. 

Learn More about Toyota Mirai & Hydrogen:

#2) Toyota Express Purchase: We received a live demo of Toyota’s new buying process. Imagine an internet department inside of an internet department and a customer who arrives at the dealership only to “continue” their transaction. The process is seamless and includes F&I products sold by the same sales member who confirms the previously negotiated purchase or lease. While the technology was good and seamless we’d require the same level of integration from World Omni that TFS was supplying not to mention other obstacles that could break the process (someone who wants to negotiate, a vehicle trade-in, someone with changing credit, changes their mind last minute on vehicle). Promising but not even ready for Beta testing. All in all this is going to be a win for consumers and can be adopted in part at some level of our dealership(s) today. 

#3) We are our own worst enemies: We are giving our data to 3rd Party Providers so that they can profit from us…whether it’s TrueCar or Carvana essentially by participating we are allowing other folks the credit for delivering the customer a unique experience (not to mention with potential for a disconnect between consumer and manufacturer). Still buying 3rd party leads? Than you are part of the problem says Toyota.

Biggest Problem: What’s already on their way in the way of data aggregators getting into the pre-owned market. Would you buy a used jacket online? 

#4) Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) is coming to all Toyota models soon (for many models by 2017) and includes the highest tech related to safety. Huge win for consumers and the Toyota brand. 


The Toyota Safety Sense C package features three proprietary active safety technologies, and combines a camera and laser radar for enhanced performance and reliability. The package can help prevent or mitigate collisions in a wide range of vehicle speeds.

Pre-collision System (PCS)

PCS uses a camera and laser radar to detect objects ahead of the vehicle.  When the system determines there is a possibility of collision it prompts the driver to brake with an audio and visual alert. If the driver notices the hazard and brakes, the system provides additional braking force. If the driver fails to brake in a set time, the system automatically applies the brakes, reducing speed by approximately 19 mph *1 in order to prevent or mitigate the collision. The operational range of PCS covers speeds at which at least 80 percent of rear-end collisions occur (i.e. relative speeds of between approximately 7 – 50 mph).  

Lane Departure Alert (LDA)

LDA uses a camera to detect visible white and yellow lane markings. If the system determines that the vehicle is starting to deviate from the lane, LDA alerts the driver with an audio and visual alert.

Automatic High Beam (AHB)

AHB helps enhance forward visibility during nighttime driving. It uses a camera to detect the headlights of oncoming vehicles and the tail lights of vehicles ahead, and then automatically switches between high beams and low beams so as not to dazzle other drivers.

Toyota Safety Sense P combines a camera and millimeter-wave radar for enhanced performance and reliability. In addition to the three active safety technologies included in the Toyota Safety Sense C package, the Pre-collision System offered with this package also includes a pedestrian detection function. In addition, Toyota Safety Sense P offers Radar Cruise Control functionality.  (see below)

Pedestrian Pre-collision System

This system uses millimeter-wave radar and a camera to help detect pedestrians in certain conditions in addition to vehicles. To help prevent or mitigate collisions, the system activates an audio and visual alert in addition to brake assist, followed by automated braking if the driver does not brake in a set time. Automated braking operates at relative speeds of between 7- 50 mph for potential collisions with pedestrians, and can reduce speed by approximately 19 mph*1. For potential collisions with vehicles, the enhanced PCS system included with the Toyota Safety Sense P package operates at relative speeds of between 7 mph and the vehicle's top speed, reducing speed by approximately 25 mph*2.

Dynamic Radar Cruise Control
On highways, Radar Cruise Control uses millimeter-wave radar to detect preceding vehicles and determine their speed. It then is designed to adjust vehicle speed (within a set range) to help maintain a pre-set distance between vehicles. By using a forward-facing camera and millimeter-wave radar to monitor vehicles merging into or out of the lane, Radar Cruise Control helps maintain smooth acceleration and deceleration while driving.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Searching for a Part Time Reputation Management / Social Media Manager in the Tampa Bay Area

Part Time Social Media & Reputation Management Manager

whitehat three60° 

Tampa Bay Area

Job Description:

Manage various reputation management accounts and social media accounts for a major independent franchised automotive dealership group based out of Tampa, FL.

Pay: $12 Dollars an Hour / 29 Hours Weekly / Office Hours Negotiable (Flexible Schedule)


Respond to dealership reviews on platforms such as yelp!, dealer rater and Google + Business.

Distribute (E-mail) Positive & Negative Reviews to relevant department heads.

Use whitehat’s reputation surge process to drive additional reviews and customer feedback.

Social Media content creation management for Google + Business and Instagram.

Specifically: To grow followers on both platforms, garner engagement, create relationships with brand aficionados and local influencers.

Become a company advocate in these specific social spaces and engage in dialogues and answer questions when appropriate.

Qualifications and Experience:

Possesses excellent written communication skills and the ability to communicate in a personable, not robotic-tone.

Possesses knowledge and experience in the tenets of traditional marketing (Marketing degree or specific study not a necessity).

Demonstrate creativity and documented immersion in Social Media (Include Screen Shots or Links to Specific Examples).

Experienced in sourcing and managing content development in web publishing.

Can transition from the creative side to the analytical side.

Displays in depth knowledge of a broad spectrum of Social Media applications and their associated back end tools.

Is a team player with confidence and the ability to hold oneself accountable to job description. Knows appropriate times to communicate challenges and issues when an escalating situation may arise.

Demonstrates overall winning Social Customer Service skills. But be empathetic overall to customer while holding an upbeat stance that looks at the big picture.

Please contact Brett M @ or 813.340.0544 
Please attach resume & applicable examples of Social Greatness or Written Communication!