MaximTrak Technologies: An Interview With Jim Maxim Jr.
MaximTrak Technologies: An Interview With Jim Maxim Jr.

For this month’s View From the Top, P&A magazine visits with Jim Maxim Jr., president of MaximTrak, to learn how the entrepreneurial spirit has driven his company since it was founded.

Tell us about yourself and the path that led to where MaximTrak is today.

Well the story is long and traveled but I am going to try and give you the Reader’s Digest version and get to MaximTrak as fast as possible. The story really begins when my father was released from the Marine Corps in 1974, just as the Vietnam War was winding down. As a high school graduate from a family with limited resources from Penn Hills, Pa., he had limited options. In those days it was either go to work in the steel mills or turn your hand to a trade, and the latter welcomed his natural ability to talk to people.

So he decided to take a job in car sales. After many years of working in and around the dealership environment, he worked his way up the food chain and became the national sales manager for an international automotive electronics company, responsible for operating their national distribution network. In 1982, he had the opportunity to buy out a small distributorship in the Philadelphia market, and that is how The Maxim Group of Companies got started.

I joined the family business in 2003 after working for Lucent Technologies and General Electric in corporate finance and mergers and acquisitions for a number of years. I had been around the automotive industry my whole life but I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into -- that is, until the day I stepped foot into an automotive dealership as a company representative.

At our company we believe that if you’re going to learn the business you had better do it from the ground floor up. So I spent time in just about every role that can be expected at Maxim and even spent some time turning deals in dealerships' F&I departments.

We came to realize that our clients needed a consistent, sustainable and repeatable process in F&I, one that was more beneficial for customers and more profitable for the dealer. MaximTrak actually started out as a video process that F&I managers presented prior to the F&I sale and, from there, the technology and concept grew into what it has become today. I was fortunate enough to lead a team of professionals, using my background and prior experiences, but even more so in having the opportunity to do that with the people I work with every day.

Please share an overview of the company and the products you offer.

MaximTrak is a technology development company solely focused on the finance and insurance segment within the automotive, motorcycle and powersports industries. We service dealership clients all over the country, many of the top ten “megadealer” groups as well as clients like Harley-Davidson Financial Services, Nissan Extended Services North America, Chrysler Group LLC, Nations Safe Drivers, American Auto Guardian, Universal Warranty Corp., Premier Dealer Services, RoadVantage and a number of other providers and administrators. We pride ourselves on our open integration platform and integrate to roughly 100 various industry participants.

Our mission is to create a more enjoyable consumer buying experience that drives product sales through intuitive technologies that are integrated into our client’s sales processes and systems. We do this by developing a seamless approach to F&I sales, by providing powerful tools that aid in dealership management and by streamlining the back-end administrative systems through systems integration.

We segment our product offerings into three main product lines: MenuTrak, our flagship F&I Menu platform and is the backbone of our product offerings; Dashboards, our management reporting suite of services that includes real-time reporting technologies; and ETrak, our e-business platform, which supports e-Rating, e-Contracting and e-Signature, e-Registration and, coming soon, e-Pay.

Who are your target markets and what message would you like to give them?

We serve a wide array of clients in the value chain, starting with F&I managers and dealers, agents, providers & administrators, insurance companies, lenders, captive finance companies and manufacturers. In sending our message out to your P&A readers, sometimes the best way to do that is to use a little humorous analogy, one that I think will hit home for a lot of readers because they have seen it firsthand.

I have noticed that, in various breakout sessions at trade conferences, many providers like to ask their agents, “What differentiates you as an agent from the competition?” And, invariably the answer comes back, from each agent, one at a time, “We provide the best products, training and support to the dealers, better than anyone in the business.”

Then the moderator usually stands up and says something like, “Well, if all of you are offering the best training and support to your dealers, and you are all agents, then what makes you different from all of the other agents?” Usually a silence falls on the room, and the next topic of course is reinsurance, loyalty programs, or a new product that differentiates the product provider’s approach as a lead-in to capture the agents’ attention.

When I ask this same question to many product providers, similar to the agents, a common response is, “We provide the best products and administration on the market. Our knowledge of the business and support of the agent is second to none. Our insurance backing is strong with over “X” billions of dollars in assets and our product lineup and market presence is a real differentiator.”

This is just an analogy and, of course, with all respect, we have seen many product providers get innovative and come on very strong over the past few years. They really are working hard to develop ways to go to market and differentiate their companies.

If I were to ask one question to the readership it would be this, “What program or plan are you taking to your agents and dealers that will redefine and revolutionize the way business is done in the F&I department and the way your agents and dealers transact business with you?”

How does your approach differ from other providers?

First, I think it’s important to state that technology is a differentiator and can make it easy for people to do business with you. One approach would be to put a comprehensive plan in place to drive this change into your sales channels. This is a proactive approach that will position your company to gain and maintain business in the future.

Of course we would like to think that we have the best product on the market, but the reality is that what differentiates us has less to do with our product and everything to do with our people and our approach. It has everything to do with how we treat our customers and respond to their needs.

We also have a very strong development team led by our CTO, Paul Manili, and our IT development group. They are amazing at what they do and how they work together to approach the development cycle.

Customization and prioritization is critical in the process of keeping our customers happy. Our support teams all go through our F&I schools and work with field reps in the dealerships as part of their training. Empathy for the F&I managers that work bell-to-bell is key to great communications with our dealers.

Looking back over the past five years, how has the industry changed and how do you see it changing in the future?

The industry is adopting technology at a rapid pace. Five years ago I would say the norm would be for an F&I Manager to infrequently use a pre-printed menu. Now I would say the norm is for dealers to be using some type of presentation tool or menu system. The platforms themselves have evolved to become a business platform that connects to an entire ecosystem of providers in an effort to streamline business. E-contracting is definitely here to stay, and we are now producing tens of thousands of digital contracts each month.

For the first time in my business career, that I can remember, consumer adoption of technology is outpacing business adoption. Businesses are trying to catch up and F&I is on the lagging end of that technology shift. The tools that dealers have at their disposal today, from CRM and marketing tools to F&I management tools is amazing.

What products do you believe will drive your future success?

Last Tuesday, I went to an Apple store, and it was packed wall-to-wall. There were 30 employees working the floor in blue t-shirts, all operating off of an iPad or iPhone. This is the way of the future. No one has done retail better than Apple and the product evolution in tablet devices,their approach to the market for everything from music and movies to applications and devices has changed the way we all need to be thinking. I would say the way we can communicate and interact with consumers has become so dynamic and integrated that this step change will drive all future products and services that we develop.

In February, we launched MobileTrak. It’s a completely mobile solution that renders our entire platform on tablet devices, including customer presentations, menus, compliance, credit and financing, DMS integration and our complete E-Trak platform for e-contracting services with integrated e-signature on the iPad and Android platforms. One of our strengths is bringing our partner connectivity to this platform so we have focused on integrating to every provider either directly or through an F&I exchange platform so that we can meet the dealer’s and agent’s needs.

It’s a complex environment at the agent and dealer levels,so we threw out our old integration models and have built new ones that are capable of handling an unlimited number of providers and integration methods into one interface. That allows us to call all the providers being used at the dealership with one click. The elegance is in the interface and the technology is behind the scenes. Making it the technology friendly for F&I managers is paramount to adoption, and adoption is what ultimately drives sales success.

We have changed the way we think and develop technology solutions to prepare for the future of F&I. We want to be prepared to aid our dealers in moving the F&I process more upstream in the car-buying process. We have worked with clients who want to enable inventory selection, financing and F&I processes right to the web so that consumers are able to go through a mini sales and interactive process before they come into the dealership. Although this may be several years off, we are already starting to see the demand. It’s a brave new world! Hang on to your hats!