Gregory Hoffman is the CEO and a founding principal for the Boston-based Resources Management Group. He learned the car business while attending Providence College in Rhode Island. Upon graduating, he attended General Motors dealer candidate training and went on to run a dealer group in New England. G.E. Capital later recruited him for their emerging F&I platform. In 1985, Hoffman decided to purchase the F&I agency group from G.E. Capital, and Resources Management Group was born.
Hoffman says their key to success as an agency has been the continued focus on their people. He feels fortunate to have recruited very talented people. “We believe in rewarding performance and empowering your talent. Your people are the most connected to the marketplace. They are the boots on the ground and are in the dealerships everyday. They see what is impacting F&I success and profitability, and the challenges for F&I managers. If you aren’t listening to them, you are missing the market.”
Hoffman is a strong believer in career development. He describes the great people they recruit as the heart of their organization. “We place a strong emphasis on ongoing training and development – not just for F&I skills, but also relationship skills, technology skills and any other aspect that will help them be successful, and we treat them with respect.” Hoffman says their recruits all have experience in retail automotive, providing them the benefit of first hand knowledge of the challenges and workings of the retail automotive environment.
From an agency perspective, Hoffman says today, more than ever, they are focused on innovation in order to keep pace with the rapidly changing marketplace. “We like to challenge ourselves and challenge the dealer client. We focus on how we can be innovative in the product arena, training, the process, the relationship and how we carry out and execute at the dealership level.” Choosing good provider partners and nurturing those relationships is more important to Hoffman than representing many different companies. “We tend to have less providers but have longer relationships. We partner with administrators and insurance companies who are able to enter into a relationship where we support one another in a manner that promotes mutual respect and accountability. This has worked well for us and been a profitable venture for our partners and us.”
Just as he has seen the retail automotive marketplace consolidate through publicly owned aggregators, such as AutoNation, Penske, Group One, and others, Hoffman predicts some of the larger agencies will get bigger in the future. “I don’t think long term health is on the horizon for smaller, product provider agents lacking the training and income development skills necessary to have a positive impact within a dealership. Carrying one or two products isn’t going to cut it in the future.” Hoffman says they have never perceived themselves as a product provider. “Our goal has always been to be a solution provider, enhancing profitability at the dealership.”
Hoffman believes the future holds a lot of uncertainty regarding the role the CFPB is going to play in the auto industry and the regulatory activity occurring at different state levels. “Both are things we need to monitor. I am also concerned about factories and their captive finance arms pressures to control every aspect of the dealers operations, sales and service, parts and now F&I. The product providers’ stability and long-term commitment to the industry is something we think about everyday. The number of insurance companies willing to underwrite the F&I business has diminished dramatically over the last 15 years. This is key because in order for lenders to finance the F&I products and gain state approval we need insurance carriers willing to underwrite them.”
Hoffman sees some recent changes for agents as being very positive during the last few years. “We now have a whole new arena that never existed before with certain publications like this one, and the Agent Summit. They have given agents a sounding board. I have been in the business a long time and nothing like this has ever existed before - giving agents the ability to have an open and cooperative flow of information to better manage their agencies. It is a good thing! Agents have the opportunity to come together as a force on some of these legislative processes and have a greater voice about areas of concern that impact all of us.”
So what does the future hold for agents? Hoffman says that agencies with a commitment to recruiting good people, giving them opportunities to succeed and supporting them – while maintaining their relevancy to the dealer, will have a very bright future ahead of them.
With a son who is now working with him, and a daughter who just completed her masters and is teaching in the Boston area, Hoffman is clearly proud of his kids. He and his wife divide their time between their homes in Scottsdale and Rhode Island. Hoffman says they enjoy time with family and friends and travel every chance they can. “My daughter is on the board of trustees for US Figure skating. She skated internationally and it allowed us the opportunity spend a lot of time in Europe. Italy and Spain are our favorite places. My son plays competitive golf, and we are headed to Atlanta to watch him compete in the 2014 U.S. Amateur."
What Hoffman has always enjoyed most about this business is the relationship building and the sense of pride in achievement. “It is very rewarding to be able to go into a dealership situation and have a true impact. To do so in a consultative manner and help them to improve their dealership F&I – not just increasing profits, but better in every aspect of their business. When you see that end result and are able to attribute it back to your agency – that is what it is all about.” Hoffman recommends for someone just getting started to approach his or her position seeking to achieve that impact.
Hoffman also emphasizes the importance of continually working to improve your skillset, and your ability to speak and present yourself effectively. He thinks that sometimes the focus on communication skills has been diminished in the pursuit of technology. “You need to embrace technology without question, but our business is still a belly-to-belly business. Car dealers expect you to be able to come in and articulate what that value proposition is - what makes you different than who they are currently doing business with. I have never closed a deal by email. You can have all the sales tools that technology has to offer, but it still takes a good sales person to sell a car, and it still takes a talented F&I professional to sell F&I products. Embrace technology but keep your house in order in terms of good people skills, process and organizational skills – those are the things that will bring success in any business.”