An Interview with Thomas Elliott
An Interview with Thomas Elliott

P&A magazine met with Thomas Elliott, executive vice president of StoneEagle, to learn more about his automotive industry career and get the inside edge on the company’s latest innovations.

Tell me a little bit about your company and its place in the industry.

StoneEagle delivers a full array of applications to the retail automotive industry, including flagship offerings of our .net SEcureAdmin system and our industry-leading reporting application SEcureMetrics for sales and F&I. We also provide SEcureMetrics reporting for the service department, along with our latest technology offering, SEcureMenu, and our patented virtual payment platform, VPay.

Because of our rich history and experience in the retail automotive space and a team of dedicated, passionate professionals, we have been able to successfully navigate a multitude of changes in the industry over the past 20 years, and we continue to maintain our leadership position.

We realize that the industry is continuing to evolve. We have invested heavily in development resources and key team members who are able to understand our business today and also push us forward into the future with a clear vision and a methodical, strategic approach.

Are there any recent or future developments within your company that you would like to tell us about?

I am very excited about the launch of our latest application, SEcureMenu. Our team has worked diligently to create a simple, fast and flexible menu application that provides a fantastic experience for both the F&I user and the customer.

Since October of 2014, SEcureMenu has econtracted more than 10,000 contracts with multiple providers for a handful of primary test dealers. We have been working diligently to connect with F&I providers so that SEcureMenu delivers a comprehensive and stable network of options for dealers and general agents.

We also recently completed expansion of our SEcureMetrics application to include reporting analytics on closed repair orders and technician and advisor performance within the service department. As the service department now drives more than 30% of all dealer profits, we have seen a push from our agents, dealers and provider partners to gain insight into the performance details from service.

I am also very excited about our development efforts in regard to aggregate analytics. We will leverage the data from the approximately 4,000 dealers we currently have data for in order to present high-level, aggregate metrics such as F&I per vehicle retailed, product penetrations and averages and break the data out by OEM, dealership state and size. This data offers so many options for agents, dealers and providers as they perform initial analyses for dealer presentations and to provide benchmark targets for their F&I managers and producers.

For our flagship product, SEcureMetrics, we are about to release a new “violation report” that will allow our dealerships, agents and providers to monitor rate spreads, product sales price caps and profits, and overall profit caps on a deal-level basis and proactively schedule notifications to various personnel when any violation occurs.

How did you (personally) get started? What caused you to choose this career path?

While working on my undergraduate degree, I interned with a credit insurance company and gained my initial exposure to the retail automotive industry. I worked in multiple departments and benefited from the knowledge of several very talented individuals. It was during this internship that I met one of my greatest career influencers, Mark Genova. Mark challenged me and mentored me in the art of working with an intense focus and learning how to utilize technology to maximize my efforts, all while understanding the importance of the needs of the dealer and agent clients.

My first job after graduating from college was with a mid-sized, Texas-based vehicle service contract and aftermarket product and income-development provider. It was here that I was introduced to two additional colleagues who greatly impacted my career: Cliff Eller and Russell Howells. I was given the opportunity to work alongside them in the areas of risk management, accounting and, most importantly, providing support to our field agents and dealers.

The more I learned, the more I became intrigued by the solutions that dealers were searching for in an effort to maximize their customers’ experience and overall profitability, which eventually led me to StoneEagle and the opportunity to work with Brent Allen. StoneEagle has been an industry leader for more than 20 years, and Brent wanted to ensure that we put a team in place that would give StoneEagle the opportunity to continue to be an industry leader for years to come.

What are your outside interests / what do you like to do on your days off? What activities/sports are you passionate about?

I really enjoy spending my free time with my wife and my two teenage sons.

My favorite sport has always been basketball, and it is a good thing, as my 16-year-old son is a 6’8” junior and my 14-year-old son is a 6’4” freshman. Each of them is heavily involved in varsity and freshmen basketball, respectively. Most of our time is now spent caravanning to games across Dallas, San Antonio, Houston and the rest of Texas.

When not travelling to basketball games and supporting our sons, I enjoy time golfing and camping with friends and family.

What are the biggest issues you see facing the industry today and in the future?

I am extremely concerned about the manner in which several of the DMS providers have approached changes to their security platforms and how these changes are being messaged and presented to the affected dealerships and third-party providers.

DMS providers’ core focus is the accounting and tracking of a dealer’s sales, and the very complicated process of service repairs and integration points therein. Companies like StoneEagle have core focus on the best-in-class applications such as menu, reporting and CRMs. The DMS providers are making it economically infeasible for a dealer to pick the best product for their business.

What advice would you give to someone new to this industry?

I would strongly recommend that someone new to the industry spend as much time as possible learning about today’s consumer and what really happens at the dealership during the lifecycle of a customer transaction.

There is no substitute for understanding the business from all perspectives so that your team fully meets the expectations of your clients.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Our team is focusing its efforts on collaborating with dealers, agents and providers to understand industry needs as the customer experience begins to transition to a more digital/online approach.

We are working to deliver a robust solution that allows the customer to drive the process, to view and rate products and review support material from anywhere on any device before they arrive at the dealership to complete their vehicle purchase.