If you’ve ever attended NCMi training or been to a meeting at our Kansas City headquarters, you might have noticed a large black and white photo on the wall near the entry to the DAB meeting room. “What’s DAB?” you might have thought absentmindedly as you glanced at the old picture and rushed past to find your seat …
DAB, or Dealer Analysis Bureau, is the automotive industry’s first and longest-running 20 Group that NCM still has the pleasure of facilitating. The group currently consists of 19 Ford dealers from the US and Canada who meet three times per year to discuss their operations and share best practices. In this regard, they are just like any other 20 Group. But the black and white photo on the wall of the meeting room named after them is where it all started. In early October, when DAB held one of their meetings at our Kansas City headquarters, we felt it was a great opportunity to recreate the same photo nearly 70 years later. DAB’s rich history deserves to be shared, so we enlisted current DAB performance partner, Kevin Cunningham, to help tell one of NCM’s most important stories.
Emily: “When did the Dealers Analysis Bureau begin? When was their first meeting?”
Kevin: “Oh, this is a great story. In 1945, Henry Ford, II (third from the right, in the back of the old photo), asked 32 Ford dealerships from around the country to come to Dearborn, Mich., to Ford Motor Company’s headquarters, to discuss re-starting, or jump starting, the retail automobile business in America. Most automobile manufacturing at the time had been completely re-purposed for the war effort, for World War II. For example, the Claycomo Ford plant in Kansas City had been building personnel carriers for the military. And the Fairfax General Motors plant, near the downtown Kansas City airport, had been building B24 and B29 bombers. They literally took them off the assembly line and sent them down the runway!
“So, that group of 32 Ford dealers had a great experience at that first brainstorming meeting. And, coincidentally, no two dealers had any geographical conflicts. They were from all over the country and no one was within the selling area of another. Because of this, they could have open and honest conversations about their businesses. In fact, member Rudy Fick (another name honored on an NCM conference room), was a Ford Chain Operator with multiple Ford dealerships and had tasked his accounting company, Central Services, to create a composite with which he could compare his multiple stores. He was at the first meeting with Henry Ford, II, and indicated that he could probably get Central Services to make additional composites for attendees of the meeting. Over the next two years, they formulated their composites and, in 1947, they held their first official 20 Group meeting. Central Services went on to become Nichols, Campbell, and Morrow, and NCM was born.” (More about NCM’s history can be found on our About Us page.)
Emily: “Which dealerships were at the first meeting and are they still members of the group today?”
Kevin: “Duval Ford. Hampton Graham is the current member, and his grandfather and great-grandfather are both in the black and white photo and were at the first DAB meeting. Walter McRae, Hampton’s great-grandfather, is standing directly next to Henry Ford, II, in the middle of the photo.”
Emily: “How long have you been the performance partner of the DAB group? Who did you take over for?”
Kevin: “I took over for Tony Noland; so, in October 2008, I attended a DAB meeting with Tony, who was the president of NCM before Paul Faletti. I auditioned with DAB and then in February 2009, I facilitated a meeting by myself.”
Emily: “What’s the best success story you’ve heard in this group?”
Kevin: “Actually there is a great story just from this past meeting. This group really takes their members to task, especially those who they believe have the capacity, if they’re under-performing. A member had previously reported on what he was doing in his operation, then his peers coached and counselled him, and he had given a presentation of what he was going to do to effect change in his business. He came to this past meeting and reported a 167% increase YOY. And we’re not talking about going from $1,000 to $3,000 here. He posted a change from $500,000 to $1,700,000! All from taking the advice of his 20 Group peers and applying it in his operation.
“Also, the DAB executed an onsite visit last week and spent four and a half hours on their critique. Every member got as much out of the critique as the dealer who was being reviewed. You’re really looking at yourself in a mirror when you do an onsite review. You know, I’m a big advocate of onsite reviews (see Kevin’s blog on the subject here), and this group is very close, so they want everyone to succeed.”
Emily: “How has the evolution of technology affected the group over the years?”
Kevin: “They are absolutely overwhelmed at the pace that technology is changing their business. Back in 1995, when the internet debuted, dealerships knew that the next five years would be huge. Now, the world and technology is changing by the week. If I want someone to show me how to use Facebook, I’m going to go find a 12-year-old, because they get it. That’s what a lot of the DAB members are thinking. The younger generations are coming up and everyone is going to have to adapt, including NCM, to accommodate the technology changes and the pace at which it is changing. However, the 20 Groups still crave their hard copy composite because they can write on it and work with it. But yes, everyone needs a common plan of action and that causes a lot of discussion in our meetings. One member has a younger general manager who is very digital marketing savvy, and is spending a significant amount of money on digital marketing, but is it really effective? We need to keep asking these questions and finding the data to support it.”
Emily: “How well does the group communicate outside of the meeting room?”
Kevin: “The members in DAB visit their peers’ dealerships more than any other group I’ve seen. If someone is struggling, they don’t hesitate to pack up their leadership team and go and work through issues for multiple days to help. They really do want to see each other prosper and they often get out of their own dealerships to help their group members succeed.”
Emily: “Do they understand the importance of the legacy they foster?”
Kevin: “They take it very seriously. They’re very proud of the fact that they were the first group. They’re absolutely honored. They don’t rest on their laurels as it is, but the fact that they are the first group makes them even more adamant about performing to the best of their abilities.”
Sam and Tony Pack, Sam Pack Five Star Ford
Todd Crossley, Gary Crossley Ford
Shane and John McCallan, Riverside Ford and Kearney Pearson Ford
Rick and Jared Ricart, Ricart Ford
Beau Boeckmann, Galpin Ford
Hampton Graham, Duval Ford
Hampton Graham, Duval Ford; and Gary Ackerman, Gaudin Ford and Ford Country
Hampton Graham, Duval Ford; and Gary Ackerman, Gaudin Ford and Ford Country
Emily: “What’s the trend of succession like in this group?”
Kevin: “Well, Hampton Graham is a great example. David Hodges was president of Duval Ford and had a 10-year succession plan to get Hampton and his brother, Alex Graham, in a position to take over the company; Hampton is now President.
“Some of the succession that was going on happened prior to my time. A number of current general managers have an equity position in their dealerships because they’re part of a much larger organization of auto groups. And I’ve seen zero movement away from family members taking over or coming up through the ranks in this industry. It’s still a very active practice. One other 20 Group I facilitate has a sub-group of sons, daughters, and key managers who are coming up in their dealerships. The owners have one meeting, and the other members have another. This common ground is a great space for idea sharing and brainstorming, one of our NCM hallmarks. I’m now witnessing the third generation coming to meetings, whereas, when I first started, there was just second-generation members coming through.”
Emily: “How has the DAB helped NCM over the years?”
Kevin: “Sam Pack, of Sam Pack Five Star Ford, has an extremely agile business mind. He’s always asking NCM “Have you considered this? Have you considered that?” For years, all NCM was supposed to be was a 20 Group company and we facilitated meetings, so when we introduced training, consulting, and software, the DAB group wondered “Wait a minute! Are you diluting your efforts?” But now, they’re embracing NCM’s efforts to diversify so we can be the best resource for our clients. The DAB sends their associates to NCMi training frequently. They regularly have NCM coaches in their dealerships as they’re constantly working to improve their operations. Many members of DAB are a part of multiple 20 Groups and strive to eliminate process evaporation. We’re always humbled when the likes of Galpin Ford, the largest volume retail Ford dealer for more than 20 years with 10 dealerships in their portfolio, asked NCM to help take their service departments to the next level. The DAB and all NCM 20 Groups hold each other accountable in an effort to help everyone succeed and improve their operations. NCM is thrilled to be a part of this process, and if we weren’t offering what the DAB and the rest of our clients needed, they’d let us know. This open relationship and ability for NCM to offer a 360-degree approach to operational improvement is what makes NCM what it is today.”
Learn more about NCM 20 Groups and how they can help your dealership by visiting our 20 Group page. Give us a call at 800-756-2620 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, simply fill out a 20 Group Interest Form and we’ll contact you with more information.