Larry Dorfman on Why He is Handing Over the Reins of EasyCare to Finbarr O’Neill

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CBT News is pleased to welcome back Larry Dorfman, Founder of EasyCare, and Finbarr O’Neill, Chairman and CEO, to discuss some of the changes that will be occuring to the leadership of EasyCare. Larry and Finbarr sit down with CBT’s Jim Fitzpatrick in order to share with us the plans the company has to turn over the position of Chairman and CEO from its original founder Larry Dorfman to Finbarr O’Neill. Check out the full interview above. 

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT: 

Announcer:
From our studios in Atlanta, this is Car Biz Today. And here now, Jim Fitzpatrick.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Hello, everyone, and welcome into another addition of CBT News. I’m so pleased to have with us in the studio today two gentlemen that need no introduction: Mr. Larry Dorfman with EasyCare and auto industry veteran, Mr. Finbarr O’Neill. Gentlemen, welcome to CBT News.

Finbarr O’Neill:
Good to be here, Jim.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
So big moves, I hear, coming out of EasyCare. Larry, why don’t you kind of take the lead here and tell us what’s going on.

Larry Dorfman:
Yeah, so we’ve been doing this for about 35 years now, and as I think anybody who’s in this automotive business, but in particularly in the side of business that we’re in knows, this is an active business. So it keeps you running full-speed. For me, I’m at a point in my life where I got four grandkids, I got five kids of my own, I got a lot of family I’d like to spend some time with. And over the last few months, really probably a little bit longer, I’ve been thinking, “Wow, these are long days.”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And they get longer.

Larry Dorfman:
They get longer, and I’ve probably traveled about 170 or 80 days last year.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Oh, my gosh.

Larry Dorfman:
Some of it was for fun, but a lot of it was for just literally things that probably, if I’m not sitting in that CEO position, would’ve been somebody else traveling.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Larry Dorfman:
Let’s put it that way.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right, and you’ve been doing that for years.

Larry Dorfman:
Yeah, about six million miles on Delta.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Wow, that’s incredible.

Larry Dorfman:
Yeah. So it’s one of those things where, as I got around with the family, and I sat down, we started talking about being able to do some more, spend a little more time. The other thing that I was missing is in the day-to-day action with the number of emails that I handle, which is wrong. I can tell you that. From a CEO perspective, the new guy coming in’s a lot better at this than I am, because I’m going to touch everything. I can’t help myself.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure.

Larry Dorfman:
And so I’m literally responding to stuff that I should shut up and let somebody else handle, but that just doesn’t happen.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure.

Larry Dorfman:
So I finally took a look at it and said, “Okay, is this how you want to spend the next two to four to six years of your life or even more?”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Larry Dorfman:
Or can you be of more value one, to your family, since the family comes first, and two, to the organization? If I was able to spend a little more time thinking about the business, working on the business, thinking about the industry than just in it all day long, just active. So I’m-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
You know, there’s a number of dealer principals listening to you talk right now, saying, “Hm, I think I’m in the exact same spot Larry is right now.”

Larry Dorfman:
Yeah, I’ve had a few really nice emails, I won’t mention their names, that say, “I’ll be right behind you.”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right, right.

Larry Dorfman:
And the good thing is at our age, at 63, I don’t need to quit. I can step aside, I can focus on things I want to, and we can really take this company to the next level.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Larry Dorfman:
And I think right now that’s a really great opportunity. So basically, we got in a conversation between the board and ourselves, and just said, “How do we do this?”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Larry Dorfman:
And somebody raised their hand, and I’m really excited about who raised their hand to do it. He’s here with us today, and-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And Fin, why don’t you take it from there? Because a year ago we interviewed you as the new board member at EasyCare APCO, and we were excited about that. I know Larry was very excited about that. As the industry listened to that news, they said, “Wow, this guy just doesn’t stop. He’s like the Energizer bunny.”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
So here you are now as the new CEO and chairman of EasyCare. Talk to us about that.

Finbarr O’Neill:
Well first of all, it’s about the company and the people. Right? As a board member I got to know how the company works, how the business model really worked, and the importance of the people to it, and the culture. And so when the opportunity came up, and was surprised to be asked, but an honor, I first asked my wife, because without that-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s a good husband.

Finbarr O’Neill:
That’s right.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Smart guy.

Finbarr O’Neill:
After 42 years, you know where to go to ask.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure.

Finbarr O’Neill:
But health feels good, and you feel intellectually engaged, and it looks like a fantastic opportunity, why not?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure, that’s right. So talk to us about the impact that this may have on EasyCare clients.

Finbarr O’Neill:
Well look, we all know the story of the pressure that’s on dealers in the industry, and the change in consumer behaviors, and what that’s driving. We’ve always been about supporting our dealer clients. We have great products, great service, and we wrap that with attention around training so that dealers can succeed in getting the customer, moving their profit, and being confident that the customer’s going to have a good experience on their vehicle service contract if they have to have a claim.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Finbarr O’Neill:
I mean, rating insurance companies, for example, is all about the claims experience. So we feel good about what we’re doing for dealers, helping them fight through this time of disruption and succeeding. And we’ve got some big-name dealers as clients, and we work very hard to be partners to them.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right, right. I know you do. And over 35 years. The EasyCare name has really grown to be one of the leaders in F&I products and such. And I know that’s going to continue.

Larry Dorfman:
And Jim, I think what’s happened is F&I is so critical to retail business right now.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Larry Dorfman:
I mean, they keep crushing profits from the factory level. They keep, the competition, all the digital online, everything’s changing.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Larry Dorfman:
And Fin calls it disruption. I totally agree. Also call it, not just disruptors, but interrupters into the retail dealership business. So our focus that, really at this point, has us at a very high momentum level, we’re getting more and gaining more new accounts right now than at any time in our history.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Really?

Larry Dorfman:
And that has been happening over the last eight to 10 months. We started a process about three years ago to start that direction of more acquisition. What we realized is we needed to be thinking, not just about where F&I lies in that back office with the two people you train or the three people you train, but it’s happening all over the dealership now.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, it is. That’s for sure.

Larry Dorfman:
So when Fin relates to the training processes, we have retail impact training and F&I impact. And those allow us to work with dealers that are approaching this from any perspective.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right, right.

Larry Dorfman:
So they may be approaching it from a digital perspective. A lot of guys are way ahead of some other folks. Some people are in a hybrid situation, some are a one-touch salesperson that’s going to take it through.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Larry Dorfman:
At the end of the day, there’s still a lot of dealers in traditional F&I.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Larry Dorfman:
So we-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Probably most, probably most dealers.

Larry Dorfman:
Most dealers.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right? Yeah.

Larry Dorfman:
But that’s going to change over time.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, sure.

Larry Dorfman:
So by being able to work with dealers and help them integrate F&I through the organization, prepare salespeople today on how they’re going to handle them two, three, four, five years from now, that’s the kind of approach we think gets activity. And that’s what seems to be what dealers are listening to.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. The discussions that we have here at CBT News with a number of dealers and vendors and such with regard to digital retailing in the future here, is the number one thing that always comes up is F&I, because it was the last frontier for gross profit for dealers. You can’t make much on the front-end of a new car, so they’re saying, “Man, what’s going to happen now to our back-end if we don’t have somebody in the box, getting closed, so to speak, on all the F&I products? How do you do that digitally?” What’s the company look like in the future, moving forward, to assist those dealers in that area?

Finbarr O’Neill:
Well, that’s why we’re being so transformational, because think of consumers out there. It’s not just that they’re whole life experience, no matter what they’re buying, is now driven off a digital platform. They’re also looking for security. When you think about consumers, they don’t have that much money in the bank to take a huge interruption, or a huge financial outlay. So they’re buying insurance on their appliances. And we see now with vehicle service contract, greater penetration across the industry, so we see greater opportunity. But how it’s done, and how you interact with a consumer successfully, is evolving. And we are wrapping our heads around that with products and services that are going to meet the dealers as they evolve with it to meet the needs of the marketplace.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right, right. For sure. So let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about what your new role will be, Larry, in all of this.

Larry Dorfman:
Well, it’s actually interesting because it’s not necessarily a new role, it’s just an opportunity to spend time in a role I prefer, at this point in my career, to spend it in.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
The fun stuff now.

Larry Dorfman:
Yeah, I mean, I think as a company we’ve been an innovator all the way along. When you take a look at the overall package, I think we’ve been innovators. That’s got to continue. And frankly, I’ve had zero time to focus on a lot of new thought process and to … I get asked by very close dealer friends of ours, “What are we going to do with this digital situation? Are you guys going to build the technology?” No. We’re unlikely to build the technology, right?

Finbarr O’Neill:
No.

Larry Dorfman:
But we do have leverage, with the number of dealers we have, to go out and work with every different technology company, and find what are the best solutions for our dealers. All of our dealers aren’t going to use the exact same thing all the time, but working with them together, and that’s where I really have a vision, of being able to work with our dealers. And I see basically my time being spent on the business, on what’s new, what’s possible, and bringing those thoughts and ideas back to the organization. And Fin and the team will look at it and say, “Which ones fit? Which ones don’t?” We’ll go from there.

Finbarr O’Neill:
I mean, the software that’s written is just the platform. It’s about the main content.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Finbarr O’Neill:
And the expertise around what really happens in a dealership and how you can buttress the efforts of the dealer. My experience at Reynolds was you could write the most sophisticated software in the world, but if that didn’t match up to how the real world operated, your software was broke.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Finbarr O’Neill:
That’s it.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Finbarr O’Neill:
Right? It didn’t matter that it was sophisticated and some guy in Palo Alto-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, it’s a huge disconnect.

Finbarr O’Neill:
… would love it.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, so I haven’t heard the word retirement from you. You just sounded like you’re going on this world tour all over again. I don’t know if your wife is listening right now, but-

Larry Dorfman:
She’s probably listening and hoping.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
… here saying, “Dealers, as I work with them, and I’m getting out there.” So it sounds to me like just a new role with EasyCare.

Larry Dorfman:
Well, it’s going to be a lot less time. I don’t have a really good clock, and it just runs all the time. So I have things I want to learn that are not within the business. I’ve been spending a lot of time reading and learning things. There’s a lot of people who I love to learn from. Dave Anderson, as you know, is a-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure, oh, yeah.

Larry Dorfman:
… good friend and a great colleague, but I’ve learned so much from him.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
[crosstalk 00:10:00]

Larry Dorfman:
Simon Sinek, Start with Why. There’s a lot of pieces I’m still putting together for myself that, fortunately, the organization wants me to continue to bring those learnings and share them with the organization. Our people, we have almost 570 employees-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Wow.

Larry Dorfman:
… they like learning. Our culture is about helping others succeed, learning every day, continuing to deliver great service to our customers, and it was really awesome to get Fin to say yes, because he brings that same thought process. He loves … I don’t know how many times you’ve told me it’s the people that matter. It’s not anything else.

Larry Dorfman:
Probably the biggest thing I want to do is to make sure our largest clients know that our culture’s just like it’s always been, and that I’m going to be around to support that. It’s not as if there’s any difference here. We align perfectly in how we want to take care of these dealers. But there’s some old relationships. We have dealers been with us more than 30 years.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, I know you do.

Larry Dorfman:
And those are mostly emails, like “Hey, dude. I can still get you.”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Larry Dorfman:
Phone number’s the same, email’s the same, office is still in the same place, but I will be taking … my guess is I’ll work less than half the time I used to, because there’s no-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Which puts it at 40 hours a week.

Larry Dorfman:
Whatever. Whatever it is I’ll be in … As long as I don’t bug Fin too much, he’ll let me play.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Fin, we heard some comments from dealers when this news broke about you taking over, and they said, “Wow, that is amazing. It speaks volumes about EasyCare.” Because here’s a guy, with Finbarr O’Neill, that he could go anywhere. I mean, with your background in Reynolds and Mitsubishi and Hyundai and JD Power, these are very, very big well-known names. So for you to choose EasyCare to say, “I’m going to step back into the working world.” Talk to us a little bit about that decision.

Finbarr O’Neill:
Well look, whatever you do in life you have to feel good about it, so the looking in the mirror test in the morning. And I’ve had the opportunity to sit and watch these people at work to get deeper into their culture and understand how they fit into the retail ecosystem and the problems they’re solving for dealers. I’ve always really understood dealers to be the engine of the business.

Finbarr O’Neill:
Way back when we were turning around Hyundai and we had that 100,000 mile warranty, that wasn’t the solution by itself. We packaged and priced the product right, and we put tier one and tier two advertising together to be more impactful and cut through the clutter. But that table needed a fourth leg, and that was engage dealers. Right? And the alignment of our interest and the dealer’s interest and the common conversation about what are our priorities together, that’s what worked.

Finbarr O’Neill:
At Reynolds it wasn’t about the sophisticated software. We had to write off some very expensive sophisticated software because it really wasn’t providing a solution at the dealer level. So it’s really trying to understand your customer, trying to understand how they serve the ultimate consumer, and make it a great experience all the way through. And that’s how we all come out as winners.

Finbarr O’Neill:
And that was the opportunity here. And health permitting, and wife permitting, this is a great opportunity and I love it.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure, that’s great. Well, gentlemen. Finbarr O’Neill and Larry Dorfman, from EasyCare, I want to thank you so much for visiting with us here at CBT News. This has been quite a delight for us, and two of the hardest-working men in the auto industry. So stay tuned, because I suspect there’s going to be great, even more great things happening from EasyCare. You will probably see Larry out there more than we have before. I don’t know why, but there’s no stopping you.

Larry Dorfman:
We’ll have some fun.

Finbarr O’Neill:
Larry’s going to be a thought leader. And so you’re going to see him, not only at your desk, but in social media and the like as he doles out his nuggets of wisdom. And we’ll be looking forward to working with him in that. But anyway, thanks and it’s great to be with you, Jim.

Announcer:
Thank you for watching the official news source of the retail automotive industry. This has been a JBF Business Media production.

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