By Nick Zulovich, Editor
August 20, 2012
MONROE, N.C.— A mix of aspiring and experienced buy-here, pay-here dealers left this past weekend's training boot camp hosted by the National Alliance of Buy-Here, Pay-Here Dealers with the complete business plan, current financial and sales statements and more from a 20-year operator.
So why would Ingram Walters pass out three-inch thick three-ring binders overflowing with current inventory run lists, marketing scripts and strategies and to-the-penny details of employment compensation of all personnel?
"When we do Las Vegas, it's so big. There are 2,000 people there. It's almost overwhelming," Walters said about NABD's annual convention that's been conducted for the past 14 years.
"When you're here, you're touching it, seeing it, feeling it, kicking the tires," he continued while motioning toward various segments of one of his three BHPH locations near Charlotte, N.C. "It's a whole different level to see an operation. It's one thing to sit in a seminar and hear about the business, but the proof is in the pudding."
Part of that proof is using those three lots to turn more than 100 vehicles monthly that cost no more than $4,200 on the auction block via a streamlined sales system that addresses all segments of the BHPH business model, including a related finance company, reconditioning and collections
"It's $5,000 to come here. My goal is to have each person look me in the eye and tell me it was worth $50,000," Walters emphasized. "What they don't know is probably worth millions. That's the difference. I know a lot about what to do, but I know a whole lot more about what not to do. That's even more valuable."
Besides Walters' entire business plan, NABD founder Ken Shilson shared tools for dealers to create a Buy-Here, Pay-Here strategy or to sharpen an existing one, especially in light of ever-tightening lending standards and ongoing changes in compliance put forth by state and federal regulators.
"I would equate it to a diver going off the high board: make sure there's water in the pool before you jump," said Shilson, who has handled the accounting chores for Buy-Here, Pay-Here stores for more than 30 years. "This is a business that may require people to put their whole life savings at stake. I don't think you should make that decision without really doing your homework.
"If I were doing it, I would do just like these people are doing, try to get as much knowledge as I can from as many people as I can and make sure of what you're getting into," Shilson added.
The weekend event drew attendees from the metro area and nearby Tennessee, as well as participants from as far away as Kentucky, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Texas and New Mexico.
"It's very rare for an entrepreneur to open his doors up and allow what Ingram has done. He's sharing everything but his underwear size," Shilson said with a chuckle. "He's been a great partner. He's a terrific speaker. He's a very knowledgeable guy with charisma. It's worked our very well.
"The reality is, we learn something every day, too. All of the stuff we're sharing has been accumulated over 25 years," Shilson went on to say.
The event also included a special guest who has more than 50 years of BHPH experience. NABD Hall of Famer Ed Bass — who even has a street named in his honor in Chicago — gave anecdotes about how his single lot turned as many as 500 vehicles in a single month.
While not as intimate as the event at Walters' dealership, NABD is planning another round of training and networking in October. The alliance's East Coast Buy-Here, Pay-Here Conference is set for Oct. 21 through 23 at the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta. An agenda and registration details are available at bhphinfo.com.
Multiple times during the weekend, both Shilson and Walters made reference to current economic conditions as the country continues a slow recovery from the recession that began back in 2008.
"Buy-here, pay-here is a good business in a bad market," Walters emphasized. "Before this downturn, I've heard 60 percent of people have credit problems. If that was true, after this downturn, it's going to be 75 percent, maybe. It's just making our customer base larger and larger. There's never been a better time for buy-here, pay-here than right now."
Editor's Note: Look for photos from NABD's Boot Camp coming in the September/October print edition of SubPrime Auto Finance News.