How David Long From Hansel Auto Changes the Golden Rule Forever
Updated: Feb 15
David Long is the Executive General Manager of the Hansel Auto Group. David has experience with almost every aspect of the auto industry, having been a general manager, owner, operating partner, VP of operations, and consultant in and out of auto.
Before Hansel Auto Group, David was the Used Vehicle Director for the Del Grande Dealer Group and Vice President of Operations at The Niello Company.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
How David Long got started in the automotive industry and his transition to Hansel Auto Group
David shares his thoughts on dealership identity in the auto industry
What David did to restock and maintain inventory when COVID-19 hit
David's “golden rule” for serving customers better
David's thoughts on the future of digital dealerships post-pandemic
The technologies Hansel Auto Group has implemented to grow the business
David and Ilana talk about Clubhouse and the automotive industry
In this episode…
Everyone knows the “golden rule”: treat people the way you want to be treated. Many businesses, including car dealerships, have been using this rule to provide different types of services and products to their customers. But, because of advancements in technology, there is a need for dealerships to reconstruct this rule.
David Long believes that the new “golden rule” is slightly different: treat people the way they want to be treated. This means that dealerships should figure out how their customers want to engage and use that to their advantage. Some customers prefer text messages, some like talking through the phone, and still others may prefer face-to-face communication. So, how do you discover what your customer wants?
In this episode of the Inside Auto Podcast, co-hosts Aharon Horwitz and Ilana Shabtay are joined by David Long, the Executive General Manager of the Hansel Auto Group, to talk about how dealerships should communicate and sell to their customers. They discuss the “golden rule”, how technology and COVID-19 have changed how dealerships operate, and how the Clubhouse app is being used by players in the automotive industry.
Resources Mentioned in this episode
Sponsor for this episode...
This episode is brought to you by AutoLeadStar, a company that helps car dealerships engage quality customers on the web and convert them into car buyers.
Co-founded by Aharon Horwitz, Yishai Goldstein, and Eliav Moshe, AutoLeadStar’s state-of-the-art software automates a dealership’s entire marketing funnel and provides around-the-clock service for dealers.
Visit their website at www.autoleadstar.com to learn more about their around-the-clock marketing service.
Welcome to Inside Auto Podcast where we feature everyone and anyone you'd want to talk to, in and out of the automotive industry.
Ilana Shabtay 0:16
Ilana Shabtay here with Aharon Horwitz, co-hosts of Inside Auto Podcast where we interview top dealers, GMs, marketers, entrepreneurs and thought leaders in and out of the automotive industry. And before we introduce today's guest, this episode is sponsored by AutoLeadStar.com. The AutoLeadStar platform is built on a technology so powerful, it allows you to market, sell and service cars as you would in the real world at scale and online making one to one matches between shoppers and inventory. AutoLeadStar is the only platform that is powered by scale speed and specificity to change the way dealers do marketing on our own. So excited for today's guests. How are you doing today?
Aharon Horwitz 0:55
I'm doing so well. And Ilana season two rolls on. We have a very special guest today. Special for many reasons. And I'm about to introduce him. But one of them is that he's from Cleveland, Ohio city on planet Earth, of course, and of course, my hometown. So David, David long is here. And we're super excited to have him. I'm going to give a quick bio here. And then we're going to hear from David himself. But David is the executive General Manager of the Hansel Auto Group. What's so exciting about David, alongside being from Cleveland, is that he brings so much experience from so many different aspects of the auto industry. He's been a general manager, owner, operating partner, VP of operations, and consultant, in and out of auto. David spent a lot of time on the East Coast down in Florida. And today is that handle over in the lovely Santa Rosa, California. And David, welcome to the podcast.
David Long 1:53
We're excited to have you. Thanks. Good to see you too. Glad to be here. Yeah.
Aharon Horwitz 2:00
Is it truly true that you bleed? browns and orange or not? Are you done with that?
David Long 2:05
Well, most of the time I do except for yesterday. Because of the Super Bowl, right? Yesterday, I spent 20 years in Tampa, so I had to bleed some red and black yesterday. Crowd. Super excited that an old guy like that with a Super Bowl, of course. Literally all lights
Ilana Shabtay 2:26
are on and by the way, who won?
David Long 2:29
That's hilarious. It was a great one I
Aharon Horwitz 2:33
was trying to figure out Tom Brady. Is he like that? Should we be inspired? Is he the exception that proves the rule that 43 year olds can't do that? Or is he sort of an inspiration for a new generation of 43 year olds that will go do things like that?
David Long 2:45
I don't know. We'll see. No, he's I don't know, either. But we'll see. But I do know he's been on. That's for sure.
Aharon Horwitz 2:54
He's so true. Yes. And yeah. So David, what we like to do in these initial conversations is just get to know you a little bit and your story. Everyone who ended up in automotive seems to have an interesting story as to how they ended up in automotive. And we've yet to be let down by those stories. They're always interesting. So we'd love to hear your story, how you came up, how you got into the business, how you made your way out of Cleveland, and you know, where you ended up and spent the formative years of your career and then how you got to where you are now and hands on.
David Long 3:27
So I actually never thought I'd be in the car space. I thought I would play professional sports and I'd retire to a good life. And it's not how that was not in the cards clearly. So my brother's a dealer in Cleveland and has been for 30 years. So one day I needed a job over the summer and he let me wash cars for him and then the next thing you know there was a customer on the lot that needed help and I went from a rag in my hand in my back pocket to welcome my name and the rest was history. There you go. That's awesome. That's great. And so I started
Ilana Shabtay 4:08
how'd you get from Cleveland to your brother's from your brother's your ship to Florida.
David Long 4:14
So there are a lot of things that helped me decide to move to Florida. I was not on a success schedule. When I was in Cleveland, I was making some bad choices and I went to Florida kind of geographical cure start all over the place where you
David Long 4:32
stay there is perfect. The only problem was I wound up showing up when I got there. Right so the problem necessarily wasn't Cleveland It was me and you know, I hit a couple guys that were much smarter and wiser than me and kind of guided me along my path and my journey and went from in detail at a place called Fermin Oldsmobile in Tampa flow. I'll never forget it . I asked GSM probably 25 times every time I brought up a car, Hey, can I get in sales? No, go back to the carwash. Hey, can I get in sales? No, if you ask me again, I'm going to get you fired, Hey, can I get in sales, right just over and over and over. And then the guy finally gave me a break. And I got very fortunate to become the number one salesperson there almost overnight, and then got picked up by the number one dealer group dealership, actually in all of Florida, and had a really great run there for 10 years. And one thing led to another and I bought a store. And that's that's really how it went.
Ilana Shabtay 5:41
That's awesome. We love these stories.
David Long 5:43
It was fun, a lot of fun.
Aharon Horwitz 5:46
And, and how did you kind of make the move out west, and start with Hansel?
David Long 5:53
So I was recruited out here. And when I was really leaning into my training, consulting business I was going to grow and really was having fun training and traveling, it's a real passion of mine. And those two passions came together and married into this really, really wonderful time, where I got to see a lot of the world, right and paid to do it and had fun, and got to pour into people and leave people hopefully better than I found them. And I got a phone call saying, Hey, would you move to San Francisco and open a dealership for me? And somebody I'd known with auto nation for 20 years? And I said, Yeah, absolutely. And then here I am, in San Francisco. Fantastic.
Aharon Horwitz 6:38
You know, it seems to me that like every dealer, that becomes the first of all, it seems like in a market, sort of dealers migrate to different niches in the ecosystem. You know, there's those that focus on service use strategy, some of them have a balanced strategy, some have a new car strategy, they want, you know, manufacturing money, or you have the, you know, folks who get really good with the fixed Ops, it just seems like there's this kind of, you have to kind of take a stand on how you want to build your operations, and align it with your marketing and what you're trying to bring in. Do you agree with that, that kind of dealers take on dealerships take on an identity? Or do you think that it's actually much more flexible and kind of have you approached, sort of positioning yourself historically, and you know, has that changed over the past hour, we'll get to the pandemic in a minute. But have you historically kind of positioned your stores where your expertise or your guys special sauce really is.
David Long 7:32
So this is probably going to be a lot different than most of your guests. But I will never forget, this was a defining moment. So I felt like I was a good operator. And I felt like I had fixed and I owned a body shop or Collision Center in Florida. And, you know, it was, I really felt like I had a good handle. I'm a graduate of NCM. I'm a graduate of nada, I'm a graduate of auto nation's dealer Academy. So I felt like I had a good handle on everything. But there I had this imposter syndrome as it came to us cars, I could always pick out a really good used car manager, but I could never do what they were doing. Right, I really want you to think about this. So rather than just go through the rest of my career, being really good in finance really good and desking really good and fixed and collision. I said, I have to learn to use cars, I just have to. That's where the whole industry is for most of the revenues coming from. So I went to a guy named Shaun Del Grande, the largest dealer group family owned and operated in the North Bay. And I said, Hey, I really want to be a used car manager or used car Director 17. dealerships he said, Well, I don't have a used car director. And you don't know anything about us cars. And I said, Well, you got me there. So why don't we go ahead and gamble on each other and take a little shot that I will be the best used car director you've ever had. Bear in mind, he never had one. And you will get more than you pay for. So he said, let's do it. I became the used car director of a 17 group store on one condition. And that was a hitch my wagon to Dale Pollack, which is the author of, you know, profit time and V auto and the whole bit. So Dale became one of my head, he became one of my dearest friends and really coached me hard. Like he was not a nice coach to me, he was very, very tough. But we went from selling three or 400 cars a month with 800 in stock to 1100 cars a month with 800 in stock. So I because I didn't know anything about used cars. I thought I have to learn that if I want to really be a full circle 360 degree leader in the car space. And now I'd like to say that I'm multifaceted, but use of cars is definitely a big part of who I am today. Got it? Okay.
Aharon Horwitz 9:56
That's interesting to hear. Yeah, by the way. We migrated our company from outside of auto into automotive about, let's say five years ago, we were just a tech company doing marketing technology for anything you can imagine, you know, huge websites and businesses all around the world. And we sort of fell in love with auto migrating in, and trying to learn about that I stumbled on at the time I just like was googling on Amazon, like what to read about, you know, car dealers. And I found Dale Pollak's books, so I downloaded them to my Kindle. I read every single one of his books, and was upset, kind of like a fanboy obsessed with them. I sent him an email saying, Hey, I'm gonna be in Chicago, Could I come, you know, say hello and meet you in your office or whatever. So he's like, oh, come to my house, he went to his house and had like an hour chat with him. It was amazing. Such a powerful experience. And to this day, I think a lot about some of the things he said to me. So it's cool to hear his name come up in that context, you know, and again, is, you know, as you learn more and more, you see that there's nuances in the business that maybe he's not going to cover in the books, but just as a frame, and as a discipline. It's such a powerful, you know, powerful roadmap that he laid out, I think, for the industry.
David Long 11:11
Be sure to, I've changed it quite a bit since then. But he is brilliant, and a wonderful human being for sure.
Aharon Horwitz 11:19
Yeah. And everyone know, who like follow, they all everyone says that they've kind of adopted, they've changed it, they, you know, and I was that part of what I was interested in a little bit, you know, when you when you when, you know, when the pandemic was sort of, I guess, after the first, you know, Blitz, and, you know, everyone's trying to adjust to inventory issues, and you know, the need to have new cars use cardstock. And people are going out and doing, you know, potentially crazy things with their balance sheets trying to stock up. And did you do you? How did you hold steady? And what was your approach during those months, say, like, April, May, June, July? How did you handle those? You know, how did you handle those months in your store?
David Long 11:58
So what I wanted to do side specific, on the user side,
Aharon Horwitz 12:02
Sorry, are you using a car?
David Long 12:05
So what I wanted to do, what I was able to do were two different things, what I wanted to do is go out, and buy a ton of inventory. At that time, I couldn't tell the dealers what the value of the car was and what the dealers expectation was. So inventory was very, very difficult to get at that time. So I transitioned back into where my foundational expertise is. And that was private party purchases. Right? So I opened in 57, five centers around the planet, where they're just private party purchases. And that was the only way at that time I could buy cars. And it worked out and got us slow. Of course, like most people, we had our best net profit year in the history of our company. So it worked out right wasn't a perfect process by any means. But it certainly kept the wolf the hunger away from the door.
Aharon Horwitz 13:01
Okay, very interesting. Very nice. And when it comes to, I guess, today, you know, like, we're, you know, what are you messaging now to the store, meaning like, where do you see the next? I mean, we kind of went through this period, we're still a little bit of choppy waters, but there's been this tremendous transformation and thinking, but I wonder how much is gonna last after when it comes to digital. And what you know, is critical to change what's just a nice to have. So if you're thinking about your roadmap, I don't know the next 12 months and talking about it with you, your leadership at the start. What are the like one or two major things on your mind when you're when you're, when you're kind of like, you know, thinking out where things are going to be?
David Long 13:46
I think conversational commerce is, you know, connection with the consumer. And you heard of the golden rule. Yeah, most people have.
Aharon Horwitz 13:59
I mean, I know the golden rule. Like you know, we've all we've all grown up with the golden rule every
David Long 14:04
good act. Well, I hope so. But it's, it's outdated. And I don't say that religious neophytes treat people the way. people the way you want to treat people, right? That's the golden rule. treat people the way you want to be treated as a golden rule, right want to be treated? Yeah, well, that's outdated. That's no good anymore. That does not work. Especially now with technology as quickly as it's evolving. Now it's treating people the way they want to be treated. Right, communicate with people the way they want to be communicated with, I may want to just text you, you may want to talk on the phone, what I want, what my rule of what my needs are has nothing to do with what you want or what the market requires. So that conversational commerce but communicating in the consumer's language, and I'm not talking about an Arabic or French I'm talking about the language that they'll best resonate with, whether it's phone, email, text, message or even video. So that's where I think the whole industry is going. And I think if we're going to make that conversational commerce effective and efficient and connect, we have to figure out a way the customer wants to communicate.
Aharon Horwitz 15:15
I think that's great advice for a product company as well. No one's interested in your product and figure out what they actually want to accomplish. And focused on that. I think that's great. By the way, Ilana, we are always looking for David to like good titles, like we can play with the golden rule for the title of that pod of this episode.
Ilana Shabtay 15:36
The golden rule with the golden
David Long 15:39
The rule is dead.
Ilana Shabtay 15:41
Changes the golden
David Long 15:45
it's one of the things I do talk about it a lot, because it's in relationships, it's in business.
Ilana Shabtay 15:55
And marketing as well, I can't I can't market to auto dealers, the way that I would want to be taught to or advertised to you it's completely different. So it makes a lot of sense. And
David Long 16:05
most people don't slow down long enough to pay attention. Now somebody wants to be communicated with or what their particular needs are, because their agenda is too, too loud. Right, the agenda that they have speaks louder than the agenda the consumer wants. Yeah.
Ilana Shabtay 16:20
And when it comes to marketing and data at your store, and just like how we think about digital dealerships today, what is Hansel doing to stay at the cutting edge? What kind of technologies have you been implementing? And how do you see this changing in 2021?
David Long 16:36
So you may have heard me say on CBT, a couple of times, the business we went into the panic pandemic with is never going to be the business that we run again, in my estimation, so I don't think that this is like, this is a fad, or this is some kind of minor blip until the shelter in place is over. And COVID goes away, and is a distant memory. I think the way that industry is in most industries will never be the same. They were pre COVID. So for the digital retail side to answer your question specifically. I don't know that well, first of all, in California, we can't go completely digital retail because it requires wet signatures. And but I do think that there's a completely different way to approach the way a consumer buys a car. And I tried it, we bought our son a brand new Jeep, and I've used the product that I thought was foolproof. And you know what, it was clunky. And my wife is a black belt in online shopping. And it wasn't easy for her. Right? And when she was stumbling and bumbling around thinking, well, that's funny. You never have a problem buying anything else online. Why would this be so different? And as we went through those different phases, I was like, we are so far behind and without marrying the two right, the conversational commerce and the digital experience. I think there's a gaping hole between those two experiences that needs to be shored up with what we're doing right now. I hope that answers your question.
Ilana Shabtay 18:08
If it does, I want to know how so? So yes, my question when it comes to digital retailing, are there any other ways or any other technologies that you've implemented, regardless of pandemic, or in light of what you think has really pushed Hansel forward?
David Long 18:27
So obviously, we have our own debt, we have our digital retail tools. So we use those as efficiently as we're capable of,
Ilana Shabtay 18:36
and you find a brick just brings more five leads or people are actually doing 99% online?
David Long 18:44
Well, I don't find that they're doing 99% online, and it definitely has not affected our lead volume. Okay, what it has done is been able to take the customer that was skeptical to be able to get transparency and clarity online, and then make the decision that we were the place they wanted to do business based on our ability to provide information. Mm hmm. Okay. In that respect, it's been fantastic. Okay. By the way, I've been saying that since 1990. So, provide information, don't withhold, give, give, give. I mean, that's been my whole thing. So the stretch for me wasn't as big as the spread for some of those guys that say those four words, just get them in. Right, you know, those parties, I should say, just get them in. But they're still out there. And they're still doing that, and I've never been that guy. So it hasn't been that hard for us to go from where we are or work to where we need to be based on consumer demand.
Ilana Shabtay 19:49
Aharon Horwitz 19:50
I think about that. On the sales side. Ilana, sorry to jump in. But I think I think about that on the sales side and it's very intuitive how to make that happen. Meeting. If you Do dealers, I think we're talented or any salesperson who is talented, who thinks of themselves as a customer, first salesperson, they understand when someone walks in the room, and they can kind of intuitively read almost like, Okay, this person needs help, they're lost, they do not know this product, I need to get in there right now and sort of handhold them through the experience, or Well, let me back off, this person is enjoying looking at vehicles, they clearly are comfortable, give them their space, right? That sort of human interaction, I think is very, very important and very special, because it goes to what you talked about, you know, meeting people where they are, rather than where you want them to be. It's more challenging on the marketing side. And when you get up the funnel, and this is something we struggle with a lot, because, you know, the premise of our technology is to get to one to one matches, try to avoid billboards on the internet. And you know, one size fits all type marketing. And I think, I think that it's a big challenge that the industry is going to face because less people are going to walk into your store right there. They're not gonna visit six stores, don't go to one store to do business with two stores. Right? assess. So you have to push that personalization and that conversational, as in Golden Rule, plus, plus, plus, you have to push that up into your marketing. Have you found a way to do that? Is that something that's on your agenda?
David Long 21:14
Like, how do you guys approach that? So it's interesting, you say that you just made me think of some IQ, it's important that we have a good IQ, super important. We have a good EQ, right and emotional quotient. I think dq and I don't mean Dairy Queen, right, that digital intelligence and how to really read the concert. Right? So you got the IQ, the EQ, and now the dq
David Long 21:42
ratio, give me credit for that.
Ilana Shabtay 21:46
We don't mean Dairy Queen.
David Long 21:53
Yeah, that's right. I think it's super important. Like I can't get over the fact that some people have zero. You know, they might have off the chart IQ, and I'm really solid EQ but at zero factor on the dq. And I think that's if you have Yeah, don't have that sort of intelligence. You're gonna really struggle in the new economy, right? Yeah. But it has amplified to your point Aharon. It's amplified in the way that the consumer and the dealer have an even playing field. And then the more that we can have that connection, the better we're going to be in our experience both ways. So that's, that's my opinion. Yeah. Good.
Aharon Horwitz 22:37
Very good. You want any more questions fresh off the super Olin frogs Tampa Bay?
Ilana Shabtay 22:45
Are we before we sign off and wrap up? I do want to talk to David about Clubhouse.
Ilana Shabtay 22:51
So Clubhouse, I think it's actually not even new anymore. It's been a while. It's been around for quite some time, but it's really making its mark in automotive. Now. It's that social media map app, which is invite only, although invites are spreading pretty rapidly now in the automotive industry. I've seen David participate in some rooms. I actually try to join a room every morning at 6:45am. Eastern. So David, I don't think you're there. Although I'd be impressed if you were a modern day car. car sales, or I don't remember the exact same room but it's super intriguing. A lot of dealers come in and they talk about their challenges and they help each other. So I would love to know as a dealer from the dealer side who participates in Clubhouse. First of all, what are your initial thoughts, but also how has it helped you? If anything, where do you see it going? Anywhere in the automotive industry?
David Long 23:43
I have two separate thoughts about clubhouse. Okay, one is I'm actually a bit of a clubhouse junkie already. But think about this. So a lot of these guys were my friends going into Clubhouse, the ones that I went into rooms with, yeah. However, the fact that I have that access, so I have an accurate store and the number and we have a Honda store, but the number one Honda dealer, and the number one Acura Dealer on the planet, although he's a friend of mine, and we text and we talk, we don't expose each other to our innermost thoughts and business strategies. So I get a chance to hear the number one guy on planet Earth, talk about what he's doing with his brands that I share, like, how can that not be a win for me? And I know that when he shares and he gets feedback, I mean, it's a win for him, too. So you're talking
Ilana Shabtay 24:38
about Brian benstock? Yes.
David Long 24:40
I am talking about Brian and Glen and my friend Grant Cardone and the people that I grew up in the car space with. Yeah, like even though we stay connected, we don't stay connected at the level the clubhouse has allowed us to connect them. So it's super fascinating to me. Now, having all those insights, guess why? It just has a lot of insights. If we don't turn them into action, then the club then clubhouse is just another format for great useless information. Right.
Ilana Shabtay 25:10
And have you been able to actually put anything that you've learned from clubhouse to use or to action or have not used it at that level yet?
David Long 25:19
No. So I have a notebook that just says clubhouse and everything in there from Clubhouse. I'm trying to implement, like, I'll use one we'll use Bob Lanham. Okay. Yeah, facebook, facebook, we're connected. And so I had Bob do a huge presentation. You were Bob and I have a right. Yeah. When I was in Detroit. I said, Hi, yeah, he's one of the nicest human beings on the planet. But he did a presentation for all my fixed Ops, and my variable ops in my Collision Center. And it was all about how we integrate our data, our consumer base into Facebook and the market in a way that's, you know, impactful. And we are in the process of doing that. And it's driving traffic and I had a chance to experience foundation direct with Andrew defender for which came from clubhouse Connect, right. So all this stuff is coming together. But implementation takes time, as you know, and I'm 32 days on Clubhouse, but the tour three of the largest takeaways I've been able to immediately implement have shown immediate results. I think a pretty good 30 day investment.
Ilana Shabtay 26:40
Yeah, totally. I do think it's gonna so I read somewhere that it's either going to be really big or dead by July. Where do you stand on that statement?
David Long 26:49
It's gonna be enormous. It's gonna be massive. All right. We'll see. You heard it here.
Ilana Shabtay 26:57
I agree. Heard it here. That is correct. I agree. I think I also think it's the right platform for automotive. I don't know how other industries are connecting with Clubhouse, but it just feels like such a good fit for automotive. People love connecting and networking and talking and brainstorming. And I've seen it in Clubhouse. And I feel like it's definitely a good place for automotive. So we'll see. We heard it here. You heard it first, Clubhouse is going to be big.
David Long 27:22
I think it's gonna be huge, but not just for automotive, I try to stay out of the automotive rooms. I try to get in the mindset rooms and the heart set rooms. And it's just there's so much it's so deep.
Ilana Shabtay 27:33
I haven't even used it for personal use yet, except I did try to go into a stock market room like a 9am kickoff on what to invest in for the day, but
David Long 27:43
it's a great room.
Ilana Shabtay 27:44
It was a good room. It was a good room.
Aharon Horwitz 27:47
I have to start, you were gonna say I think that the dealers are primed for that sort of stuff from like, the traditional sort of groups. And there's something in automotive that's inter woven in a way that you don't find commonly in other industries. And there's something very nice about that. It fits very well. And that to me, this was awesome. We really, really enjoyed meeting you. And we hope to do this again in like a couple of months. See where things are at, you know,
David Long 28:25
nice to meet you.
Aharon Horwitz 28:26
Maybe when the Browns win the Super Bowl next year. We'll live them on Inside Auto.
Ilana Shabtay 28:35
you so much for your insights. It was great to have you learn from you and for our listeners. If you like this episode, please tune in to Inside Auto Podcast. Thank you so much. We'll catch you next time.
David Long 28:47
Nice to talk to you both. I hope you have a great day as well.
Aharon Horwitz 28:51
Thank you, David.
David Long 28:53
Thanks for listening to Inside Auto Podcast. Check out our other episodes with top entrepreneurs and industry leaders.