Industry Leaders: Jim Woodruff

When National Powersport Auctions decided to implement its NPA Dealer Financing Program in October 2011, the results astounded. With Woodruff guiding the launch of the commercial floorplan financing program that is custom tailored to the needs of dealers who buy and sell at NPA, the first six months of the new financing option generated $15 million in approved lines. NPA also saw its consignment business grow by 35 percent, expanded its presence in the powersports salvage market and launched new private-label eSale exchanges, among other new ventures. Woodruff worked in conjunction with the NPA board and executive teams to define the company’s goals and identify business partners that allowed the Dealer Financing Program to get to market quickly. Woodruff credits the dedication of his team for its success, and views his role as ensuring that a first-class team of talented people are put on the right path to success.

What is the biggest opportunity for the industry, and how can the industry take advantage of it?

Jim Woodruff (photo by Jared Glase)

The pre-owned business is by far the single biggest opportunity for powersports dealers today, in all product categories. The dealers that best survived the tough retail market we’ve seen over the past few years did so either by focusing on their pre-owned business or adapting their business to it. With pre-owned, dealers have total control over their product selection and price point, financing and aftersales opportunities, and their ability to differentiate their value, all while realizing higher margins. And at the end of the day, a strong pre-owned market is necessary for the health of the new vehicle business, which means that over time everyone wins. But here’s the hidden secret — NPA believes that less than 25 percent of all the pre-owned powersports vehicles changing hands every year goes through dealers’ doors, whereas in more mature vehicle markets dealers participate in over two-thirds of the pre-owned vehicle flow. That suggests the potential exists to grow dealer sales by two to three times their current levels in that segment. Where else can you find that kind of opportunity today? It won’t happen overnight and many other pieces need to fall into place, but NPA’s vision is to provide the tools, education and resources necessary for the industry to take advantage of it.

What has been the biggest challenge in your current position and how have you dealt with it?

Honestly, it’s dealing with the same issues that all of our customers have faced the last few years as the powersports market contracted. While we have seen great growth in almost every part of our business, the repossessed vehicle portion of our business has shrunk dramatically over the last couple of years. No one ever thought it would happen to the extent it has, especially with unemployment remaining high and lingering fears about double-dip recessions and sovereign debt, but consumers are paying their bills like they never have before. While paying bills seems like a good thing, we’ve long felt that the current level of repo volumes is artificially low. Interestingly, recent studies have provided the data that prove our instincts are correct — consumers today are three to four times more likely to make their car or credit card payments, which behave most like powersports payments, than they are their mortgage. I find that amazing, and believe it won’t be like that forever. The good news is that consumers have buying power, they are using it, and powersports lenders are just now opening up to writing the fresh paper that our dealers have been clamoring for. The challenge for me is not only figuring out with our team how to best navigate these waters, but dealing with the personal toll it takes on our associates as we’ve implemented necessary cost savings in our business. I know it makes us healthier in the long run, but we care about our employees and their families and it’s really hard to carry out the hard choices we have to make sometimes. In the long run, though, I believe everything works out for a reason when you make the right decisions, as hard as they may be.

What’s the best advice you can give to others in the industry?

I think that people in powersports, whether they’re consumers or working in the industry, are driven by dreams and desire, not necessity or greed. No one really needs a motorcycle or ATV, but we all crave going for a Sunday ride, turning the fastest lap time at the track, exploring uncharted terrain, or having our dream job at a motorcycle store or manufacturer. So, my advice starts with remembering the basics — focus on your core competencies and making them valuable to others, and then use those assets — whether they’re desirable inventory, or valuable services or knowledge — to help people with money to spend realize their dreams today. In addition, innovation is the best way to get ahead of your competition and create value people will pay more for, so don’t be afraid to try or allow new things to see what happens. Some of NPA’s most successful programs are things we never thought would take off, but when we tried them we found our customers embraced them or that they evolved into new things our customers valued. Lastly, don’t try to do it all alone — hire or associate yourself with ‘A’ players who share your vision and drive for the same goals. One of my sayings is that ‘Companies don’t do things, people do” — with outstanding people come outstanding results.

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