PRO Dealer Group is looking for new members who are open to sharing best practices with their peers to help their dealerships grow.
Ray Derstine is not satisfied. The president of PRO Dealer Group since June of last year wants to see membership grow by adding more dealers, particularly from the Mid-Central and North-Central regions of the U.S.
Founded in 2011 with 12 members, today PRO Dealer Group has 24 members heavily concentrated in the Northeast and Southeast with a few located on the West Coast.
“We’re looking to get up to 35 as quickly as possible,” said Derstine who places the ceiling for total members at 40-45. “We have a lot of wide open territory we’re looking to recruit from.”
Derstine and the original members of the group founded PRO Dealer Group, an independent dealer organization operating under the auspices of BTA, initially out of frustration.
“I had been attempting to get into a dealer group prior to that,” said Derstine, the owner of Altek Business Systems, Inc. in Telford, PA, who has been in the business for 37 years, “but all the other groups either had a dealer in our area or they were telling us we weren’t big enough.”
According to Derstine, the benefits of membership are measurable and many of the dealers in the group have seen their revenues grow since joining.
“The dealers in PRO Dealer Group have increased revenues on average over the last few years by double digits,” reported Derstine, adding that many members attribute their growth to the best practices they’ve learned from other dealers in the group.
Revenues for dealers interested in joining PRO Dealer Group are currently set at a minimum of $2 million. The current group of 24 dealers has cumulative annual revenues of $162 million. In contrast, membership in some of the other industry dealer groups require yearly revenues of at least $10 million, leaving out smaller but successful dealers.
In addition to least $2 million in annual revenues, a dealer who is interested in joining PRO Dealer Group must be a BTA member, agree to submit their financials once a year to Strategic Business Associates for verification, participate in Strategic Business Associates’ Finance 101 class within six months after joining the group, and attend at least two of the three PRO Dealer Group meetings each year.
“We’re looking for people that are actively involved,” emphasized Derstine.
There’s also a non-compete clause to ensure members aren’t competing against each other in the same market.
Strategic Business Associates also provides PRO Dealer Group with all the financial results they compile from dealers across the industry, so everyone can see what “good” looks like across different departments within a dealership.
The biggest benefit of membership for Derstine has been the information derived from the financial model.
“It gave me the confidence to approach our managers in certain scenarios and say here’s where we’re at and here’s where the average dealer is. It’s different than going to my managers and saying I need more profitability in this area, or we’re not making enough money in service. [Showing them the model] has enabled me to sell certain ideas and minimum standards to our employees confidently while in the past I felt maybe I was making unrealistic demands.”
He also appreciates the opportunity to share best practices with other dealers, something he is looking forward to at PRO Dealer Group’s upcoming meeting March 13-14 in New Orleans. On the agenda is a dealer panel with highly profitable dealers moderated by John Hey of Strategic Business Associates. These dealers will discuss how they’ve achieved high profits in service or equipment or IT, for example, with a deep dive into the specific changes or modifications they made that allowed them to achieve these higher profits.
PRO Dealer Group’s meetings are typically held in conjunction with a regional or national BTA event, which has made it easier for the organization to find speakers. BTA handles the organization’s administrative work, including processing of memberships.
Some meetings include a visit to a member’s dealership. Last year, members visited Derstine’s dealership outside of Philadelphia, and the year before visited a dealership in Miami.
Besides New Orleans, other upcoming meetings include Fort Worth in June and North Carolina in October.
Dealers interested in learning more about becoming a member can contact BTA for an application, or Derstine directly.
“I would love to talk to anybody who wants to be part of it,” concluded Derstine.
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