The auto finance industry brings new challenges to lenders every day, but for some, that is a part of the magic of working in the industry.
In this episode of “On the Job,” Bruce Newmark, chief adviser at Vroom and United Auto Credit, speaks with Auto Finance News Senior Associate Editor Riley Wolfbauer about his leadership style and the lessons he has learned throughout his career.
Newmark has spent more than 45 years in the auto industry on the automotive retail and finance sides of the business. He has stayed in the industry for so many years because auto finance is always changing and bringing new challenges, he said.
“There are new customers, new problems, new excitement, new advertising, new models, so there’s always something new and different. It never gets stale,” Newmark told Auto Finance News. “If you’re somebody that likes to look forward to change or the ability to impact change, then this is a great industry to be in because there’s always something to do, and there’s always a way to make it better.”
“On the Job” is a new, quarterly podcast that profiles an executive in the auto finance industry, covering lessons they have learned and strategies they employ as strong leaders within their organizations.
Auto Finance Summit, the premier industry event for auto lending and leasing, returns Oct. 29-31 at the Bellagio Las Vegas. To learn more about the 2023 event and register, visit autofinance.live.
Editor’s note: This transcript has been generated by software and is being presented as is. Some transcription errors may remain.
Hello everyone and welcome to on the job a new series on the roadmap from auto finance news that brings on and executives from the auto finance industry to discuss what they have learned throughout their career and strategies. They employ it to be a strong leader within their organization. I’m Riley Wolfbauer, and today I’m joined by Chief Adviser at Vroom and United Auto Credit Bruce Newmark. Bruce, thank you for joining me on our very first episode of our new series. Do you want to give us a little background on yourself before we jump into the questions?Bruce Newmark 0:37
Sure. Thanks, Riley. And thanks for having me here. I appreciate the opportunity to be with you. I think my background is interesting for my current role started coming out of school in a small finance company in Southern California that eventually ended up deciding to do auto, which is where we learned to do auto back when a when I had very limited lending authority. And then I remember the milestone of getting enough lending authority, I got $5,000 worth of lending authority, which back in 1976, was in 1975, was enough money to buy a contract on a new Mustang, think about what that costs today. And so I started this small finance company and after a few years decided to go into the retail automotive retail automobile business and became an f&i Manager. And spent 22 years in retail automotive from f&i I moved up to the sales manager, and then General Sales Manager, and then ultimately became a partner in a dealership. And then a couple of dealerships and so good, good, good career good smattering of both sides of the desk, and then decided to leave the retail side in in 98. And came back to the finance side at my prior company, and started as the national sales manager there and became CEO and then left as president no seven. So I love both sides of the business. It’s fun. It’s it gets in your blood, as they say you get a little bit oil in your veins. And that’s what drives you. Yeah, soRiley Wolfbauer 2:20
you said you started off in California at a small lender. So what has made you stick around the auto business for all these years? What do you love about it? What, what keeps you going every day in this business?Bruce Newmark 2:35
Well, one of the things that I tell people is that this is one of the few industries that is ever changing, and every day is going to be a new challenge. There’s new customers, there’s new problems, there’s new excitement, there’s new advertising, there’s new models, there’s always something new and different. It never gets stale. And so if you’re somebody that likes to look forward to change or the ability to impact on change, then this is a great industry to be in because there’s always something to do. And there’s always a way to make it better. The retail automotive business is so ubiquitous in our culture, that automotive assuming that it’ll stay this way forever is a is a critical part of the economics of every city. Dealers are important to their towns dealers are usually the largest contributor to the local Little League and the local politician and finance companies are there in order to facilitate their success, though they go hand in hand. And autos are more than just transportation. People see their automobile is at least in the United States is an extension of themselves and their personality and how they, how they’re seen by their friends. And and, and then you know, how they get their kids to school and our groceries home. Those are all such important things. And I think that our industry is critical to you know how our society functions. And so being part of that is always been incredibly interesting to me and finding ways to evolve. And to do it in new ways is part of what drives me today. Our industry is changing, evolving, becoming more ecommerce driven. My current employer is an E commerce retailer that does things differently than we did him in the retail side, but many of the precepts are the same. But watching how technology has driven change in our industry is exciting. And it gives you something to look forward to that’s new every day.Riley Wolfbauer 4:44
Great. Okay. So let’s hop into your career and what you’ve learned throughout your career. So what would you say is a lesson or two that you learned early on in your career? Or really, I guess that any time that you still carry with you to this day.
Bruce Newmark 5:03
I think for me, you have to get up every day, and look at making today better than yesterday, and be ready to make change every day. And then if something, if a new if something new, exists today to not be mired in the ways of the past, and, and never say, well, we’ve always done it that way. So that’s good, you know, or that this is how we do it. To always have your mind open to new ways of thinking about things and to look out in those things that you know, some of the things you don’t know, you don’t know, kind of look for those things to stimulate your intellectual curiosity to find ways to make things better. I learned a long time ago that it’s easy to get stale. And it’s easy to say, this works well. And I know this so uncomfortable with this. And that usually, that stagnation usually causes you to be less competitive and not do as not do as well. And I think it’s important to stimulate that in your people, so that they’re constantly looking every day for an opportunity to make things better. So they don’t come into work every day and just say, well, this is how we do things here. And give them the space to say, Hey, this is not a good idea, or we shouldn’t be doing this this way. And, and here’s why. And then over time. And again, I’ve been doing this since 1975. So it’s an awfully long time. But over time learning how valuable becoming kind of a database junkie really is. And not only making decisions by your gut feel, but really looking at data and letting that letting data proof up your gut feel, and sometimes allowing your experience to drive the causation side of the correlation of data. And so I think those are the things I have learned is don’t take anything for granted. Never take today as being the same as yesterday. And always be willing to look at doing things differently tomorrow, to better the experience for your business, make it more efficient, or to deliver better customer service.
Riley Wolfbauer 7:23
So you always have to have an open mind of where the business is going to take you and not be pigeonholed and where you want to be. Overall,
Bruce Newmark 7:33
the the overriding belief is that the only constant in life is change. If you’re restricted to the idea of change, you will become a dinosaur and die. And it’s it’s critical to constantly embrace the willingness to change.
Riley Wolfbauer 7:52
Right? So let’s look at further into your career. What would you say has been the best moment of your career? And how did you grow from it and become better from that?
Bruce Newmark 8:08
You know, it’s funny. That’s a question that I’ve never been asked before. And yet, it’s probably the easiest one for me to answer. Because when I first became a sales manager, it was at the depths of the 1980 recession. And when I, you know, being the finance manager of a dealership, a lot of times, you’re the guy that has to say no to somebody when they want to deliver a car. And so the day I became sales manager, the majority of the sales staff quit. And so here I was a brand new sales manager without a sales staff and didn’t really understand it. I was 26 years old, I had to try to not only rebuild a sales team, because if a sales manager doesn’t have a sales team, he better be one great salesperson. And so we had to rebuild the sales team. And one of the things I learned was actually from Pat Riley was the coach of the Lakers are right about then right about at that point in time. Riley had taken over the coach of the Lakers and he was interviewed when he became when the announcement was made that he was the head coach, they asked him, you know, what are you going to do differently than the last guy he won the NBA championship a year ago? Pat Riley said that in the NBA. Your job is as a head coach is to get the best talent in the world. And then make sure you get the bus to the game. And initially that seemed like kind of occurred answer and it didn’t make a lot of sense to me. But the further I got along, in trying to rebuild a sales staff and understand how to be a sales manager. I learned that that was a metaphor. And that getting the bus to the game was leadership resources, backing people up providing training, helping put what I call intellectual fuel in the gas tank. And so what I learned was to be a great coach, you have to get the bus to the game, you have to make sure that you’re constantly giving your people the right tools, the right leadership, the right guidance, the right support, and the right inspiration, so that they can play. And that gets the bus to the game. And so the way I grew from that was to learn to be able to be that person to do that. And it didn’t happen immediately. That’s one of the deficits of being young is, you’re, you’re certainly more confident in your own ability. The younger you are, then as you get older, and you learn how valuable the reliance on other people is. But I learned how to focus how my leadership style, my management style on coaching, and I’m providing the ability to just get the bus to the game every day.
Riley Wolfbauer 11:16
That’s great. I like that a lot. So, so let’s flip it and not let’s look at a time in your career that you’d maybe consider your worst moment or was there a time that you made a big mistake that felt like the end of the world? But I mean, obviously, you’re okay today? What was that mistake? Or what was that moment? And like, how did you learn from it?
Bruce Newmark 11:43
So it would be arrogant of me to give you one. Because I think if you’re somebody who embraces change, there’s a lot. And you know, my my prior employer, many people know Don Hankey, Don Hankey was the owner of Westlake and where I came from years ago, and Don used to tell us that you got to have 10 plates spinning all the time. And the seven of them may crash and break, put another plate on, get it spinning, three of them are going to be great ideas, focus on them and and then figure out which of the seven, you replaced them with their good ideas and let the other ones break. I think there were so many moments where something didn’t work. That to pick one would be ridiculous. I think the more important thing is, is what I learned about how to come back from them. And I think you have to be one of the things about being in management is that you have to have the courage to be wrong. And you’re not going to make every decision, right, you’re going to make mistakes, and you’re going to be wrong. The key is to listen to everybody. And make sure that if you’re going to be wrong, you didn’t do it with information you already had. And that things are going to happen that you didn’t know at the time when and if you have all the information and there’s a new set of facts, and you’re wrong, adjust and move on. So I think the important thing is how to come back from a mistake. But don’t ever let a mistake inhibit you from making other changes or other initiatives. Because if you ever get to the point where you’re unwilling to do it, because you’re intimidated by a failure, then you’re stagnant. And so there’s been a lot of mistakes I’ve made. I’ve learned a lot from a lot of great people. I think that what I learned from every single mistake was to make sure that I didn’t have information at the time that I looked past. And then I ignored or that I that I didn’t didn’t embrace. Sometimes you sometimes you look at it and don’t think it’s relevant or it’s important. You look back and that was something to pay attention to. Sometimes you look back and say, Well, I didn’t have that that wasn’t something I could have known at the time. You still own it, you still made the decision, but you just don’t. Don’t look at it as the darkest days in the world. And I think the other thing I learned was, it’s never as good as it seems. And it’s never as bad as it seems. There’s still tomorrow every day you wake up the sun comes up and on one side of the Earth and it goes down on the other and it’s gonna happen every single day and every day is a renewal. And so every day is ideas you build on the ones that work and the ones that don’t work. I think that’s the other thing is having, having the courage to be wrong and just say, hey, this isn’t working. This is wrong. Can we fix it? Can we change it? Or is it just a bad had an idea and jettison it. And don’t stick with something, in order to be right, be willing to be wrong and say goodbye. It just didn’t work. With everything we knew it was the right decision at the time, but it just didn’t work. Let’s move on. So I think that’s what I’ve learned is don’t Don’t, don’t hang on to a bad decision longer just to be right. Have the courage to be wrong and move on. Bring embrace the next idea. Gotcha.
Riley Wolfbauer 15:31
So looking at your leadership style, how you touched on it a little bit, but how do you aim to lead your team day in and day out?
Bruce Newmark 15:42
So I think that would be a schizophrenic answer. Because if you asked me this, when I was younger, it would be different than probably the last 20 years, I think earlier on. Of course, it was a different era. There was more autocracy in the style, I think. But from the time I really embraced the idea of, of getting the bus to the game, I think my leadership style is to try to be a good coach and to try to set a destination by preferring an idea, bringing it forth and saying, Hey, this is an idea. This is kind of the vision of this, let’s talk about it. Let’s think about it, let’s, let’s work through it. And it’s important to be invested in the destination and not the path. And as you bring people into the process, and vet the idea to suggest the path that you think is the right path, and then let them shoot holes in it. Because if the idea works, and they’re invested in the in the path to the destination, folks will be much more energetic in their ability to make it work. Because they have an investment in in how to go about doing it. And often they come up with better ways to do it than you see, to get to the destination. So I think in leadership, it’s important to be willing to set a destination and have the courage to set the vision, but then bring people in and help and let them help help set the pathway. So that there’s nothing you missed along the way you execute better, they’re invested in it. And you bring in a lot of ideas. And I think that one of the things that I do, and I think people that I’ve worked with and people that have worked for me, will tell you that I give them a lot of room to be wrong. And to make the right decision to guide them. If I think it’s going to be wrong, I’ll tell them that, hey, you might want to think about this or think about that. But ultimately, you know, it’d be a good safety net under the high wire act. But let them be wrong every now and then because they’ve got to learn from it. And the stronger, they get much stronger when they learn from their own mistakes. And as long as it’s not illegal, immoral, that it won’t hurt the business and hurt the customer. They have to be, they have to be a little uncomfortable now and then with their own decisions to grow and learn from it.
Riley Wolfbauer 18:22
So is there a certain way that you try to carry yourself or mindset that you try to keep and your approach to the job every day? And how does that affect your team?
Bruce Newmark 18:34
So I’m a big believer in is as silly as it’s going to sound. I’m a big believer in encouraging positive endorphins. And what I mean by that is I think that there’s nothing wrong with being a little silly, and making jokes and having people laugh and even make jokes. Because I think that if the meeting starts off that way, obviously, business is business and focusing is the most important thing you can do. But being a little bit comical and being a little jovial. I believe that it it generates positive endorphins that make people look forward to a meeting, or look forward to the encounter. And it makes it a little less intimidating when they’re meeting with their boss or in a team or in a group environment. And that they look forward to it. So I like I like the environment to be fun. And even a little funny, but ultimately, it’s about work. And it’s about it’s about getting things done and executing with perfection. But I think that if people don’t have fun doing it, they don’t execute with as much perfection because there isn’t the joy and the love. And I really believe you can get a paycheck and a lot of places but when it It’s fun for people to be part of something they like who they work with. They like what they’re doing. They feel enjoyment in the process that they can joke around, they can have a good time, obviously, respectfully. But I think those things are important to have to stimulate in an environment that people feel good about being in. Because I think it generates more than just a paycheck, it creates a sense of belonging. And it stimulates that positive endorphin that makes people subconsciously feel good about their encounter with you, or with the meeting, or with the company.
Riley Wolfbauer 20:37
Yeah, for sure. Because I mean, that’s, that’s how I am personally if I’m having if I’m having a good time, and I like to take my mind away from work a little bit sometimes. And when you do, and when you feel just more positive about being in the work environment, it personally, me, it makes me focusing more and do better work once I focus back in, but having that little bit of relief, I think is important in your day to day.
Bruce Newmark 21:02
I would agree. 100%. Yeah.
Riley Wolfbauer 21:05
So thank you, Bruce. That about does it for today’s episode. I appreciate you joining me. And thank you to our audience for joining us on the roadmap. We will see you next time and online at Auto Finance News dotnet