ACV Dealer TEC Talks: NADA 2023 Featuring Kraig Quisenberry from ACV and Sam D'Arc from Zeigler Auto Group

May 24, 2023

Team ACV




ACV Dealer TEC Talks: NADA 2023 Featuring Kraig Quisenberry from ACV and Sam D'Arc from Zeigler Auto Group

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Kraig Quisenberry, of ACV interviews Sam D'Arc of Zeigler Automotive Group. They discuss the success and culture of Zeigler Automotive Group. Sam emphasizes the importance of people in their business and how creating a positive work culture is crucial. They also discuss the impact of this recognition on their team and how it reflects their commitment to providing an exceptional customer experience. The conversation touches on various topics, including communication, education, and partnerships, and highlights the importance of vision and culture in driving success. Additionally, Sam mentions Zeigler Automotive Group involvement in charity events and how they strive to make a positive difference in their community.


Kraig Quisenberry: I've got a successful group here at Zeigler Automotive Group. Amazing. And Sam D’Arc. So glad you're here.

Sam D’Arc: Thank you. It's good to be here. Appreciate it. Thank you. 

KQ: Of course. And so this talk, it's not about cars per se. It's not about technology per se. This talk is about people, really good people. And Ziegler is full of really good people. But I wanna just jump off with the news I got before this Zeigler Automotive Group. One of Glass Doors Best Places to Work. Is that correct?

SD: Top ranked in the nation. They look at a number of them, a hundred companies nationwide. When you look at all the companies, corporations that exist in the nation, workplaces that hire people…Delta Airlines, Starbucks, where I can mention Southwest. Because they've had fun this swap past Christmas season, but they weren't companies of all different stripes and types. 

And, you think about automotive, it's challenging and for automotive to end up on that list where it's like this is a great place to work because it's traditional in automotive to have longer hours sometimes. Sometimes that doesn't contribute to that. But we are super grateful to have been recognized by Glassdoor Research as being one of the top employers in the nation and one of the best places to work. So best worklife balance.

KQ: Congratulations to you, to Aaron, and to the team. And one of the most important things not to get away from, or even move away from is people, but people buy cars from people they like. That's just a saying, a philosophy I've had forever. You guys probably have a saying or a vision and maybe you'll share that with us. But tell me, how do you see this impacting your team? How did your team feel winning that? What was that like?

SD: I think it's huge props to the owner Aaron Ziegler and his dad Harold Ziegler. When the company was established back in 1975, it was built on a solid foundation of an incredible culture driven by a vision. Our mission statement within the Ziegler Auto Group is to create the ultimate automotive experience for every customer that comes through that door. And we strive and seek every single day to embed that into the employees that work within the group. 

Aaron lives that it's one of his core focuses, core goals. And that vision has drawn some of the best people in the industry into the auto group. They all work together. One s here today, Lindsay. She heads up our BDC groups in the Chicagoland area. She's an incredible contributor to team Ziegler. I think Aaron realized a long time ago, not only is it about creating that great culture and experience for the customer, but more importantly Craig, today, it's equally and more important to create an incredible experience for your employees.

And when you have a strong vision, a strong purpose, when you've got something that is magnetic, that pulls you into something bigger than yourself. That's worth fighting for. That's worth waking up early for. That's worth staying a little bit longer for. That's worth going home and getting excited to your family, wife, kids…telling them what you do and bringing them into the vision of what you do. And Aaron has done an incredible job of creating that vision, defending that vision, and helping us to grow that. And he's entrusted each and every one of us to continue that vision. It really is people outside in. Is all that talk real? And it truly is.

KQ: I would imagine you can't win again for your dealership. Now I'm not a dealer anymore. I don't get to plan the sandbox like you guys do every day. But that's got to be impacting. Because to win, we have all these other sources like Google or Yelp scores and all the other stuff that we have to do for manufacturers, right? 

This is the next level. This is world championship level. This is Tour at the France level. That's more relatable to me. I said that just for myself. But that's got to reverberate. It has to reverberate, it has to echo all the way down.

SD:  When you say that, do you mean the Glassdoor piece? It's exciting. But it's only exciting to the extent that it's just proof of what I think we do in particular now. Can I share some of the things?

First off, I think one thing Aaron has done really well is communication. He wants to communicate often, consistently, and at all levels of the company. So we have routine things that go on within our company, contact, and connection points. We do monthly general manager meetings. We bring each of the departments in as part of GM meetings. And we ask people to share best practices. 

Imagine as a parts manager that you're asked to stand up in front of all the general managers and the owner of the company and to share a best practice. And the owner of the company gets to hear you share that best practice. And gets to say that's a really good idea. Maybe some others should be able to do it. Guess what happens? That parts manager is terrified. But that parts manager steps up, prepares, and really delivers some insightful, impactful things.

One of the things we believe is because of that preparation, that commitment to our culture, that parts manager ends up being better able to train other parts managers than anyone else. I mean, we're sitting in a place where there are a ton of consultants, tons of people willing to step into the business and help. At the end of the day, we welcome the best partners we can find anywhere. We've got an insurance partner next to us. You guys have been an incredible partner and we welcome that feedback and advice. 

But at the base, we actually inspire and push ourselves to go higher by sharing those best practices on a monthly basis. So that's one touchpoint. Another touchpoint is through Covid. As communication became challenged and being on-site and in-person came under stress, I came on board and asked if It would be cool if we did a podcast. 

Aaron was already doing video casts once a week to keep employees updated on what was going on. In the auto industry, who in the heck would've thought it'd be a good idea to once a week release a message to all the employees? There's risk to that, right? There is. 

And in a business that traditionally sometimes isn't as transparent as others, some might be afraid of that. And Aaron says that transparency is what we need in our industry. We need that with our employees. We want our culture to catch from the very top to the bottom. And he said, let's do it. And it went so well. In the first year, we had partners and we had vendors and we had other people in the industry. 

So right now, we're on 150 episodes internally, 50 episodes externally. The external podcast is called the Driving Vision Podcast. It's actually one of the most listened to podcasts. It's a great way to communicate with our employees. Top-down the other way, we have something called Zeigler University. And we put a ton of content, social media content, which Lindsay here with us helps to create. But also content from our training partners

Grant Cardone, we do a lot of business with Grant. And there are other training partners where we load these training sessions up into this LMS and we require our teams in sales and service, and general managers and others to go through to get this routine of regular training as you grow. We're 35 rooftops and 2,700 employees across four states.

One of the biggest challenges when we're talking about defending culture is adding a group of four or five stores and keeping those four or five stores knowledgeable about the culture bought into it, and delivering that extraordinary experience. And the only way you can do that is by communicating often. So communication, education, there was one other prong, and I can't remember what it is…oh, I remember one of the other things is we've gotta make sure we have great partners on the auto side. 

We have some of the best franchises out there in these four states. On the used car side, you guys at ACV help us deliver an extraordinary customer experience by reducing our aged inventory. We know that the fresher the inventory, the more competitive we are in the marketplace. You've helped provide us a tool that will take pictures that will provide a condition report to our teams that as vehicles age. If they don't sell in the first 90 days, we can give them a try on one of our other 35 lots. And that's been incredibly successful. So that accolade and that award, I think has a lot of different parts to it, but at its core is culture. Culture is so important. 

KQ: Culture totally is. We know that here at ACV, we obviously started as a tech company. You're probably familiar with when you start something from scratch, you need money. We had to raise money many times, but that's a different story. You need culture first. If you don't build, and this applies as much in the tech world and more so in the automotive space, because as a former major retailer, charity and supporting my community goes so far beyond the walls of retail. Supporting other things that are needed in your community and the legacy. Because as you mentioned, Aaron didn't start it, did he? It was his dad.

SD: It was his dad. His dad started it. But Aaron has absolutely blown it up. Charity is something we believe in as well. We do an annual event called Drive for Life. You contributed to it. Last year we raised over $1.2 million for charities. A hundred percent of it goes straight to the charity.

We talk about that vision and waking up and being engaged in something that's exciting and changes the world. We absolutely do that every day. Our employees know we're contributing to something that gives back to drive for life. We can see the dollar-for-dollar impact that it has in the world, whether it's the American Cancer Society, we've all been impacted by that. Or it's Big Brothers Big Sisters and helping kids make a Wish, which is an incredible charity where you can create an experience for a child whose future is in question. You can give them something that will light them up and change their life. 

I've been a part of this industry since the late 1980s. I believed this then, and I believe it now. It's the last great American industry. Totally on the face of the planet. You can come into this industry and if you have a strong desire to work, if you're willing to hustle, if you're willing to work hard, it doesn't matter your background, it doesn't matter where you grew up. It doesn't matter what you did. If you come into this and you work hard, you can deliver value and you can change the world. And that's what excites us at the Ziegler Auto Group. 

KQ: That is incredible. It's great to have you here. It really is. And your podcast, I'm not doing a shoutout here, but I kind of am doing a shoutout here. You interviewed and forgive me for this, but the experience is still with me…you interviewed the coach and I can't remember which football team. It was a college football team.

SD: Kraig, I'm going to call you out. You haven't truly listened to it unless you know that we've interviewed Mel Tucker who's a Michigan State football coach. PJ Fleck, Minnesota football coach. Odo Lindsay, who else? Tom Izzo, NCAA Spartan, Michigan State, basketball coach. Ben Wallace, Malice at the Palace, the guy that destroyed my team's hopes for an NBA ring and who proved that you can't buy a ring. And our question for every single guest on our podcast is: What are you doing?...What vision are you driving daily to change the world? Because truly vision is at the root of culture. And that's where we change the world. We talked in our first episode about JFK. 

Regardless of your politics, JFK in the 1960s stood up in front of a country and he said, you know what…We don't have the technology. A bunch of Russian guys are beating us there. But I believe we can go to the moon by a certain date. And everybody said he was insane. And if you've seen the movie Hidden Figures, you know that vision brought people of all stripes together, brought everybody together to achieve and accomplish something that was otherwise seen as impossible. And there are people, ACV is an example of that, and we're absolutely an example of who in our own world is changing the world by that vision. 

One person we interviewed is, and you've probably never heard of this guy…Bill Nye? I can't remember the last part. The Science Guy. No, I'm being stupid now. Bill Nye the Science Guy. We interviewed him and we talked about how he got started. If you go back to that episode, the Driving Vision podcast, he showed us a piece of paper from the 1970s. 

And at the very top, before he was ever discovered, he said he wanted to change the world by teaching science to kids. He wanted to change the world through science. And that statement, I've got my friend Scott here, who always taught me smart: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. That statement is so close to smart that it's inspiring.  

And look at what Bill Nye the Science Guy has done and how he's changed the face of the world. How can you not be inspired by that. We have all sorts of guests like that. Tom Izzo’s done it with basketball, changing the lives of young men looking to better themselves and have a shot. 

He doesn't care about the rings. His big goal is that he wants football and basketball to both win national titles in the same years before he retires. That's good. We wish him luck. That's a great vision. But he knows the true difference that he's making is in the lives of those young men as they grow up. They make a difference in the world. Everyone drives vision in a different way, but we all have the opportunity to do it if we'll engage in something we believe in.

KQ: That's rightful that. I have only watched one podcast.

SD: Well, we're gonna commit you to more. 

KQ: Here’s what I'll tell you. One very well produced, kudos to you and to Aaron and everybody there that you're thinking outside the box. You're not just focused because let's face it, in our business, it's easy to get focused on retail, wholesale parts. We gotta get this done. Checklist stuff, checklist mentality. A lot of, quite frankly, automotive groups are very good at people. I worked at several that are very good at people, but you guys take it next level. You really do, in terms of your vision, your commitment to reach outside the industry, bring influencers, bring wise knowledge, sage knowledge for people to consider. 

I can tell you that, and I'm not giving you a plug, but I was really moved by what I listened to and obviously I didn't remember who it was, but it doesn't really matter because the experience and the management technique that was presented in that was amazing. And your ability to lean into these conversations is equally fantastic. 

SD: At the core of it is, we don't focus on selling cars there. We focus on what it takes to create that culture. We're not alone in how we do that. There are a lot of dealer groups that do that. I've got a good friend here, Grant Peterson, he's gonna be mad at me for mentioning him. Bronco Motors in Boise, Idaho. He kind of brought me up with another company, an insurance provider I worked with in direct business. And, I love him. I love the culture he created. I think good people, the best people, are naturally attracted to places where they can. 

One of the guys we had, a guy by the name of I think Bob…he's actually a recruiter of athletic directors and coaches. He's placed coaches all across the country. He's one of the most successful and he’s in Plano, Texas. He talked about you've gotta go to places where you believe in the vision, where your talents are celebrated. And you're given an opportunity to succeed with the resources to do it. 

People like Grant do that with his team. He recognizes that he's got contributors who change the world. I think that's what Aaron Ziegler has created with the Ziegler Auto Group. And that's what attracted me to it. You can't keep people from that. As we talk about the podcast and we talk about other things we do, sometimes we don't talk about selling a car. Sometimes we just talk about what we're doing in the world. And that results in a sold car. Sometimes if we focus too much on tha little black and white number we miss the purpose behind it.

KQ: You do the mechanics of doing something actually block. You think about athletics, athletes don't think about running. It's instinctive and it's rehearsed in practice so much. But beyond that, they're already passionate about it. They're already in love with it. You are building a culture of people who are in love with what they do, where they work, and that’s their satisfaction. 

SD: So Kraig, what vision is ACV driving? I'm gonna turn this on you now. How is ACV changing the world? 

KQ: You know, that's why when you're doing interviews and you're inviting guests, you'd be very careful who you invite. Because if they're an interviewer too, they'll do this to you. We often say we're a tech company, but we're not. We're a people company. We start with the best people in the industry. They are here and walking in the aisles. We start there. We start with our community, our automotive community. That's really what it is. Whether you're a retailer or a vendor solution or a provider, this is just one big community. You've been in it a long time. I've been in it a long time. We serve with people, we do through those people, and through that passion that's been built, through ACV, we have developed some amazing tech that I'm proud to say any team member around can share with you

SD: I'm going to give you the shorter answer. You are changing the world by delivering technology that enables buyers, retail buyers, and us in the auto industry to know exactly what we're buying through your inspections and giving us the tech to deliver it to both ourselves in auto dealers and to our retail customers by being able to see the inspections that you provide.

There's nobody else that gives you the sound of the engine. Nobody but a used car Guy can hear the sound of that engine and say that's a good sounding car. You're changing the world by using that tech. And that's a big deal. Yeah. Technology increasingly will never, ever, ever, ever replace us. It will never replace a person. In the late eighties and early nineties when I got into the car business, I remember thinking that one day this will all be AOL dial-up online. 

It never will be. It's always gonna be a human experience. But technology like yours is going to help deliver that information in more effective ways so that consumers can make a better decision. We can deliver a better experience. We can all ultimately benefit. I truly believe this will continue to be a human experience.

KQ: We totally agree. So to answer your question, but you answered actually–

SD: –I answered it for you. 

KQ:  To add on to your answer to your question, simply put, ACV is creating trust and transparency in the automotive market space through technology, but powered by great people. That would be the summary version of that question.

SD: We appreciate the platform you've given us. We run a private auction twice a month and it has helped us ensure fresh quality inventory for every single one of our customers. So thank you. Well,

KQ: Thank you for joining us. It's a great privilege to have you here and I really look forward to the partnership. Our partnership is amazing. So thank you for that. And thank you for your time and thank you for joining us at NADA.