[Below is a transcription of the podcast]
Cheri Landin: Hello and welcome to The Mortgage Company’s Community Partner Podcast Series. My name is Cheri Landin and I am the Community Development Director for The Mortgage Company and one of the things that I get to do in this role is interview some of our community partners and we’ve got some really great ones and they offer really unique businesses and industries so I’m really excited to have HM Brown with us here today. I’ve got Jason Gilstrap with me. Hi Jason.
Jason Gilstrap: Hi how are you doing.
Cheri Landin: Good. Thanks for being here and you are an auto broker with HM Brown.
Jason Gilstrap: I am.
Cheri Landin: That’s cool. So tell me about HM Brown.
Jason Gilstrap: HM Brown has been in business for close to 33 years now. It was started by our founder Bob Brown, who spent a few months in the car business and I think he realized right away that there’s got to be a better way for the consumer to purchase a car. So with just a short amount of time in the car business he went out and he started HM Brown and Associates and it’s grown into a brokerage with over 60 brokers and we sell over 400 cars month. The big thing is just you know we save so much time and money for people and it’s just all about customer relations. I think he realized that early on and it’s been able to just grow into just an amazing business.
Cheri Landin: And was that right here in Denver?
Jason Gilstrap: Yes. He went to work I believe. Back then it was the Bert organization, which is no longer around, but he started with Bert and he worked in the business for a few months out of college. He knew that, like I said, that there is a better way for this for sure.
Cheri Landin: Alright. So tell me about you specifically then, how long you’ve been with HM Brown?
Jason Gilstrap: I’m coming up on almost a year with HM Brown but I’ve been in the car industry for 16 years and I kind of had a unique perspective in the sense that I’ve worked every part of a dealership. From sales to finance to you know, used car manager, new car manager, general sales manager. So I’ve kind of seen every aspect of the dealership process and I was excited to come to work for HM Brown because, you know, it obviously took me longer than six months to figure out that there’s a better way.
Cheri Landin: Sixteen years did you say?
Jason Gilstrap: Being a broker really offers a really good work-life balance. It’s more of an entrepreneurial type role. So you get to spend more time, if I need to leave for a kids soccer match I can do that. In the dealership world, you’re working 50-60 hours a week. And then you also have the customer experience, the back and forth and trying to sell them on the one product that you sell where you don’t have that as a broker. You can sell multiple products.
Cheri Landin: Yes I know I’ve been at a dealership and you’re talking to someone and they keep disappearing. I’m like, where are they going? I kept feeling like that finance manager was Oz, you know like in the Wizard of Oz? Wow. What’s back there? I want to go look. Alright well, that’s cool. So 16 years in the dealership. And then one year as a broker.
Jason Gilstrap: One year as a broker and like I said I’ve been loving it. It’s a much more relational process. You’re spending more time with the customer, you’re taking them through every step of the process. You’re able to show multiple makes, models, new or used and open it up to so much more options than maybe they would have done on their own. Cause people will generally go to one or two spots and then just get tired of the process and sometimes just buy to have the process over with and not really be able to do their due diligence on a car.
Cheri Landin: Right. So what would you say are the top reasons that someone would use a broker over a dealership?
Jason Gilstrap: The big thing is time. Let’s say you want to look at three different makes and models like you want to look at, just as an example like a Toyota, Honda and a Mazda. You’re going to go to the Toyota store. You have to wait for a salesperson to come up to you and then they’re going to figure out what trim level and everything you look at, then they’re going to pull up a car and then you’re going to go on a test drive and when you come back they’re going to want to obviously try to close the sale. If they don’t, you’re going to meet a manager, you’re going to meet another person before you leave and then you have to go through that process at Honda or Mazda or your next stop. So you could spend either a whole day or you could spend a couple of weekends going through that.
Cheri Landin: And it’s stressful. I’ve done it. It just is. Whenever I’ve been at dealerships and I’m not suggesting that all dealerships are bad but it just seems like there’s a lot of pressure.
Jason Gilstrap: There’s a lot of pressure. I mean because as a salesperson you have a sales manager that’s kind of applying pressure to you and everything and then that’s why a manager always comes out because really the only reason a manager comes out to say goodbye to a customer is make sure the salesperson didn’t mess up something and that they’ve answered all those questions. So having the amount of experience I have and being able to answer all those questions and not being beholden to a manufacturer. If somebody wants to look at a Toyota or Honda, it doesn’t matter to me. But you go into a Toyota store they’re going to tell you all the reasons to buy a Toyota or all the reasons to buy a Honda or whatever make or model that you’re looking at. I just want the customer to be happy with their purchase and know that they’ve explored all their options.
Cheri Landin: Alright so I think, I personally, I know a lot of people who have used brokers and actually when I say HM Brown people say, “That’s who I used!” So they’ve got a fabulous reputation and it really seems like and it makes sense to me with everything you just said. It makes sense to me why a broker would be so much more convenient for sure, saving time may be a little more stress-free too. But I think one of the questions that come up is OK. That all sounds great but it’s probably really expensive right? So how does a broker get paid?
Jason Gilstrap: So we get paid more on how we buy a car. Because the average consumer is going to buy one car every 3-4 years. We might buy 10 or 12 cars from a specific dealership in a month. So one, they’re going to give us a little bit better values. We’re making our money kind of when we buy the car but then we can still turn around and give great value to our clients. So we’re saving them money on the car plus we can also save them money on financing. You go to a dealership, you walk into a finance office they’re going to try to sell you 20 different products in a 10-minute span. We can offer all those same products at a far reduced rate and actually explain the benefits of them and then help our clients make the right decision.
Cheri Landin: OK so that makes sense. What I’m hearing in a sense is its kind of like wholesale to retail. Where if I go into you know the Acura dealer I’m a retail customer. And I’m sure there’s room there’s always room but God only knows I don’t know what to say. Right? And so you buy in bulk so you get a better price from the dealer. So then do dealers like you?
Jason Gilstrap: I mean yeah a lot of them do, some of them, it’s funny, it’s kind of hit or miss. I mean we have partnerships that we’ve grown over the years and like I said we’ve been in business for 32 years and we know what dealers are obviously going to get the best deals. That’s one of the advantages of what we do, we know who gives the best deals, we know who carries the best inventory. You know there are some dealers that you know, they’re just closed off to that which is fine. But like I said, we still can carry every make and model, new or used, which is of huge benefit to our clients.
Cheri Landin: So you as a broker are doing the negotiations on behalf of the consumer. I like that.
Jason Gilstrap: So like I said it takes the stress out of the situation for the client and especially since a lot of these dealers have now gone to no haggle, they’ve just fixed their price and they fixed it at a price where we need to make as much money on it. Well, they fixed it to use the consumer but because we buy as I said more in bulk, we’re not held to those same pricing standards.
Cheri Landin: I hear that no haggle. I hear that advertised or whatever and I don’t even know what that means. I mean, I know what it means but I’m like I don’t know if I buy that. I don’t know. Alright so someone comes to a broker what is your service offering? Like what happens when someone comes to you?
Jason Gilstrap: Well generally what we try to do is we have them come down, we do have a location here in Centennial but we have them come in and we kind of do a consultation with them, one, to kind of figure out what it is they’re looking for whether it is new or used. We try to figure out their budget. If we kind of know ahead of time, if we prepped ahead of time we know what vehicles to look at. Sometimes we’ll have some examples there for them if they want to. As I said, if they want to drive five different cars, I can have all five different cars and they can drive one right after another. A lot of convenience. But we will talk to them about their leasing options or finance options. If they have a trade-in we’ll evaluate it at that time. So we kind of get the whole puzzle, I’ll get all the puzzle pieces there at the same time so we can put it together in a way that makes sense for our clients so that they’re leaving knowing that they made the best decision. Like I said it’s all about that consultation at the beginning to make sure that we have all the information that we need.
Cheri Landin: Okay. So you do all the pieces of the transaction that is done at a dealership. It’s just not at the dealership.
Jason Gilstrap: Yeah one of the other things people don’t realize if a manufacturer is offering 0% or rebates we can do all those same things. We can run it back through the manufacturer if there’s special finance and we can handle all that for them. So whatever’s available walking into the dealership is also available through us.
Cheri Landin: Yeah. So I know that HM Brown as you’ve explained is a Denver-based company headquarters here and whatnot. Is there like a certain geography that you can service or not. Are you open?
Jason Gilstrap: No we have other locations throughout the front range. We have two locations in Centennial, we have one in Castle Rock, Colorado Springs, and we have one in Fort Collins as well. But we kind of can service anywhere in the state. Our whole business is repeat and referral. So if somebody in Vail buys one and they start referring, the whole state can be our client. We do a lot out of state items, a lot of out of state clients as well. So yeah we’re not geographically.
Cheri Landin: You mean you can deliver vehicles out of state too?
Jason Gilstrap: Yeah. We can deliver anywhere in the U.S. We can also buy vehicles out of state and bring them in as well. We have access to auction, we can call dealers out of state if we know a client is looking for something specific that’s not in our market.
Cheri Landin: So I’m guessing HM Brown is not the only broker in town, maybe the best broker in town. Not the only. What makes you guys different?
Jason Gilstrap: The biggest thing is our lending solutions because we have more access to more banks and more money than any other brokerage. So we have about 20 major banks. You know U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, banks like that. But then we also have well over 60 credit unions that we have access to. So one, we kind of know who’s going to give us the best rates for our clients. Plus you just have people that say, “I use Bellco or I use Westerra or whatever that is and I’d really like to stick with them.” We are member direct with them, we can handle that aspect of it and because we deal in so much volume, we’re definitely the highest volume broker in the state. You know one, we get cars a little bit cheaper so sometimes we can do a little bit better on pricing than other brokerage places which is also another huge benefit to us and some of the products we offer, because we saw more of them, we can also offer cheaper whether it be warranties, window tint, clear mask, protection products, things like that. Those are all things that we also get.
Cheri Landin: Extended services kind of thing.
Jason Gilstrap: Exactly.
Cheri Landin: Good to know. Well, I can certainly see how brokers, just back in the day, I don’t know when brokers became, I know HM Brown 30 some years ago. But you know back in the day my parents, probably anyone listening out there, their parents, you only went to the dealership. You know it was probably Cadillac and that’s all you did right. Cadillac, Buick, who knows. Right? So I can really see how brokers, with everything you just described, makes so much sense. I know personally that the next time I purchase a car that’s going to be the way it happens. So that being the case, I’m sure I’m not alone in that thought. So this I’m guessing is probably going to be an expanding industry and could be something, you came from a dealership to it. So I’m thinking like brokers could be growing perhaps is HM Brown growing to as far as, are you guys looking for people to hire?
Julie Steinberger: Yeah. So we are growing. We’re currently looking for brokers to expand our Centennial office. I mean we’ve got more and more people moving into Colorado. More and more people buying cars. And the broker opportunity literally is for a broker to come in and build a client base that is repeat and referral business and it does take some time but we do training and development and that’s something we value. And we definitely separate ourselves from the other brokers in town because of the training that we offer.
Cheri Landin: Okay. So I will ask you to expand on that in just a minute. So anyway, for the new voice. This is Julie from HM Brown, Julie is HR, recruiter, HR. you do it all. You’re right behind Bud at HM Brown.
Jason Gilstrap: Event planner, she does everything.
Cheri Landin: You name it, Julie does it. So anyway thanks for joining us here too and great point. We just talked a little bit earlier today and one of the things we talked about is it’s not if you are going to get rear-ended on Colorado Boulevard, it’s when. So in that, there’s just always new cars being purchased and if brokers are the way. So that’s something that you are looking to do and what kind of person or candidate or experience does someone need to get into this particular industry, if it’s someone looking to do something even different?
Julie Steinberger: Sure. So a lot of people think that you have to have an automotive background. Jason did have an automotive background but more importantly were just looking for people that are highly driven with a customer-centric, consultative sales approach with an entrepreneurial spirit. Having a couple of years of sales background, business development or some type of entrepreneurial experience is definitely preferred. But we do offer training.
Cheri Landin: And what kind of training is that?
Julie Steinberger: I mean we start from ground zero and we strongly value career development so training is ongoing. We do have a structured, one-week, two-week orientation but really its start prospecting, setting appointments, and then you just stop and then we’ve got a dedicated sales manager who’s dedicated just to helping new brokers. We also have a mentor that we assign to every new broker.
Cheri Landin: That’s nice. So you’re describing if it’s someone that doesn’t necessarily come from automotive it’s not a deal breaker because it’s that internal sales, customer focused, you can learn products.
Julie Steinberger: It’s building relationships but you’ve got to be good at going out and doing the business development piece. So that’s different than if you’re in a car dealership, you’re waiting for people to walk in. With 93% percent of our business being repeat or referral, every broker at HM Brown has built their own client base.
Cheri Landin: OK so you’re saying that’s a big difference I can see in that you need to be more proactive not reactive. When you’re at the dealership, they’re coming to you. And so here you’re going out. So that’s the tradeoff there. So you have your autonomy and you have a little bit more flexibility in the schedule but you need to be able to get up and go do it.
Julie Steinberger: Right. Getting into a good networking group. That’s been a piece of our business model since we started 32 years ago. Most of the brokers at HM Brown have got into a good core networking group. And that’s been a piece of helping them do business.
Jason Gilstrap: Chambers of commerce type places and things like that. If anything it’s made me more enveloped into my own community. I’m from Highlands Ranch and so I’m pretty active in a lot of what they do there now which has just been great, not just from a professional standpoint, from a personal standpoint too. I’ve made some really good friendships through that.
Cheri Landin: Alright. So I’m going to ask you both because now we’re talking about a couple of different things. Number one, there could be someone out there that’s just considering, hey I need to get a new car and I think I want to try this broker thing. So, Jason, I’m going to have you give your contact and then Julie maybe for you if someone is out there looking for a career change or someone that’s in a dealership. So if you both could just take a second and give me your contact information for people that would be amazing.
Jason Gilstrap: Yeah. So once again this is Jason Gilstrap with HM Brown and Associates and I’m an auto broker and the best way to reach me is always going to be my cell phone which was 303-241-4779 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheri Landin: Great thanks and Julie?
Julie Steinberger: So for anybody looking for more information on the opportunity at HM Brown you can pretty much find me anywhere, Facebook, LinkedIn, but again it’s Julie Steinberger and my phone number direct is 303-414-7728. If you go to our HM Brown website there is a careers tab. So HMBrown.com. Go to the career site and you can get to me through there as well.
Cheri Landin: That’s awesome. Well, thank you for all the information. I think it’s really interesting and like I said a growing trend and I think it’s really wonderful that we have a company like HM Brown right here in our community because it does make the car buying process so much easier for those of us that live here. And second of all, providing opportunities for people in their careers. So I really appreciate your time.
Jason Gilstrap: Thank you for your time.
Julie Steinberger: Thanks for having us.