A New Beginning…of Sorts
I view starting a new company as similar to childbirth. While some might argue (like my wife) that childbirth is a risky metaphor for starting a new company, I see it differently. Childbirth, and the family building that follows, takes passion, commitment, hard work, pain, and a whole lot of love.
I have two children and I have had three companies: one non-profit, a for profit I sold 14 years ago, and now a new company (which was just “born”) that is called SurgeMetrix.
Although SurgeMetrix opened its digital doors on March 1st of this year, its story has deep roots in the automotive digital space with its ancestor, XIGroup.
I owned and ran XIGroup from 2000-2005. The company provided digital apps for auto dealers, from a CMS and a coupons tool to internet lead and inventory management. We had customers from all over the US, but had an especially strong base on the East Coast. The company was known for its reliable products and excellent customer support.
I sold XI in 2005 to Dominion Dealer Solutions (DDS). Many years passed with me consulting and then being hired by DDS in late 2011 to unify the software teams they purchased around shared best practices and standards.
I succeeded in my work and by 2017 my teams ran well, the software was stable, and usability was improving by the day. I was done. I had created a well-oiled machine and asked to leave in early 2018 to try something new.
By the summer of 2018, I had incorporated a new software company and then in late summer a DDS VP approached me to see if I would be interested in acquiring Dominion Web.
A Smart Choice…or Is It?
When Dominion approached me, I had to think seriously about whether to take over their Web offering. When I started with XIGroup, web sites were a new concept. I would talk with dealers, and they would insist that newspapers and radio were the way to go. We know how that worked out.
Flash forward to today and web sites are a common part of doing business for auto dealers. There are tons of website providers. Most OEMs have established rigid rules for how sites should work, what they should show, and who gets to build them.
I had to think about whether it made sense for me to enter the fray. Dominion Web was not a big player, had no more OEM relationships, but it did have a web platform that, according to Toyota, consistently performed well above average for lead generation. Was that a good enough place to start?
I did my homework and I concluded the following:
- Many dealer websites perform very poorly from Google’s perspective. They are slow to load and thus cost dealers money because of high bounce rates.
- Many dealer websites are overloaded with distractions and shiny objects that corrode lead generation best practices.
- Many dealer websites talk about what the OEM wants, but minimize the local brand. Back in the day, when I ran XIGroup in Baltimore, if I wanted a Toyota, I thought “Jerry’s Toyota” (my apologies to the other Baltimore Toyota dealers). But now, it seems that the dealer’s brand is being consumed by the OEM’s. I don’t think that’s right.
- Dominion Web was a software platform on which I could build a new offering. It was a risk, but it had a good bloodline.
- I missed working with dealers. I enjoyed our successes when dealers were doing well and I loved when my team solved their problems when they were not.
So, after a lot of research, I bought Dominion and decided to:
- Hand pick a small team to be hyper-focused on one goal: helping dealers sell online
- Improve site speed, especially for mobile, as step one
- Work with our customers to solve their problems free of charge when possible
- Redesign our platform so that it was much faster, simpler, and easier to use
- Target dealers who recognize the value of fast easy to use web sites
- Work with my team to develop new laser-focused apps that were very easy to use, help fill the service bay, and keep training time low and manageable
Where are we now? The company is three-and-a-half months old. Over that time, we’ve solved a ton of customer issues, improved our platform, and our first new app has been prototyped, run by a range of dealers with glowing reviews, and is expected out in July.
Crawl, Walk, Run
We started with a crawl, got walking, and are now running hard. In short, we’re rapidly improving this new company. We still have a lot of work to do, but know these three things:
- If you want a company that will be deeply dedicated to your dealership’s success, we’re it. We get that the OEM is important, but your dealer brand is too.
- Our responsive platform is rapidly improving and we’ll give you a mobile site that will maximize your leads with a low bounce rate.
- If you need help, whether you are a customer of ours or not, we will help you. We love customer support!