Dealerscope 2020 40 Under 40: Adam Smith, OnPoint Warranty
For a look at the rest of the 2020 40 Under 40 honorees, be sure to check out the 40 Under 40 homepage.
Job Title: Director of Business Development
Company: OnPoint Warranty
Years in Industry: 7
Where You Grew Up, Live Now: I grew up outside of Louisville, KY. I now live with my wife, Joy, in Walton, KY a suburb of Cincinnati
Education: Bellarmine University, a small Catholic university in Louisville, for both my undergraduate degree in History and my Master of Business Administration
Accomplishments: The accomplishment that I am most proud of was achieving territory sales growth year over year the entire time that I was working my sales territory for GE Appliances in New Hampshire and the Greater Boston market. This was a big deal for myself and the company for several reasons. For a year and seven months, our division was in the process of selling to Electrolux. This created a lot of uncertainty for my retail customers and the end consumers, both of which had to be reassured constantly of the state of the company. Then when the sale didn't go through, and Haier, a lesser-known manufacturer, ended up purchasing GEA, I had to reassure both customers and retailers that the GE brand family wasn’t going away. I am proud that I was able to maintain and increase my brand’s sales during times of adversity. In addition, I was also able to grow my territory despite the changing makeup of my customers and geography. During my six years in the Northeast, I went from a $20 million-a-year territory of mostly national account retailers to a $30-million-a-year territory of mostly independent retailers – yet I maintained my strategy of building strong relationships with my customers and being open and honest.
CE Industry Awards: President’s Club Runner up for GE Appliances
What I Like Best About My Job: The thing that I like best about my job is working with a wide variety of people from various backgrounds and industries. OnPoint Warranty as a third-party administrator is able to work across various industries and geographies. I might speak with an OEM from China, a servicer from the Midwest, and a retailer in the Northeast on any given day. It is a privilege to be able to work and learn from so many different industries. It keeps me sharp and gives me a feel for overall market trends.
What I Like Least About My Job: On some occasions I might get a client inquiry for a service that we do not fulfill. It is my inclination to say, “Yes, we can help,” every day. Although we cover and service almost every device in the home, there are products in which we do not offer service. Those conversations are not my favorite.
Pastime/Hobby: One of my favorite outdoor pastimes is playing Ultimate Frisbee. I played it with my youth group growing up and with friends in college. I participated in a well-run league in New Hampshire when I lived there and miss it.
Last Book Read: The last business book I read was “Make your Bed: Little Things that Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World”. It was an easy read that I was able to complete in the timespan of a couple of flights. I recommend it as an inspirational book, reviewing Admiral McRaven’s top 10 life principles.
Favorite Movie: Star Wars. I am a big fan and have been since I was a kid.
Best Concert: The best concert I have seen was Bruno Mars. He and his band were great entertainers. Everyone, even in the stands, was up and out of their seats dancing. My parents, wife, and I had a blast!
My Hero, and Why: My Dad is the person that I think of as my hero. He grew up with little in rural Georgia, farming during his summers in grade school. He went to college to become a pastor but ended up selling VCRs at Circuit City. He worked hard and built a successful business career over 30-plus years. My Dad did make sacrifices to get where he is today, but he was always there when it counted. Plus, he still managed to coach my peewee football team, teach Sunday school, and judge for my debate tournaments, to name a few activities. It has been a pleasure working with him at OnPoint Warranty. I have paid close attention to the way that he handles himself with employees, clients, vendors, and customers who sometimes find his contact information online. He treats others with respect and listens to their thoughts and concerns. It sounds mundane, but it is profound in the sense that many business leaders struggle to do just that. When you can connect with people on a personal level and build relationships, it creates trust that facilitates business growth. We had an employee who came out of retirement to work for OnPoint because my Dad was a founder. I could go on but suffice it to say that I have been blessed beyond measure to have such a father, mentor, and friend.
Favorite CE Product: As a former appliance sales representative, this is a difficult question. My wife and I just bought a house in April, and I have been anticipating a purchase of a 65-inch 4K TV.
If You Could be Anyplace Right Now, Where Would it Be and What Would You Be Doing?: Another favorite pastime of mine is travel. My wife and I have a bucket list of places to visit. New Zealand is high on that list. I would love to be sight-seeing in Auckland and then drive out to see the set of Lord of the Rings where you can drink a beer at the Green Dragon.
Major Industry Problem and How to Fix It: A major challenge of the CE and MA industries is the lack of service availability. We run into this every day when dispatching service for warranty claims. There are fewer servicers out there and many of the existing servicers are aging without a succession plan. That puts the whole industry in a tough position to be able to provide a top-notch customer experience when a servicer is booked out a week. The short-term fixes are using technology solutions like dispatching platforms to optimize the existing network. Another solution is making the existing network more profitable by giving the servicers products to sell that give them more business. For example, OnPoint is offering home warranty reseller opportunities to provide revenue with the sale of the plan, and by running the service calls on what they sell. In addition to selling home warranty products, we are selling services such as smart home product installation and configuration. Servicers that can adapt and offer new types of services will be able to expand and take advantage of the shortage in the marketplace.
The long-term solutions are more difficult and are tied to education and culture. The singular focus of many high school educators on college preparation has left many kids without the opportunity to look at technical or trade schools. As a result, the pipeline of candidates for service jobs is very small, making it very difficult to find people with the proper skills. Another challenge has been that culturally, people are not as interested in working blue collar jobs. Speaking with retailers that maintain their own service department, they tell me that when they try to take on candidates with less experience in an apprentice-type role, that often, the candidate will leave the role after a few weeks. Those candidates were not interested in doing service work. The long-term issues maybe more difficult, but if the major industry players can work together, then the goal of strong service availability for great customer experience can be achieved.
What Makes You Believe the CE Industry Will Thrive in the Next 5 Years: This is a great question. I like the way Warren Buffet puts it when asked about the U.S. economy in the times of COVID 19: “The American miracle, the American magic, has always prevailed, and it will do so again.” Granted that the CE industry is not limited to America, I think that the sentiment can still be true. There will always be challenges like the lack of availability in service I wrote about earlier, but competition and willingness to innovate will drive success. New product lines like robotics or self-driving scooters will create new opportunities for sales and services around them. OnPoint is currently providing warranty support for a supercomputer that will go into data centers for Microsoft and AWS. We have needed to expand our service network to accommodate service on such a technical product. There are robotic arms on this product that automatically change out the server blades when they go down so as not to disrupt service for customers. This is just one example of our business shifting to meet the needs of a futuristic product that didn’t exist in 2019.
Competition in the CE industry is strong. I started my career working with national and independent retailers. When Amazon was making major strides in market share gain, there was the opinion that Best Buy might not survive. Yet, they changed course with price-matching and focusing on Best Buy.com. Now their stock price is at an almost 5-year high coming out of the COVID-19 shutdown. Good competition drives the industry to be better than it is today. I don’t see that changing in the future, even if we have to work from home.