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In September, the best sales and F&I trainers in the business will converge in Las Vegas for the magazine’s annual conference. Not being there is a gamble you can’t afford to take.

August 5, 2011

It was two years ago. I was in Orlando for the 2009 F&I Conference and Expo. It was after hours and I was at the hotel bar with "Mad" Marv Eleazer and an F&I manager from Ohio named Jeremy Addis. Because I remain a student of this business, it’s very rare that I’m able to stump you pros out there. But the stars aligned that night.

We were talking about how many products they offer on their menu. Marv focuses on core products and doesn’t venture too far into those intangibles. It’s not that he’s opposed to those newer product categories. He limits his selections because he knows his customers’ attention spans are short when it comes to non-core products. Jeremy holds a similar view.

Key prices were on the rise at the time, so I asked whether they had ever considered key replacement. To my surprise, Jeremy said he had never heard of such a product. It was my time to shine, I guess, as I filled him in on what I knew.

I like telling that story because it’s one of the benefits of coming to our annual conference. Yes, Jeremy picked up a lot of information, but he shared some as well. That year, we invited a representative from the Federal Trade Commission to talk about the Red Flags Rule, and Jeremy gave him an earful. His main complaint was that the rule was a moving target, making it difficult for dealers to know what to shoot for.

Jeremy had a point. And by raising his hand that afternoon, he spoke out on behalf of his industry. Unfortunately, I think a lot of you out there have never had that chance. And that, my friends, is why we created our conference — to give F&I professionals a place to learn, network, pick up new ideas, product information and be part of a community.

Yes, those Web training classes are definitely convenient, but I doubt they can deliver the feeling you get when you’re at our conference. And after being at the helm of this magazine for four years, I know you guys and gals sometimes feel like you’re on an island in your dealerships.

Now, if the 200 respondents to a survey one of our competitors conducted is a reflection of how all dealers feel, then more than half of your bosses believe that the main purpose of F&I training is to sell more products. If that’s the case, then let me tell you why they need you to join us in Las Vegas.

See, last year we made a big change. Knowing that being with us in September is quite an investment, we decided to create an agenda that gave you the best bang for your buck. We cut down on our panel discussions, limited our compliance sessions and began inviting the best trainers in the business to lead more than 20 educational sessions dedicated to helping you move more product.

And just check out some of the names on our agenda this year: George Angus (Team One Group), Luis Garcia (Safe-Guard Products), Gerry Gould (UDS, selected as the top training outfit seven years in a row by Auto Dealer Monthly), Heather Haynes (JM&A Group), Rick McCormick (now with Automotive Financial Services), Ron Reahard (Reahard & Associates), and John Vecchioni (United Car Care).

David Johnson, social media strategist for Next Generation Dealer Services, will be there to talk about social media marketing. He’ll be joined by legal expert Brian Casey, who will talk about the legalities of operating in the social media realm. Jim Ganther of Mosaic International also will be there to provide a dealer’s guide to digital compliance.

Also on the agenda is the magazine’s legal wiz, Michael Benoit. He will provide an update on the Dodd-Frank Act, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau it created and the new rulemaking powers the Federal Trade Commission will assume because of it.

Cory Mosley, the magazine’s "Sales Driver" columnist, returns to talk about new-school training ideas, which I know is important for those of you still struggling with the Internet and Gen-Y era of auto retailing.

And there’s one more surprise: Jim Ziegler will be at this year’s show. Yes, "Da Man" will throw in his two cents about marketing in the digital age. By the way, check out page 38. That’s right, Mr. Ziegler is our newest columnist and he’ll be directing his message to dealers every month going forward.

So, do me a favor. Walk this issue into your dealer’s office and show him or her this page. We’re going to be offering one heck of a program, and I promise you it will be worth every penny it takes for you to get to Las Vegas. See you there.

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