Celebrating one’s silver anniversary is definitely an achievement, but doing so in this market environment is an achievement in of itself. F&I magazine goes one-on-one with Bill Speaks, CEO of NAC, to talk about the company’s milestone, current market challenges, and the road ahead for F&I.

F&I: Not only are you celebrating your 25th anniversary, but you’re also doing so with the same management team in place since the company’s founding. Can you talk a little bit about this milestone, as well as how NAC has been able to keep the same management team pointed in the same direction for that long?

Bill: NAC is proud to be celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and the management team and I believe that the credit goes to the NAC employees and agents for doing their jobs with enthusiasm and excellence. Every NAC employee is brought in from day one with an understanding that in order for success it needs to be a win-win-win situation for all parties involved.

It’s the innovation in the marketplace and the customer service that NAC prides itself on that are the keys to being around 25 years later. It’s playing from the same page in the playbook when it comes to beliefs and ethics in doing business.

F&I: When you started out, the country was just coming out of the 1982-‘83 recession that many experts say mirrors the one we’re in now. What’s your take?

Bill: I believe that the previous recession was not as bad as the current economic situation. Back then, manufacturers were cutting programs to allow for on-going purchases of vehicles. Unemployment rates weren’t as high and people weren’t as scared to spend.

In good times, companies tend to not pay as much detail to the day-to-day details as they do in times like now. Companies that survive will be stronger because they’ve gone back to their beliefs. The strongest companies are the ones who remained debt-free, and I’m proud to say that NAC is debt-free and getting stronger because we’ve stuck to the mission we put forth 25 years ago.

F&I: What do you see as the biggest threat to this side of the business?

Bill: The credit market is the biggest problem. Like auto dealers, the companies that provide F&I products are reliant on credit markets. Our products, in many cases, are financed through the credit market, too. It’s important to have innovative products to offer as a standalone service beyond what finance packages are available. It’s about bundled services that save auto dealers money, thus providing dealers with great value. When they see the value, they save the money. NAC has been providing this innovative idea of bundled services for many years — it’s where the industry needs to go, it’s where we’ve been going since 1984.

F&I: Technology has certainly made its presence felt on this side of the business — particularly on the vehicle service contract business. And NAC has certainly kept up with the trends. So what’s the next step for technology in this segment?

Bill: The next step is offering Internet-based systems that process in real time with a built-in e-commerce solution. It’s providing efficiency and ease of use with built-in marketing tools for dealerships, F&I and sales.

By understanding the needs of our consumers, we can come up with the technology that dealerships need. These products enable dealerships to also educate and train their personnel on the latest compliance and regulatory issues, as well as provide their customers with the services they want. Moving on in the future, technology in the vehicle service contract business will be about integration and bridging systems and technology.

F&I: I’ve heard conflicting predictions on when we might start to see an economic turnaround. Some analysts say we won’t see the beginning of a turnaround until next year, others have put it at the half-way point of 2009. When do you think we’ll see a light at the end of this tunnel?

Bill: We’re just not buying into the recession. NAC’s perspective is onward, upward and choosing not to participate in “the recession,” which is being negativity fueled by the mainstream media. We’re trying to stay positive and see the glass as half full.