Alison Spitzer isn't sure she'd be where she is today without the Internet.
In 2007, soon after leaving a job in New York City to join the family business, Spitzer saw an opportunity to elevate the dealership group's online presence and went for it.
"I saw our Web site, which left much to be desired, and raised my hand and said, 'What are we doing on the Internet?'" Spitzer said, recalling one of her first meetings at the dealership. At the time, she was an assistant to the general manager. "Everyone looked at me like, 'What do you mean?'"
From there, Spitzer took charge. Over the next few years, she revolutionized the way her family's 108-year-old business approached the Web, making the Internet core to the business' operations.
"I felt very fortunate I got in when I did. Not any earlier or later," Spitzer said.
Among her innovations: She took what was once a single, umbrella Web site for the group's brands and created multiple sites, one for each store. The look was revamped, too, to make the sites more user and search-engine friendly. The changes helped to quadruple traffic.
Spitzer created dedicated positions for online merchandising in each store and established an e-commerce department to oversee Internet marketing, sales and social media. She also forged relationships with other online partners, such as AutoTrader, DealerSocket and vAuto.
The overhaul has helped produce results. In 2010 and 2011, the group's sales grew well over 35 percent year-over-year, Spitzer said. This year, sales are up 20 percent year-to-date, she said.
"We're no longer stores with Internet departments," Spitzer said. "We're Internet dealerships."
During this time, Spitzer also helped her father, Alan Spitzer, lobby in Washington for legislation that would help dealers who lost their franchises during the General Motors and Chrysler bankruptcies. Her family's dealership group had 10 of its franchises terminated.
The legislation, which gave dealers an arbitration process, was passed in 2010. Spitzer Automotive eventually won back eight of its terminated franchises.
-- Christina Rogers