LAS VEGAS - As Mark Hogan gets General Motors' new electronic commerce division off the ground, one of his biggest challenges is finding qualified employees.
The problem: Top e-commerce prospects are attracted to up-and-coming Internet companies that can provide highly prized stock options, not automakers offering traditional salaries.
It's the lure of becoming a young millionaire, said Hogan, president of e-GM, which GM launched in August.
Although people are still naturally drawn to the car business, Hogan admits e-GM needs to figure out how to lure the right people. 'We need to get creative in that respect,' he said.
But, for now, Hogan believes he at least has a strong foundation to build on. So far, his core team includes GM insiders and some outsiders:
Lisa Baird, director of strategic marketing. Baird joined GM in January 1996 from Procter & Gamble. She was a regional marketing manager for Chevrolet before joining e-GM.
Katherine Benoit, director of e-sales. Benoit was the brand manager for the Buick Park Avenue and Riviera.
Robert Ciccone, acting director of e-consumer product management. Ciccone was a vice president at consulting firm A.T. Kearney.
Reuben Slone, director of e-dealer sales. Slone joined e-GM from Federal-Mogul Corp.
Richard Lee, director of North American regional e-GM operations. Lee had been the director of GM's fleet business.
The e-GM team is based at GM's old Argonaut Building in Detroit on the same floor that once housed Boss Kettering's engineering labs. Dress around the office is casual, and the office layout is open.
Every day at 10 a.m., the e-GM team gets together to talk about strategy. If someone is away from the office, that person is required to participate in the meeting over the phone.
Hogan wants e-GM to move at Internet speed. 'We realize we've got a large challenge on our hands in terms of not just being successful with e-commerce but helping to be a catalyst for cultural change within the traditional (GM) organization,' he said.
A year ago, Hogan was trying to bring change to GM's small-car operations through a modular assembly project known as Yellowstone. But labor union complaints buried the project. Then, in August, just a few days before GM announced the creation of e-GM, President Rick Wagoner asked Hogan to run the new division.
Although the job offer came as a complete surprise, Hogan said he did understand the importance of e-GM: 'The whole world is moving toward an e-commerce business model. Traditional brick-and-mortar companies have to really change to embrace it, or they're going to be in trouble.'
One of Hogan's first goals is to boost GM's share of the Internet market by bringing a larger percentage of car shoppers to GM's Web sites, including GM BuyPower.
'Today, we're hovering at about 20 percent (of all people using the Internet to research a car purchase),' he said. 'We think that with the right kind of partnerships and alliances, we can double that.'
Currently, GM Web sites get about 4 million visits a month. 'We'd like to dramatically increase that, say, tenfold,' Hogan said.
That also means coming up with a more coherent Internet strategy throughout the company.
'It was being done on an ad hoc basis by individual brand groups and business units,' Hogan said. 'There was a lot of redundancy in site development, software development. People were going in different directions in picking a search engine.'
So far, e-GM is trying to bring more of a global focus to initiatives that already existed.
This month, e-GM will introduce a new version of BuyPower. It also will begin improving BuyPower every 60 days to enhance the site's functionality and graphics, the information and the connectivity with GM's brand Web sites.
At last week's Special Equipment Market Association convention in Las Vegas, Hogan introduced the automotive press to GM's upcoming OnStar Virtual Advisor, another project that had been in the works before e-GM came on the scene.
The Virtual Advisor will provide OnStar customers with audio access to the Internet in their vehicles.