After working as a sales representative for almost two years at Atlantic Hyundai in West Islip, N.Y., Russell Williamson was ready for more responsibility and the chance to earn more money.
Enter Atlantic Auto Group's new bullpen training program to develop finance managers. Williamson told his sales manager in the spring that he was interested in moving to the finance and insurance department. In June and July, he went through Atlantic's F&I bullpen training classes. By late August, he was shadowing a finance manager at his dealership, and Williamson now is a full-time finance manager himself.
"In a finance manager role, the opportunity is there to make more money," said Williamson, 43, who turned to auto retail in 2012 after working in the construction business. "It's just sharpening my skills. Talking to people at other groups, they don't really have an opportunity to get this kind of training."
Atlantic launched the bullpen program early this year to develop a pool of backups ready to go when any of the 87 finance manager positions at its 22 stores open up. Tapping the showroom floor provides employees who are more loyal, more easily trained and already familiar with the company's compliance policies, Atlantic's top finance executive says.
Having replacements at the ready also motivates existing finance managers to stay at the top of their game, said Frank Pugliese, vice president of finance operations for Atlantic. The Long Island group is part of Staluppi Auto Group, No. 9 on the Automotive News list of the top 125 dealership groups based in the U.S. with retail sales of 60,902 new vehicles in 2013.
"Finding talent was very, very difficult," Pugliese said.
So he asked store general managers to recommend for finance training candidates who have been with Atlantic for a couple of years. Most are from the sales floor, but a business development center employee also has graduated from the program. Classes are held twice a month, and a lot of the training involves role-playing situations that finance managers go through.