Jaison Lee, 39
Director of marketing, AutoNation Inc.
Achievement: Oversaw more than $100 million in co-op advertising reimbursements in 2016, and helped launch AutoNation's brand extension strategy.
Throughout his childhood, Jaison Lee watched his father, a Korean immigrant, tirelessly run a parking lot in the New York borough of Queens and expand his work into a small business.In the parking lot, "I was kind of always around cars and I ended up liking cars when I was little," said Lee.Now Lee is director of marketing for AutoNation Inc., working closely on the retailer's advertising relationship with automakers and its brand extension strategy."My dad was always my role model. I still work hard; that will always be part of me. But not just working hard, but having the opportunity to work on interesting industry-changing challenges is exciting," Lee said.After a few years of automotive experience at Ford Motor Co. and Booz & Co., an automotive consulting firm now called Strategy&, Lee joined AutoNation.He hadn't considered entering the retail business, but "I saw a very talented, experienced group of leaders with a lot of longevity," he said."They had a very strong strategic vision. I could tell they were seriously looking at driving innovation at the retail level. Certainly for AutoNation, being the largest of the public retailers, they had the scale and capability to make that come to fruition."One vision was the brand extension plan, which includes AutoNation-branded precision parts and other gear, plus auto auctions and the AutoNation USA used-vehicle stores.Lee leads project management for the brand extension strategy. "I partner with and support all of the business leaders. My primary role is to coordinate all the key stakeholders to make sure the brand extension growth plan is on track."He focuses on identifying the challenges and getting ahead of them. "It's not just looking at what's directly ahead but looking two or three steps ahead," he said.Lee also helps manage AutoNation's marketing spending and automaker co-op programs. Most manufacturers offer an advertising co-op to their dealerships to help fund regional campaigns. Automakers typically fund dealerships directly or ask dealerships to submit claims for reimbursement. From the corporate headquarters, "we manage the complexity of the different programs and how we can maximize each program," Lee said. "Improving co-op isn't that glamorous, but it's a key component in how we manage our finances."Instead of a general manager working with the automakers, Lee and his colleagues handle co-ops from a central location, partnering with local marketing resources to understand which ads will perform best in each region."Because we're here at corporate, we have the benefit of looking across all of our franchises. So we can say 'Hey, are there best practices for certain dealers that we want to be able to capture for the entire network?'"Last year, AutoNation topped $100 million in co-op reimbursement and captured 93 percent of its eligible co-op funds, vs. 82 percent in 2015. "We want to drive marketing and advertising effectiveness and also cost efficiency," Lee said. "It allows us to do other great things like support cancer research," for which AutoNation has raised nearly $11 million.