Karris McKie-Kaiser, 28
Internet director, McKie Ford-Lincoln
Achievement: As Internet director, has overseen a tripling of the department's total gross
Karris McKie-Kaiser didn't have to join the family business, but she couldn't stay away.
Her grandfather, Norm McKie, and great-uncle, Rod McKie, established roots in the auto business with a Chevrolet store in Sturgis, S.D., in 1966, before a stint in the Angus cattle industry. In 1979, they acquired what became McKie Ford-Lincoln in Rapid City, S.D.
McKie-Kaiser got her start on the rental side — the family has three Avis franchises — before working at a dealership the family no longer owns as a cashier and receptionist. She worked her way up in the organization, being named Internet director in 2012.
While McKie-Kaiser didn't see herself getting into the car business growing up, she now says she couldn't imagine doing anything else. Her goal is to be in an ownership position with her brother, Matt McKie. The two graduate from the NADA Dealer Academy later this month.
"I think most dealer kids probably say, 'I never wanted to be in the business,' and I'll definitely echo that. I never thought I'd be in the business," McKie-Kaiser said. "I tried some other things, [but] once you get a taste of the car business, you can't let go of it. I want to be a dealer some day."
McKie-Kaiser said her store's digital marketing was still weak when she took over, so she instilled a more proactive strategy in an effort to attract more shoppers.
The store began using geofencing technologies to target buyers in specific locations, as well as equity mining and increased investments in paid search campaigns. The dealership also reaches out to consumers on Facebook to build awareness.
Her efforts have yielded dividends.
The Internet department's total gross went from $500,000 in 2012, when she took charge, to more than $1.3 million in 2016. Unit sales from the Internet department jumped to 574 in 2016, more than double the 261 units in 2012.
"We're very process driven and metrics driven," said McKie-Kaiser, who also serves on the board of the South Dakota Automobile Dealers Association. "I manage by the numbers."
Vince Bond Jr.