Kristin Dillard, 35
Partner, Team Chevrolet-Buick-GMC-Cadillac
Achievement: Moved her dealership's entire ad budget to digital, and saw net profits double.
Growing up, Kristin Dillard learned quickly if she wanted to spend time with her father, the dealer principal of Team Chevrolet-Buick-GMC-Cadillac in Salisbury, N.C., she needed to work with him in his store.
Dillard started at the bottom in detail at age 15. She then worked her way through every department, crediting her father for showing her how to be a strong leader. She became the general manager in 2014 and braced the store for the changes ahead.
"We were kind of at the point where we had to change. And it's funny, my dad told me, 'You've got to think outside the box and make this business change,' " Dillard said. "What he meant was some catchy direct-mail thing."
Instead, Dillard axed the direct-mail advertising budget. She cut the TV, radio and newspaper ad budgets, too. She moved the store's entire marketing budget to digital in July 2015.
At first, Dillard said, the drastic change was scary for the "traditional store." She refused to reveal the plan to her dad until she had enough data to prove it worked.
In 2016, the store's net profit more than doubled from the prior year. The shift to digital marketing helped increase sales volume and control costs, since employees could efficiently target in-market customers and measure results.
The share of the store's vehicle sales originating from the business development center, which covers phone and Internet sales, skyrocketed to about 75 percent today from 20 percent previously.
"It was just that constant coaching and keeping an eye out for that goal," Dillard said. "Because at first when you set these goals, they're scary and they're big and you're like, how am I going to get there? And we just kept at it and kept at it."
Dillard's influence extends beyond her dealership. In 2009, she helped start the North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association's Next Gen group for younger dealers and general managers.