Lou Fusz III, 39
Vice president of fixed operations, Lou Fusz Automotive Network Inc.
Achievement: Used data to track core metrics, boosting parts margins
Lou Fusz III recalls greeting his first new-car customer at his family's Saturn store in St. Louis in 1994, when he was 16 years old. "I said, 'I am Lou Fusz. Welcome to Lou Fusz Saturn.' His response was, 'Yeah, and I am Charles Barkley.' So, I just rolled with it. 'It's nice to meet you, Mr. Barkley. What kind of car are you looking for?' "Even though Fusz grew up in the family business and loved cars, going to sports car races with his dad as a child and then working as a lot porter in his early teens, a career in auto retailing almost didn't happen. In high school, Fusz became interested in architecture and was planning to pursue that until he was offered a scholarship at Northwood University, a Midland, Mich., school with a particular focus on auto retailing. The Lou Fusz Automotive Network Inc. has 10 rooftops offering 13 brands in St. Louis, Mo., and one store in Illinois. Fusz runs the $500 million business with his three brothers. He is COO, oversees fixed operations at all stores and heads the group's Buick-GMC store, which was named a Buick Dealer of the Year for 2016.Fusz says success in boosting fixed ops profits comes from hiring the right people, using data to search for areas that need improvement and empowering managers to make decisions. Data-driven changes that Fusz initiated, after setting up a myriad of spreadsheets to track what he considered core metrics, led gross profit margins from parts sales to increase to close to 40 percent from 20 percent previously."We track hours per repair order, gross profits, everything. Biggest thing is leveraging it all. We hold meetings every Wednesday and go through all the numbers with our managers. I'm always asking guys where they need help. We created a culture of accountability. A guy does not want to come to the meeting at the bottom," says Fusz.Though Fusz relies on technology to sharpen his stores' performance, advice his father, Lou Fusz II, gave him still resonates. "In this day and age, technology has taken the industry by storm. More and more people are relying on technology to run the business," he said. "But my father always said this is a people business, it's not a car business. You still have to get out there and talk to your employees and mentor them. You still have to get out there and talk to your customers. It's all about people."