Joe Lukich, 36
Strategic variable operations director, #1 Cochran
Joe Lukich “knew nothing about automotive,” but he brought sales and customer service experience to #1 Cochran when he joined its phone and Internet sales department 11 years ago.
Drawing on that sales background, he “got really efficient” was able to refine the department’s processes.
“When you come in with fresh eyes ... you get an opportunity to do that,” he said.
Lukich performs a similar evaluation as strategic variable operations director — a job created for him by #1 Cochran, based in Monroeville, Pa. He runs the numbers and hunts for ways to improve cost efficiency, market share and growth.
The former salesman acknowledged it seemed “callous” in a business focused on people. But it can also be necessary for a business. Case in point: Lukich said he loves reality shows such as “Bar Rescue” in which a struggling company is confronted with the reality of necessary metrics.
“What we try to apply is the non-emotional approach on a valuation on any little cause-and-effect within our business model,” Lukich said.
He learned how to manipulate data out of necessity, when he was working with a “very bad” customer relationship management system. It forced him to download and work with information himself.
At the time of the Automotive News interview, Lukich said he was “in a deep-dive Excel sheet” examining scheduling. Historically, the concept was driven by a manager simply declaring, for example, “I need 10 guys,” Lukich said.
Drawing on CRM data, he could evaluate what times business arrived. Perhaps eight employees would be enough if scheduled correctly, which meant more employee income and reduced downtime and costs, he said.
Lukich also looks at larger business initiatives. He recently started a virtual finance department and a mechanism for fully online sales.
The virtual retail system launched this year and posted 20 car deals in slightly less than 10 weeks — completely incremental revenue, according to Lukich.
Virtual finance arose out of COVID-19 but grew to new uses, and today, it’s on track to yield $1.5 million in additional gross. In addition to its role in #1 Cochran’s virtual retail, the format let remote F&I managers fill in for absent ones and provided an alternative to using unqualified delivery personnel.
Change can be difficult. Lukich said he deploys the same relationship skill he used on customers as well as the data itself to make his case.
“A lot of it is surfacing information that helps them to believe it is real,” he said.
— John Huetter