Some CEOs take the reins and look to do makeovers, but new DealerSocket chief Sejal Pietrzak has no plans to clean house.
Pietrzak (PEE'-eht-rah-zak), 45, believes former CEO Jonathan Ord, who remains on DealerSocket's board, left a strong foundation. The company has its hand in customer relationship management software along with digital marketing, fixed operations tools and digital retail.
Pietrzak took the helm in late August. She comes to DealerSocket from ACTIVE Network, an online event registration and management software company. Before that, she held leadership posts with Wells Fargo & Co. and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. She also was a strategy consultant at Boston Consulting Group.
Staff Reporter Vince Bond Jr. spoke with Pietrzak this month about her immediate goals, the future of online retailing and the possibility of DealerSocket offering a dealership management system for franchised dealerships, as it does for independent dealerships.
Q: How did your time at Wells Fargo and elsewhere prepare you for this post?
A: Throughout my career, I have been involved with and loved software. That in and of itself, being in a software company and having leading technology and creating best-in-class software, is a key priority for us. That fits very nicely with everything I've done throughout my career.
What are your immediate goals?
We're not changing the strategy of the company. What I'm focused on over the next six to 12 months is continuing to help us grow and focusing on operational excellence in every part of the business. Within our service and customers' experience, within all the processes that we have within talent development. So internal employee engagement and creating even more training programs for our employees so they can service the customers better and create progression in their own careers.
And continuing to build innovative software, managing the present of what's needed in the industry today, but also innovating for the future. Adding all of those together, those are really the focus areas
What are some strong points at the company that you'd like to build on?
Coming into the organization, I've been really excited. I'm lucky to be inheriting an incredible team at every level. The team here at DealerSocket loves our industry, loves our customers and loves the company and really shows that level of passion every day. You're lucky to be inheriting that kind of team because that's not always the case when you look at different companies. The people are the foundation of everything at DealerSocket.
We're in an exciting market that has a significant opportunity to grow. The industry is looking for innovative and best-in-class technology. We have the ability to offer that. The third thing is all the customers I've spoken to so far are loyal customers who have appreciated the foundation on which DealerSocket has been built. That's a great thing to come into as well.
Are there any weak points to address?
As companies grow -- and grow quickly, as DealerSocket has -- there's opportunities to look at operational excellence at every level. As I came into the organization, thinking through how can we constantly have our customers at every meeting. Meaning, they may not be sitting in our meeting room, but as we're talking about a product we're releasing, or an innovation in the industry or we're talking about how we onboard and support our customers — every time we're thinking about our process or what we're doing operationally across the business, bringing in that mindset of what would the customer say about this? How does that experience for the consumer improve with this new idea? That's something that we've started focusing on in a much bigger way, an explicit way, in every meeting, in every discussion.
I've shared that with customers that I've met with, and they appreciated that customer-first view. I wouldn't say that was a weak point before, it's just something we're really focusing on in the future, and now.
What is DealerSocket doing to keep up with the growth of digital retailing?
Consumers are looking to do more of the [buying] process online. We want to create an even greater level of trust between our dealers and consumers. We have a product called Precise Price, which ties into desking and provides accurate pricing up front to the consumer and fully ties into and seamlessly integrates into our CRM and gets into the DMS as well. The great thing is that supports our consumers and dealers. That launch is really innovative and is going to take us to that next step of digital retailing.
Does DealerSocket plan to offer a DMS for franchised dealerships?
I don't know yet. I know that our strategy is to be a platform player. How we go after the DMS space -- buy, build or partner -- is yet to be confirmed. There's merit in each one of those opportunities. That is something we continue to look at.