We enjoy any opportunity to shine a spotlight on New Brunswick businesses seeing tremendous growth and success through innovation. We also love discussing the incredible entrepreneurial spirit alive in the province. What a treat it was then to speak with Robert Quirion, Founder and CEO of DealerMine in Saint John.

The conversation was so good we split the interview into two parts. Look for part two on Wednesday where we’ll focus on entrepreneurship in New Brunswick.

Today, Robert gives us the scoop on what the company is offering customers across the continent, and discusses the many advantages the company has seen from operating in New Brunswick.

ONB: Can you give us an overview of what DealerMine is and what it offers?

Quirion: We’re a software company that produces CRM software for auto dealerships. We help dealers manage their customers, and by strengthening those relationships help them generate more repeat business in both service and sales.

We also provide all services that go with that. We have a tech support team, and an account management team that helps ensure customers are getting the most from the product. We also have an outsourced Business Development Centre.

In a typical dealership, the service department is busy with vehicles coming in for service, some with appointments and many without. Calls are coming to service advisors and they’re taking those calls while they have customers in front of them. It’s a hectic environment, particularly in the morning. We remove those calls and send them to a Business Development Centre that we create for them in-house or they outsource to us.

The idea behind the Business Development Centre is to take those inbound calls, listen to customers and respond to their needs, upsell maintenance where needed, and book appointments.

It helps sell, with more work booked for appointments. And your service advisors are relaxed and can offer better attention to customers when they’re in front of them. We’re bringing more volume to the shop because when we’re not booking inbound calls, we’re contacting those who have vehicles due for service and getting them booked too.

When we got into selling to dealers out west in Alberta, we found many couldn’t find people to do these jobs. Our thinking was ‘why don’t they outsource to us and we’ll take care of it?’ We’ll hire someone to work on that dealership here in Saint John. We kept the relationship component intact for the dealers, but it’s outsourced to here. When a customer calls a dealership in say, Calgary, they now get our representative. And it’s always the same rep, it’s not like a typical contact centre where it’s a different rep every time. This is a much warmer type of environment; the reps come to know the customers.

ONB: Your team in Saint John has grown considerably over the past couple years. Last spring it was announced that you’d be expanding even more.

Quirion: Yes. It’s created significant employment opportunities in Saint John. We employ about 170 people in the province now. Of that, about 45 are on the corporate side of the house; they do software development, sales, marketing, training, account management, etc.

The remaining 100+ people are part of the Business Development Centre, people who work for DealerMine but on behalf of dealers. We’ve seen huge success here in the province, no question.

ONB: That’s great! Obviously DealerMine has faith in the skilled workforce of New Brunswick, and that the people will be there for you as you continue to expand.

Quirion: Absolutely. Our best-kept secret in New Brunswick is our people. Turnover is low, particularly in the corporate staff. We’re lucky in that there is good available talent here to go after. In larger markets like Toronto, there may be talent, but they’re always looking for something else given the market size. Here, where the market is obviously smaller, that’s not as much of a problem.

We’ve employed a lot of people in Saint John and Rothesay, but my expansion plans are to go much higher in headcount. As you mentioned, we announced the 135 jobs last spring. We’ve already gotten about 40-50 jobs into that. Our plan is to expand into other New Brunswick communities as well, such as Miramichi and Bathurst.

ONB: So you foresee a tremendous amount of growth, that’s encouraging.

Quirion: Our market is North American car dealers. There’s 18,000 in North America that we can go after, and we have 327 currently. We have a 170 person staff to service those 327. You can imagine when we get 1,000 dealers, then we’ll have about 500 employed, 2,000 dealers means roughly 1,000 employed, and so on.

We know we can do it, because we’re doing it. We’re established now and we’ve got momentum. We’re investing now in sales and marketing, that’s where all the money is going now for the purpose of hitting those big numbers. We want those numbers for two reasons. First, you get yourself into those dealerships and when staff leaves to go work at another dealer, they’ll mention DealerMine. You start to grow even more once you get solid numbers like that. The word of mouth helps you grow organically.

Secondly, this type of growth is good for New Brunswick, and that’s very important to me.

ONB: Are there any other benefits — either geographic or cultural — to operating in New Brunswick?

Quirion: The bilingual aspect of New Brunswick is very important; we can’t get into the Quebec market without it. Since we’re located here, we’ve been able to hire very good bilingual people; trainers, tech support, bilingual sales, and programmers. Because of that, we could build a product that was bilingual and were able to create bilingual documentation and better sell to the Quebec market. We have customers there that don’t speak any English.

ONB: What about our geographic location?

Quirion: The Atlantic Time Zone is crucial to us and that’s because we’re awake before most of Canada, which from a support perspective is awesome. Say we have to do some type of server shutdown or system maintenance; we’ve got time in the early morning to get that stuff looked after. That wouldn’t be as easy if we were out west in Alberta or BC where we’d have to get up quite early. We can come in at a reasonable hour and get that behind-the-scenes stuff done before most of Canada and the US are ready for the workday.

ONB: That’s a significant tactical advantage for sure.

Quirion: Absolutely. Now with the Business Development Centre (BDC), we have signed the largest Ford store in the world in Los Angeles; that company also has the largest VW store and Honda store in North America. They’re all with DealerMine now and use our BDC. People will call from out west, so we will need BDC staff to stay on until 9 or 10pm our time. That’s still not bad because we’re working on dealers’ hours locally. We’ve no need to go 24 hours with BDC staff, which can be costly. We just need to schedule a little later in the evening.

Check out part two of this interview.

Cover image via Flickr.