News and Events

Get to know SmartDealerProducts.

Meet the Trainer: Joe St. John

A Q&A with Joe St. John, Director of Training at Innovative Aftermarket Systems (IAS).

Wednesday, September 02, 2015
A&E Agent Entrepreneur

Meet Joe St. John, the director of training at IAS. His passion for the auto industry began when he was just in high school and has only grown since. Get a glimpse into the IAS approach to training that St. John believes in. See why St. John's diverse background and his company's position in the industry puts IAS at the forefront for dealership training.

How did you get your start in the auto industry and how/why did you specialize as a trainer?

At sixteen, I was hustling produce out of the back of my pickup, when the New Car Director at the store my dad worked at asked me if I'd be interested in selling cars. After my first paycheck, I was ruined. I actually remember, during a high school football game, the ref called me over and asked, "son, don't I know you from somewhere?" I responded, "James, I sold you your Tundra!" He was flabbergasted, "you're in HIGH SCHOOL???"

To my parents, higher education wasn't optional, it was mandatory. I went to Oklahoma State University, where I served as student body President and studied abroad at both Cambridge and Oxford. In 2004, I was named a Truman Scholar, and continued my education with a Master's in Accounting from the University of Southern California. I'm also a graduate of the NADA General Dealership Management Academy.

My specialization as a trainer really comes from a unique perspective derived from my distinct position at a cross roads between the car business and academia. On top of my vast front line experience, from Salesperson to General Manager, I was also a top rated lecturer in the Marketing Department at OSU, teaching Professional Selling and Sales Management to non-traditional college students. This helped me leverage the best techniques in modern higher education to help students have higher material retention and executable skills. My passion is translating tough concepts into digestible components that connect with my audience. I genuinely love repositioning ideas in order to spark students to develop new ways of attacking "real world" problems. I aspire to inspire, especially when it comes to unlocking results. I believe so strongly that the car business can be a path for many people to a better future for their families because I'm living proof of it.

What areas in F&I do you focus on with your training?

In F&I training, we focus on developing skill sets that translate to real results. We recognize that the F&I numbers on the financial statement are the result of specific behaviors that happen in the microcosm that is the F&I office. Our F&I training maximizes the probability of positive outcomes within this office. We strive to raise the profitable penetration with truly value added solutions to the end user. We do so in a way that is incredibly efficient and customer friendly. Being fast, being effective, and being customer positive is not mutually exclusive, in fact, in our training it's simply the process.

Why should an agent call you for a training assignment?

The agent that would call us is the agent that is invested in the complete success of their dealers, from BDC to salespeople and from sales managers to F&I. That is where our strength genuinely lies. If an agent is happy with the status quo, and content with the way things are, then our training offerings might not be a good fit. If an agent is looking for real competitive advantages and values a partner that is relentlessly pursuing improvement, a partner that never settles, if they truly want to be on the cutting edge, as pace setters of our industry, then we will be perfect for them.

What are the top three messages you try to give at each of your training session?

The main thing we focus on immediately during training, is challenging students to understand that changing is not only necessary, but good for them. For them to understand this, we have to really zero in on the reasons for them changing being their own. Secondly, we help them to understand that what they're learning is key to making their own situation better and advancing their career. And finally, that if they commit the right time, effort, and focus to what's being taught, they can immediately apply these skills to their specific situation.

What changes in the industry do you foresee that will impact your training the most over the next few years?

The only consistent thing about our business is that it's consistently changing. Outside of the constant rumblings about the CFPB threatening rate participation, the current hot topic is billionaires entering the retail dealership business. These extremely deep-pocketed companies have the ability to start and win wars of attrition against their small undercapitalized competition.

The biggest factor impacting F&I has nothing to do with these two things. The biggest thing impacting F&I training is that we are currently enjoying a warm fuzzy period of false security. This is the easiest environment to succeed at F&I ever. Interest rates are incredibly low, terms are the longest ever, and banks are giving huge carries. According to many sources, rates will increase by four to five hundred basis points by 2018. Combine that with contracting terms and lower carries, and the current profit center of most dealerships may well become the overwhelming sucking sound of dollars being removed from the bottom line. Our training prepares our partners with incredibly tight systems and processes, so when forces destabilize the industry, they are in a position of power instead of weakness. Our clients will be able to seize this opportunity to grow their enterprise, and those that aren't prepared will evaporate into the history books.

Tell us about yourself and the kind of activities, hobbies, and interests you pursue outside of training.

The driving force behind everything I do is my family. We enjoy a vibrant life filled with music, food, and being outdoors. In free moments we head to the woods to camp, hike, hunt, fish, and forage. We love live music, and in our house, there is always something playing. If we aren't preparing delicious meals at home, we're always seeking that perfect ephemeral dining experience.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Training is way more than a job for me. It's incredibly personal. Everything I have, the degrees on my wall, the experiences of my childhood, the life I've been so blessed to enjoy; can be traced directly to the automotive retail industry. Helping our front line be the best prepared they possibly can is simply my way of giving back to an industry that has given so much to me and my family.

About IAS

Innovative Aftermarket Systems (IAS) is the leading provider of F&I aftermarket programs to automotive dealerships. IAS offers a variety of products including, GAP, Invisible Phantom Footprints, Theft Avert, Super Polysteel, The Preferred Difference, R.O.A.D. InTire, among others. Additionally, IAS' flagship software suite, SmartDealerProducts, provides revolutionary F&I software solutions for dealerships and their customers. IAS' training department, SmartDealerUniversity, provides ongoing training and feedback to ensure continued penetration, ethical presentations and increased profits for IAS dealership customers. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, IAS has hundreds of certified agents throughout the United States and provides technology solutions and aftermarket products for many of the top-100 dealer groups. For more information, please visit