You could tell he wanted to stir the pot the second he stepped to the front of the room.
Jim De Luca, president of Digital Road to a Sale Inc., was at the annual BMO Business Managers’ Conference in Niagara Falls a few years ago and was about to address a crowd of around 100 dealership business managers.
Prior to finding himself in this hotel banquet room, he had spent months broadcasting his thoughts on how out-dated the current F&I selling system is both in the pages of Canadian AutoWorld and in other speaking engagements across the country.
He had been arguing the industry needed to scrap the current, confrontational system that pays business managers so well in favour of an omni-channel approach that would have one salesperson deal with the customer from start to finish.
“Who here has read my columns on the current business office process?” he bellowed out without a microphone to the glaring crowd.
Roughly 75 of the 100 hands shot up. I shrunk down a bit in my chair in the front row.
“Who here hates me because of what I have written?”
Nary a single hand dropped.
He didn’t care. He had broad shoulders. He could take it.
Besides, after making a measured and articulate argument over the ensuing 45 minutes, there were more than a few heads in the room nodding in agreement when he was done.
That was Jim De Luca.
A noted sales and F&I trainer and frequent contributor to AutoWorld, Jim passed away suddenly on March 18 while visiting his mother’s house. He had turned 54 just four days earlier.
“He was on the forefront and he always challenged people,” said his business partner and fiancée, Melissa Scott.
“He would challenge people, constructs, process, ideals and the history of how things run because he knew it wasn’t the future and he wanted to make everyone better.”
Jim’s auto career started in the F&I office in 1997. He worked for 10 years as a sales trainer at IA Pacific Life before becoming the national sales trainer for Vehicle Armour in 2009.
Along the way, he worked in countless dealerships across North America to help improve sales volume, profitability and CSI. He would use much of that experience to develop an innovative and transparent sales training and video marketing platform that became his latest venture.
He founded Digital Road to a Sale (DRS) in 2012. DRS delivers a cost effective, video sales initiative that transforms dealership sales models into customer-centric experiences as opposed to process driven transactions.
Steve Allen, former vice-president of sales at DRS, said De Luca was a great trainer and wonderful person who took a lot of pride in his work.
“All he wanted to do was help people succeed at what they wanted to do. It was a really rare quality in a person that would be so driven to help other people with their business. And he really wanted to learn,” Allen said.
To that point, I remember a conversation I had with Jim a few years ago about the future of the sales process. Sonic Automotive in the U.S. had recently launched its One Sonic-One Experience program and he wanted to get my opinion.
“I want to write about it so I think I’ll drive down and mystery shop the store,” he told me.
I said I’d be interested to hear his thoughts but that AutoWorld wasn’t in the habit of sending columnists on assignments like that.
“Don’t worry, I’ll drive,” he told me.
Sure enough, he drove from southern Ontario to a Toyota store in North Carolina just to see what it was all about. During the mystery shop, he revealed who he was and eventually found himself talking to company executives about the program.
That was his talent. His appetite for knowledge opened so many doors for Jim, particularly of late as DRS started to sign new clients both in Canada and the U.S.
“He was one of the most engaging speakers I’ve ever seen,” Scott said. “The room would go silent. He was captivating. He engaged the audience and actually had something to say. He put a tremendous amount of research into everything he did. He wasn’t pulling it out of nowhere. He had a love for the auto industry that was remarkable. All he wanted was to help people and I know he’ll be dearly missed.
Since he hated funerals, his friends and family will celebrate his life on April 7 starting at 4 p.m. at the Royal Canadian Legion branch 164 in his hometown of Hagersville, Ont.
Any riders that want to pay their respects are invited to Jim and Melissa’s home in Port Dover so the group can ride together to the party. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.