Paul Lips has seen a lot of changes in our industry since joining ADESA’s finance department 20 years ago. He’s worked in the office and in the trenches, and has a vast knowledge base about the auction, its processes and its customers.

Recently, Paul shared some thoughts about the industry’s evolution and about his new role as chief operating officer at ADESA.

Which trends/technologies have made the biggest impact on the remarketing industry since the start of your career?

So much has changed over the years. Definitely the internet has had a huge impact: The ability to simulcast the auction made all the difference for buyers. It means being able to purchase vehicles without having to travel. This was such an evolution, and a big jump for the industry.

And buying online increased the importance of the electronic condition report. Dealers buying online could no longer check the cars themselves, so they’ve really demanded a more thorough and standardized process to give them confidence in their purchases. Writing a condition report used to take five minutes and produced one written form.  Now there’s a bigger investment. Mobility meant that it had to be electronic. So everything’s completed on hand-held devices.

Another great development was the industry-wide centralized dealer registration. Giving one membership card for every auction in the industry made it easier for dealers to do business with any auction.

Along those same lines, we’ve seen a trend toward consistent and standardized processes: Customers enjoy the “local flavor” at each auction, but they tend to expect a similar experience at every location. They want delivery of the service to be the same. This was also pushed by the need for compliance, and bigger operations—large consignors and dealership groups—wanted similar forms and fees, without variables that throw their processes off.

What were some of the key lessons learned or takeaways you would share from your time as NAAA president?

My time as president confirmed that the wholesale vehicle auction industry has some of the most service-oriented, committed people you can find. We compete ferociously within our industry but at the same time we are very much one big family: auction employees, auction owners, customers and buyers. We are also very innovative and creative—creative enough to make an auction work in almost any facility. I visited more than 65 auctions in honor of NAAA’s 65th anniversary, and I saw auctions of every shape and size: warehouses, lumber yards, storage facilities, dealerships that were all converted to auctions, some facilities that were “state of the art” in the 80s or 90s, as well as those that are customized to the business as it is today.

I also learned that physical auctions are here to stay. They will continue to evolve and the number of cars sold online will increase, but there will always be a need for auction centers to store cars, inspect them, recondition them and handle the transaction between the buyer and the seller. Technology may automate the auction, but the service and the personal interaction of the auction people cannot be replaced.

In your new role, you’ll be focusing heavily on creating and improving processes. Can you share a little about how this focus will help improve the dealer buying and selling experience?

All of our stakeholders share common expectations of us: transparency, consistency, accuracy and timeliness. As we standardize and automate more of our processes and train our employees, our performance against those expectations should improve. That should also allow our employees to spend more time on customer service and finding solutions for our customers.

When you first joined ADESA, we operated just under 30 auctions. Now, we’re double that size and continuing to grow. How has the business changed with ADESA’s growth?

Growth of our company is exciting to be a part of, but there have been a lot of challenges that come with that.

When we had fewer auctions, everything was manual. Even though we’re bigger, operations are easier in a lot of ways, thanks to technology. There’s more work, but we can work smarter with greater accuracy and efficiency.

We are no longer this small, loose chain of “mom and pop” auctions. The trick is maintaining that local auction feel and those relationships with the dealers while still delivering a consistent product, whether you’re in Boston, Sarasota, Birmingham, Dallas, LA, Kansas City or Portland.

Our company is very large now and that brings new expectations. We have to be agile and responsive to meet those new expectations. That means consistent delivery of services, ongoing training across the business, and standardized policies and processes. We have great people, and we continue to add great people through our acquisitions.  It is important that we give them the tools and train them to exceed expectations.

What do you like to do when you’re not in the office?

I do a lot with my daughters—they’re 13 and 11. And I enjoy biking, running and going to the gym, as well as reading and traveling. Lately, I’ve taken to being less tied down to technology. I try to keep up with emails and other tasks during the week so I can disconnect during the weekend.

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ADESA COO Paul Lips and family