On December 21st, news had spread that the man behind what we do in this industry today, respected industry legend Ralph Paglia, has passed away. As I write this article, I am saddened by our loss, but I am thrilled with what it left us. He left us the blueprint that changed the entire automotive industry from a digital marketing perspective. Everyone in this business knows the name Ralph Paglia and has been influenced in one way or another by his size. For me, Ralph Paglia was much more than just a mentor and an industry icon who helped me reach this point in my career. Ralph was my friend.
Ralph was a friend of all of us. He and ADM were once partners in Dealer Marketing Magazine. Although there are many honors for Ralph on other platforms, I decided to give my own for this magazine. Every year around this time, I take time to think about my career in this industry and evaluate what I’ve done right and what wrong. I think of the colleagues who helped me get to where I am. As I am celebrating my eighteenth year in the auto industry, I remember not meeting Ralph until six years after my career. I was young, got up a few years after I was 30, and had successfully sold cars and headed the Internet Sales / BDC departments.
I was looking for advancement in my career and a way to brand myself. Ralph Paglia will be there with his social network specific to the automotive industry. It was called “Automotive Digital Marketing” or “ADM”. The best of the best would join the website and provide content, articles, videos, and chat rooms devoted to different aspects of the business. Ralph was pioneering social media marketing for the industry at the time, working for ADP (now known as CDK). He was fresh from Courtesy Chevrolet in Phoenix, AZ, where he was in charge by building an Internet / BDC division that sold more units per month than, in most cases, three dealerships average today. That was fifteen years ago.
Ralph Paglia was a living legend who studied all aspects of the industry and was the greatest treasure trove of knowledge I have ever come across. Shortly after becoming a huge blogger at ADM, I met Ralph at my first conference, The Synergy Sessions 2009 in Atlanta. We became good friends and bonded at events or when he visited my area. Ralph pioneered the way vehicles are sold today. I remember going to a conference with Ralph where various subjects were being discussed. The man had an answer for everything. We all have specialties that we are good at. Ralph wasn’t good. He was great … in everything!
I later ran a BDC for a single point Nissan dealer and was successful in implementing much of what he taught me. As a management consultant and trainer, I know and do a lot based on the proven lessons we have drawn from the man we call the “godfather of digital automotive marketing”. He has done serious OEM implementations, developed social media strategies, facilitated dealer meetings for OEMs, and managed dealers. Ralph Paglia was the real deal. What Ralph has done for my career was empower me by applying, giving me a place to express myself and knowledge online. I hope that by the age of sixty I am at least 30% as well informed as Ralph.
Without Ralph, I would never make myself known in the industry. Without Ralph, I would never have become a speaker or a writer. More importantly, I would never be who I am professionally and personally today if it weren’t for Ralph. I would like to think that Ralph is up there celebrating the greatness he brought into this world. Rest in peace my dear friend. Thank you for what you have given us all.
Stan Sher has over 18 years of automotive experience. He started as a sales consultant and moved to management roles such as BDC Manager, Internet Director, Sales Manager and General Sales Manager. He is the founder of Dealer eTraining, where he provides training and advice focused on helping dealers improve sales processes. He also currently serves as Chief Operating Officer at Dealer Retention Services, an automotive outsourced BDC company that helps dealers “manage less and sell more” using their existing database. Stan is a student in his field who reads often about business and develops skills in marketing, operations, management, sales, and recruiting.