Modern Dealership’s Interview with Mike Phillips, Digital Marketing & Business Development Executive at McCloskey Motors in Colorado Springs, Operator of Lead The Team, and Creator of “Morning Verses With Mike”
1. You’ve been in leadership roles your entire career, but not always in automotive. How did you get started?
I’ve been in business leadership/management for 26-plus years. I was a business owner – I owned a roller skating rink for 11 years – and now I’ve been in automotive, mostly sales leadership, for just over 15 years. But I was a USA inline hockey coach before that, in the ’90s. And I actually got my start in broadcasting. I was a radio guy in college.
2. Maybe that influenced your popular Facebook Live stream, Morning Verses With Mike (MVWM)? Tell us about that.
Every weekday morning at 6:15 Mountain Time I pick one or maybe two verses from the Bible and expand on it for just a couple of minutes, to get a good start to the day. There’s so much positivity that we have the opportunity to spread. We have a lot of negativity coming at us, and I just decided to start my day differently. And then I wanted to share that with others, maybe help them start their day better too.
3. This is a personal project, not attached to selling cars?
It’s just a personal brand, or a personal sharing of my faith that I wanted to do. It’s part of my journey. I started podcasting in 2010 to satisfy my desire to be on the radio. But then when I became GSM, I didn’t have the time to keep up with it, so I tabled it.
Last year, I relaunched a podcast for my Lead The Team website, which is all about leadership and motivation and growing people. And MVWM came along when I was talking with my wife about going on and sharing my faith. We had just gotten ourselves re-rooted in the church and were re-reading the Bible. I’ve always been a Christian, and I’m very comfortable talking about God and Jesus, but I don’t stuff it down people’s throats. I attached it to my Lead The Team stuff … every day for 30 days, sharing my faith. No production, just going live, here’s the theme, and turning it off. I had several people say, hey, this is cool, I hope you keep doing it. But now I take the weekends off!
4. Any advice for people who want to start doing Facebook Live?
It just takes practice. When I started doing the Facebook Live stuff, I was extremely uncomfortable getting in front of the camera. But it gets easier. My background might have helped. Even prior to being on the radio, I was DJing live to teenage kids at a roller rink on the weekend. If you want a tough crowd, play the wrong song in that group. Talk about heavy judgment [laughs].
Remember that it’s good to have nerves. It’s some level of excitement and it shows you care and want to provide value for people. Like anything, just make yourself do it for 30 days and it’ll become much more comfortable and natural.
5. How did you get into automotive? Did you start at a dealership?
I started at the same dealership where I’m at now. This is the one dealership where I’ve worked for my entire career. I was in a transition phase at the end of 2003, getting out of the roller skating rink and the hockey industry, and the dealership actually recruited me. They thought I’d be good at automotive sales, and I was like, hey, that sounds like fun – I like talking to people, and I love cars. Like so many people in this industry, I kind of fell into it by accident.
I wanted to be as good at sales as possible. With my background as a business owner, I looked at it like, I can run a business within a business. And I don’t have to deal with the employee issues! At the skating rink, I employed primarily teenagers. So you’re not just employing the teenager, but you’re always talking to their parents [laughs].
I did progress – maybe I did have a little bit of an aptitude for management and leadership, so I went from sales into F&I … I’ve worked every position except for writing service.
6. What are you doing now?
Digital marketing and business development. I have a killer team – I have 12 people directly in my charge, and they are absolutely phenomenal. I couldn’t functionally do what I do if I had to micromanage and check on them.
The average time they’ve been with me is a little over four years. They’re all very confident, competent people, who are really good at their jobs. I recently read that “rock star” is one of the most overused terms on social media, but really they are!
7. You have a wide skill set. I noticed that the last skill you have listed on LinkedIn is “Contract Law.”
I actually have been involved in getting some training with the person who does our legal representation for the dealership. It’s another thing I have a bit of aptitude for. Right before I became our GSM, I started reading our contracts front and back, getting some training on it, and spending time with experts in that field, and asking “What is it we need to do with this particular contract?” For example, when a customer concern comes in. I do the responses and the replies to things like the Better Business Bureau. If the Department of Revenue is coming in to check on any of our deals, I’m the liaison so to speak.
I do like to learn new things. But when you’re in the right place and you have the right leadership, like our owners – Joe and Ann McCloskey – they want their people to grow. They stretch people beyond what they’re comfortable with in order to learn and grow. If you can’t get there, they’ll be there to help support you and lift you up to get you there. And to make sure you’re doing it right so that you can be successful at it.
It’s helpful to have an attitude of being teachable and willing to grow. If you don’t get it just right, you have to be OK with getting your ego bruised so that you have the opportunity to grow.
8. In the last six months, I’ve seen a theme of religion, especially Christianity, that’s become a focus of the marketing for sales professionals and trainers. How do you feel about this?
I actually just did a verse on this. I think this has been happening since Biblical times. People use it as an ice breaker because most people, I think, still view the Bible and Jesus as good, so that allows them to shield their true motivator: money. They’re not motivated by spreading what’s good, by spreading love, by doing what’s right – they’re motivated by lining their pockets.
But it happens in every industry, not just automotive. It happens in religion! That’s one reason why many people get turned off. There are as many people in it for themselves as there are those in it for the right reasons.
9. Just for fun: If Jesus were here today, what year, make, model would he drive?
Oh! Ha. He’d probably drive something at least 12 passenger. Probably an RV.
10. Passions outside cars and religion?
I love my family and spending time with them. My wife and I are on a sand volleyball team, the One-Hit Wonders. In traditional volleyball, there are basically three hits: bump, set, spike. We’re not that good. For us, there’s just one hit: get it over the net. So that’s where the name comes from.