If Tony Long seems like a workaholic, it’s all well and balanced, since he enjoys the full range of his work as executive director of the International Automotive Remarketers Alliance.
Since the IARA hired him in 2013, Long has seen his role expand along with the alliance. In addition to his core duties as an executive director, Long has devoted more time in recent years to increasing membership and working with committees.
“I naturally serve as a central point of contact for members, committees, board members, prospects, and other associations, so you can get that one urgent call or email that just stops everything,” Long said. “New members and projects keep the job interesting, and you never know what the next ‘big thing’ is going to be.”
Long credits the many volunteers for IARA’s growth and successes, but he is quick to point out the key contributions of two IARA staff members, Kim Glasscock and Kim Hunt. Glasscock is an independent contractor who has helped the IARA for most of its history, but her role has expanded to co-chairing the IARA Marketing Committee.
The most recent addition has been IARA systems and communications administrator, Kim Hunt. She manages the associations online software system, which hosts its website, mobile app, learning center, and events system. Her other duties include managing member and external communications. “Both Kims do a great job, and this allows me to devote more time to management of association business and coordinating the efforts of our many volunteers,” Long said.
Long also has gained a lot of insight and perspective serving under five uniquely different presidents. “My role must evolve with each new president,” Long said. “I try to adjust what I do to fit their individual styles of leadership. My job is to help them achieve their goals and be as successful as possible.”
Committees Define the Last Five Years
Long attributes most of the IARA’s accomplishments to the various committees during the last five years. Among his observations:
The Standards Committee has worked closely with the National Auto Auction Association (NAAA) on arbitration and other common issues to further strengthen the bond between the two associations. Years ago, they established an auction audit checklist — a template to help auctions develop their own compliance programs — which they turned over to the Compliance Committee for recent updates.
The gains and improvements in the IARA’s Certified Automotive Remarketer (CAR) program have made it a gold standard in the industry, with many corporate partners adopting it as part of their training. CAR certification also has become part of the Auction Academy curriculum, with their students graduating as CAR certified. The IARA recently released a version for Canada that already has more than 30 CAR grads.
The Canadian Committee, which Long says was still relatively new when he was hired, has been a bright spot in the Alliance. They hosted the association’s first international conference during this timeframe, and continue to expand their unique educational opportunities for members north of the border.
The Technology Committee helped the IARA implement its online software, which automated many processes. The committee is now involved in the new e-vehicle initiative, and it will continue to address new technologies (and the challenges those will present) in the remarketing industry.
“The association management system that was implemented in 2017 has driven efficiencies and helped spur all-time highs in membership and revenue,” Long said. “It made it easier for people and committees to interact with us and with each other. It helped us get more people involved with the committees.”
As a result, the IARA has added four new committees and converted one subcommittee (certification) into a standalone committee during Long’s tenure. The alliance has doubled the number of chairs and committee members in that same period.
“We know engaged members will attend events, participate in training initiatives, and attract new members. When sponsors began seeing the alliance step up its game with meaningful content, they responded with monetary support. This all plays a crucial role in IARA’s membership and revenue growth.”
The Big Disruptor
As was the case for most American businesses and industries, the global pandemic proved a defining and consequential development for the IARA and the industry it serves. Long praises the IARA’s executive leadership for reacting quickly to meet the challenges of the pandemic environment.
“After the positive results we had with some free webinar presentations, President Paul Seger and incoming President Jeff Bescher worked with the board and committees to pursue virtual options. They commissioned the marketing committee to identify companies that offered platform options. Kim Glasscock and Kim Hunt worked with the selected company to create a full-scale virtual event that replaced the 19th annual Roundtable and it was a huge success.”
With vaccinations available and a lull in the pandemic, the timing was perfect to return to a physical conference for the 20th Anniversary Summer Roundtable, and that provided an opportunity for members to reconnect in person. It turned out to be one of our better attended conferences of all time.”
When asked if there were any take-aways from the pandemic period so far, Long responded, “I think the response from attendees opened our eyes as to how important this organization really is, how we need to be prepared, and how hungry this industry is for more information and connectivity regardless of the situation.”
Trends & Changes Ahead
The pandemic served as a course correction with enhanced opportunities for the alliance and remarketing industry. Long sees some key changes shaping up:
In a more volatile and unpredictable marketplace environment, auctions and logistics companies need to know specific forecasts so they can strategize and budget, and the consignors need to learn of any mitigating factors from the service providers that may influence their remarketing decisions.
Data analysis has become more sophisticated, and everyone is seeking more information. Algorithms that can be used to automate remarketing decisions. Sellers and buyers can’t be at every live auction or online venue, so AI and technology are used to help the process.
A big topic looming in the years ahead is the transition to electric and autonomous vehicles. “We know all this is coming, sooner rather than later, so how prepared will everyone be?” Long said. “The IARA will continue to play a lead role in establishing best practices for the handling and remarketing of these vehicles.”
Given the sheer number of vehicles in each member’s portfolio, and the associated data involved in each transaction, the increase in data can be used to adjust to change and make more highly informed decisions.
“The unknowns of the economy and industry are always the challenge, but the IARA is a very nimble organization headed by respected leaders who can address and guide the industry through the challenges that electric vehicles will present,” Long said.
An Auction-Consignor Connection
One of Long’s unique qualifications is having served as a president of the NAAA in 2003-2004. It highly complements his current role.
“My many years of involvement with the NAAA was great preparation for my role with the IARA,” Long said. “At NAAA I started as an observer and then got involved in committee work, so that formula works for both associations. That involvement led to my selection to regional and national boards and to being elected president at both levels.”
While Long served as president, the NAAA did not have an executive director, but the search committee he chaired hired Frank Hackett, who helped establish their scholastic foundation at the same time.
“Then and now, it’s about people,” Long said. “If you build strong relationships, inside and outside your organization, and engage people with a vision and projects that make a difference, good things will happen.”
Long received one of the industry’s most prestigious honors on Aug. 24, 2021 from the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association, which was holding its annual convention and expo one block from the site of the IARA Summer Roundtable in San Antonio. Long became the 32nd and newest member of the NIADA Ring of Honor, considered the NIADA’s highest award for non-dealers, as reported by Auto Remarketing.
The NIADA recognized Long for being a leader and innovator in the remarketing industry. The Ring of Honor elevates allied industry leaders who have contributed to the professionalism and growth of the automobile industry through outstanding performance and leadership, according to Auto Remarketing.
Deep Industry Roots
Long, who says he was born into the automotive business, can draw on a lifetime of experiences spanning many aspects of the sector. His earliest memories were of his Dad selling cars at, or managing, franchise stores.
“Dad then owned some used car lots, and I remember going with him to a small two-lane auction near where we lived. I was too young to really be inside the auction lanes, and I thought I was at the circus! Auctioneers were wearing cowboy hats and I couldn’t understand a word they were saying. Ringmen were almost dancing in the lanes as they solicited bids. It was smoke-filled and loud, but exciting.”
His father taught him when he was old enough to drive how to wholesale some of his trade-ins. As a young adult, his first job was selling cars at Twin City Buick. “Then Dad built an auto auction, and shortly after, he bought the little two-lane sale I had visited as a young kid. He hired me to run it.” Later they merged the two locations and expanded the main operation. “I focused on commercial accounts, and we had a great 20-year run until Dad contracted Alzheimer’s. We lost him a little over 12 years ago.”
After that hardship, Long spent the next four years establishing finance programs for Credit Acceptance with many of his past auction customers. Then he got a call from someone about IARA needing a new executive director.
Among Long’s most rewarding challenges is constantly trying to raise the bar. That means finding ways to top previous successes and never rest on any laurels.
“I’m blessed to have so many talented members and leaders around me, and they should get all the credit when I look good at what I do,” he said.
Long’s wife, daughter, and son-in-law are high school teachers, which enables Long to appreciate what they see in students who have that “aha” moment. “When companies and individuals realize what we can achieve working together, it really is rewarding. We all aspire to be part of something bigger than ourselves.”
What Leisure Time?
In the last anniversary issue, Long talked about his dormant golf clubs and neglected bass fishing boat. Has anything changed?
“I don’t golf much anymore, but I still get out on the occasional weekend to catch a few bass. I guess I’ve become a bit of a workaholic, but I really enjoy what I do.”
Long walked his daughter (and only child) Kristen down the aisle last summer at a destination wedding in Savannah, Ga. With that behind them, his wife Denise decided they needed to do more “glamping” in the new RV she had recently picked out. “I guess we will try to spend a few of more of our vacations outdoors. I think my wife purposely tries to select camping sites that have no internet or cell service so I will leave work back at the office. Oh well.” ■
Note: This article appeared in the IARA 20th Anniversary Commemorative Issue published in November 2021.