Where in the World Is Your Finance Penetration?

Way back in 1971, C.P. Snow wrote about technology in the New York Times. He said, “Technology… is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other.”Many dealers are voicing that sentiment these days. Far too few have done anything about it. Some have learned to use computer software with skill. They use the apps on iPhones, iPads, and Blackberries. They have created an effective Web site. They use Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn for social networking. For others, these are merely words and technologies that test their ability to conduct both business and their private lives. Dealers, already feeling the brunt of the two-plus year recession and massive changes in the car industry, are becoming increasingly concerned about their ability to not only keep up, but to even remain in the playing field.Why should dealers bother with such things? Isn’t the old way good enough? Nope!Customers who always shopped on the lot are now shopping on the Internet before they take a step toward a dealership. They’ve researched every model in their price range and with the features they want. They’ve read a dozen articles about how to get the best deal. They’ve become more savvy than many sales people hired by dealerships; they know their credit score; they know where they can find the best price on insurance, window tinting, undercoating, you name it. Everything once sold to them by a finance officer from the menu is for sale on the Internet.Are you one of the dealerships where handwringing has become a daily pastime? Have you taken a close look at your bottom line? Have you noticed what would happen to your finance portfolio if you removed your sub-vent rated and nonprime customers? Have the numbers of your prime-financing customers dwindled to an all-time low? Perhaps you haven’t seen the drop in your captive financing yet, but beware, it’s coming just as surely as the first snowstorm.Snow was right, back in 1971! The Internet can either become a beacon for drawing in more satisfied customers to your dealership and vastly increase your bottom line, or it can stab you in the back. It can be your best friend or your worst enemy. How?Statistics show that 80% of car customers go online before they make the decision to buy and before they come to your dealership. What are they researching? Brands, models, features and, most of all, prices. Most of all, prices. The majority of Americans in today’s economy are deeply concerned about their budget. They have a fixed amount to spend on a car payment and all the other expenses involved in owning it. The vehicle they choose must fit within that fixed figure. They cannot afford to buy on whim or to make a careless mistake. They won’t take the chance of being bamboozled into buying things they don’t want, don’t need, and can’t afford by a fast-talking sales or finance mangerWhere do these savvy customers get their information? One of their first sources is Edmunds, the friendly consumer-shopping guide. Edmunds has never been and still isn’t the dealer’s friend. Edmunds does whatever is necessary to achieve the sale on vehicles and products from the Internet shopper… and then refers these buyer to specific retailers to obtain a fee! Banks. Finance companies. Insurance companies. You name it.Don’t let them get a strangle hold on your customers! If you haven’t already checked this article on Edmunds.com, perhaps you should do so right now!Confessions of an Auto Finance Manager In the Back Rooms of America’s Car Dealerships By Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor and Nick JamesIntroduction”Congratulations, you’re getting a great deal!” the car salesman says, pumping your hand. “Let’s sign the paperwork and you’ll be on your way in your new car!”At first you’re relieved – the negotiating is over. But then the salesman walks you down a back hallway to a stark, cramped office with “Finance and Insurance” on the door. Inside, a man in a suit sits behind the desk. He greets you with a faint smile on his face. An hour later you walk out in a daze: The whole deal was reworked, your monthly payment soared and you bought products you didn’t really want.What happened to your great deal?You just got hit by the “F&I Man,” also called the finance officer. He waits in the back of every dealership for unsuspecting customers so he can increase the profit for the dealership and boost his commission.In this four-part series, written by veteran auto finance manager Nick James, you will learn the F&I man’s tricks and how to avoid them. When you’re done, you’ll be ready to safely navigate this crucial part of the car buying process, and the F&I man will never work his “magic” on you again.- The Editors at Edmunds.comAre you still ushering your customers into the office of your “F&I Man”? No? You have a Web site? You update it once a month? You have a tech-savvy employee who checks your e-mail messages every morning? BUT… how would you answer these questions?When your potential customers come to your Web site, what resources do you have available to steer them away from online financing? Do you have a quick reference guide for their buying the vehicle that fits their budget and your financing terms? Is the information presented in a complete, forthright and friendly manner? Does it enlist confidence and trust? Will readers feel they’d get a no-nonsense financing deal from you?If these online customers make a call to ask a few questions, does your finance manager answer them, or resort to the former game of “I can only reveal those options when you come in for an interview”? Does he or she become discouraged by the process of reviewing transactions over the phone? Does your Internet manager have direct access to your finance manager at all times; avoid posting rates and product pricing on your Web site; work well with your sales and finance departments? Have you utilized the I-chat technology now readily available to instantly answer your customers’ finance questions? How many phone calls to your finance department go unanswered on a daily basis? How are online customer calls being handled in your F&I office?Reducing your finance penetration will not only effect the overall performance of your dealership, but will negatively effective your reinsurance investment. If your customers are financing with someone else, they could also be buying their other products. Take a long and serious look at the insurance products you sell, the agent who works with you, and the changes that must be made to keep you competitive with the technology available to all your customers. You must remain competitive in products offered, their quality, and their prices. Should you be considering a new partner?What new and creative processes are you providing your current and potential customers within your Web site? Have you considered presenting your menu as a virtual finance manager? Do you have WebEx with a preloaded menu available for review with your customers whether they are onsite in your finance office or sitting in the comfort of their home? Why not?An upfront sales approach is the best way to reestablish a thriving business in today’s technological world. Teenagers and college students are facile in the use of every conceivable tool involving the information highway. They are your future customers. They will find Edmunds and every comparable site and use the information to their advantage. Provide them with a dozen reasons to buy their vehicle and products from your dealership. Ensure them that financing their dream car with you is the only sensible choice.Although computer use and Internet technology has been around for several decades, it has taken a giant leap in recent years as more and more consumers realize they can save themselves time and money by letting their fingers do the walking. Another great American journalist, Sydney J. Harris, who wrote for the Chicago Daily News and later the Chicago Sun-Times, died in the late 80s; but, he was savvy about where technology would take us. He said, “The real danger is not that computers will begin to think like men, but that men will begin to think like computers.”We’ve reached that point. Where in the world is your finance penetration? It’s time to find out! Do it… today.

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Travel Italy – Highlights of Italian Art and Architecture

Every year millions of visitors trek through Italy in search of ancient culture, great food, art, architecture, and more. The allure is immediate even to those who have never been.There is more art and architecture to see in Italy than one person could possibly
experience in a lifetime. Rome, Florence, and Venice alone offer an unending array
of design excursions. Highlighted here are some of the must see designs of both
ancient and modern Italy. Talk a trip, bring a sketch book, and see the gorgeous art
and design that is synonymous with Italian life.The Coliseum – An architectural marvel, the coliseum was built beginning
in 72 A.M. Originally used as a source of entertainment (usually forced barbaric
combat) the Coliseum is still an amazing site. Strangely, although it could be
considered a source of embarrassment of the past, it has been come to known as
one of the ultimate icons of ancient Roman greatness. Location: the Piazza del
Colosseo, Via dei Fori Imperiali, RomeVatican City – This tiny country is perhaps one of the most remarkable
aspects of Rome. Vatican City is the heart of Catholicism, both spiritually and
politically. St. Peter himself was crucified on this spot, and St. Peter’s basilica was
built directly above the ancient hill. Both the Basilica and St. Peter’s square are still
studied today in architecture and art history classes. You can wander the Vatican
Museums for days, including a visit to the Sistine Chapel, to see some of the true
masterpieces of Roman art. Location: Entry through Saint Peter’s Square, RomeIl Duomo (The Cathedral of Santa Maria Dei Fiori) – Il Duomo is considered
by many to be the grandest achievement in Renaissance architecture. The octagonal
dome, originally designed by Brunelleschi was the largest in the world when built.
Since then, Il Duomo , which took nearly six centuries to complete, has become
Florence’s symbol. Climb the 414 steps of the bell tower, and Renaissance Florence
will be laid before you. Location: Piazza del Duomo, Florence.Piazza San Marco – Piazza San Marco is still studied today by architects
and urban planners as one of the most beautiful and successful public squares. The
square is surrounded by cafes, shops, and of course the Campanile and St. Peter’s
Basilica. Visitors and locals alike sip espresso in its cafes, meet to talk, and climb
the Campanile to see an amazing view of Venice. Location: Piazza San Marco, with
the Basilica at the wider end, Venice.The Peggy Guggenheim Collection – In a city world renown for its
ancient art and architecture, the Guggenheim Collection houses one of the greatest
collections of modern art. her collection includes works by Pollack, Picasso, Klee,
Rothko, Chagall, Mondrian, and more. There is also a gorgeous sculpture garden
housing even more works. Location: Calle Venice dei Leoni, Dorsoduro, Venice.The Brion Vega Cemetery – The Brion Vega is considered one of Carlo
Scarpa’s masterpieces. Scarpa was and still is often considered the premier modern
Italian architect. The memorial is a great concrete and landscaped form if rectilinear,
stepping, and sculptural concrete elements. It is an amazing pilgrimage for the
architecture buff. Location: San Vito d’Altivole.You can wander Italy for ages and never take in all of the art and architecture. Still,
the sites listed above are some of the must sees for lovers of art, architecture, and
travel. Open your eyes and see the Italian design that has been around for centuries,
and that which continues to flourish today.

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What Subjects Do I Need to Study to Become a Palaeontologist?

Parents and Guardians Enquire About PalaeontologyMany children have a fascination for fossils and extinct creatures. Some children, girls as well as boys, become obsessive about dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. They love finding out facts about these creatures and learning all about them, as a result, they begin to show an interest in studying science subjects at school. Many parents and guardians are keen to encourage this interest and our teaching team are often asked what school subjects students should take in order for them to pursue a career in palaeontology?A Wide-Ranging Scientific SubjectPalaeontology or as Americans would say “paleontology”, is the study of ancient life. This term covers a very wide range of disciplines and areas of academic interest and there are a huge number of career paths the students can follow. Palaeontology itself is a bit of an “umbrella term”, it covers a number of related areas of research such as palaeoanthropology, the study of human evolution, palaeobotany, the study of plants and such like. Then there are areas such as palaeoenvironmental studies (research into past environments), not to mention related disciplines such as geology and genetics. A number of universities offer degree and post-graduate courses in aspects of palaeontology, but what advice is there for parents wanting to encourage their ten-year-old daughter or their thirteen year-old son when it comes to choosing study options that might help them with a future job studying dinosaurs and other fossilised remains?Education By a Simple PrincipleThe first thing we always say is to consider the enormous range of skills required to help display fossils in a museum. Parents and guardians can easily relate to this as they would have visited such institutions with their families. There are of course, the vertebrate and invertebrate palaeontologists, but these individuals are supported by research assistants, skilled preparators, curators and other staff to help excavate, prepare, clean and ultimately display the fossil finds in an informative way.In addition, there are all the staff required to run a successful museum. The administration team, fund-raisers, management staff as well as marketing, public relations and human resources specialists.By explaining this, parents and guardians can begin to see that there are a whole range of career options available for those people who want to develop a youthful interest into the basis for a long-term, rewarding career.The Skill Set Required for PalaeontologyIf pressed further, the next question asked by eager mums and dads is which subjects should their child study in school if they want to become a palaeontologist? The first point to make, is that an academic background is not necessarily needed to become a scientist, many amateur fossil collectors with little formal training have made very important contributions and discoveries in this branch of the sciences. However, to become a career palaeontologist there are some essential requirements when one considers full-time, formal education. A grasp of mathematics is very important and if you are going to become a scientist, then being able to study science subjects in school is absolutely vital. However, a broad, well-rounded education is also helpful.Surprising Qualities RequiredWhilst recommending an emphasis on the sciences, it is also useful to point out that other qualities are important too. For example, many palaeontologist work closely with computer programmers and modelers to help understand how long extinct creatures once moved and behaved. A colleague of ours works closely with a photographer to help map fossil locations in the field and to then record and catalogue individual fossil bones. A surveyor more practiced in handling a theodolite might be surprised at how closely a fossil excavation resembles a construction site, especially in the early stages of mapping and recording the extent of the excavation area.A Role for the Arts?As well as emphasising the importance of studying science and mathematics, we take care to recognise the important roles that others who may lack a scientific background can play when it comes to studying fossils and dinosaurs in particular. Mary Anning, the pioneering fossil collector and one of the founders of the modern science of palaeontology had no formal training, but she taught herself to record her observations systematically. In addition, she also illustrated her fossil discoveries, producing finely-detailed pencil drawings of fossils, viewed from several angles. In this age of the digital camera, being able to draw with care may not be quite so important but scientists advise if you really want to get to know a fossil, sketching it can be a great way to really observe it and to understand its nuances and anatomical characteristics. Again, if you consider the dinosaur fossil displays in museums, these exhibits are very often supported with skillfully created backgrounds and information boards. There is most certainly a role for artists and designers when it comes to palaeontology.Making Dinosaur ModelsMany museums attempt to give their visitors and idea of what the prehistoric animal might have looked like when it was alive. This desire to recreate extinct creatures has led to the development of an entire industry specialising in making replicas of museum specimens, some of these creatures are even animatronic and move.Concluding ThoughtsThe best advice is to study what you genuinely enjoy. If your child loves drawing dinosaurs, then this is fine, it might not lead to a career, but the child will grow up with an understanding of scale, perspective, colouration and with excellent observation skills. If your son or daughter likes reading about dinosaurs, then this is fine too. They may not become palaeontologists but they will develop a quest for knowledge and a love of books. Perhaps the greatest gifts teachers can bestow upon their students is to provide them with an environment where their own particular talents can be nurtured and to help them grow up whilst retaining an enquiring, inquisitive mind.

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