Dale loves to hear from you…

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pollak dale Dale loves to hear from you...In addition to being a best-selling author on Used Car Sales in his book Velocity, Dale Pollak is the chairman and founder of vAuto, Inc., a company that provides retail automotive dealerships with a better way to appraise, manage and price their pre-owned vehicle inventory. In addition to serving as vAuto’s spokesperson, Dale is responsible for strategic planning and development.

Prior to vAuto, Pollak served as VP of Sales and Business Strategy at Digital Motorworks, the market leader in data integration and application development for OEMs, mega dealers and third party providers. Pollak helped build the company from inception to its successful acquisition by ADP in 2002.

Pollak received his B.S. in Business Administration from Indiana University and is a graduate of the General Motors Institute of Automotive Development. Pollak also earned a law degree from DePaul University’s College of Law, and is a four-time winner of the American Jurisprudence Award for top performance in his class.

Dale Pollak is one of the leading authorities on automotive dealership management strategies. Tap into Dale’s experience, insight and knowledge.

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Contact Dale: dpollak [at] vauto.com

  • Larry,

    Yes, this is helpful as it answers my questions. For what it’s worth, I’ve had much direct experience with Easy Care. When I was a dealer we sold Easy Care warranties for years, and I know their reputation and service to be solid.

  • Dale,
    Thank you so much for your assistance. I will assume that it wasn’t a coincidence that I was contacted by one of your technical specialists shortly after posting my comments. Without going into all the details, the available option packages are now listed correctly for all of our Nissan’s. It’s not often that I find myself at a loss for words. Simply put, thank you. You just made my job so much easier and I really appreciate your follow up.

  • Gil,

    Thank you so much for your feedback. I can honestly say that your concerns helped us identify an opportunity for improvement and we acted on is as quickly as possible. Please keep the good feedback coming, we really appreciate it.

  • Danyel Wheeler

    Hi Dale,
    I’ve heard industry standards that say every 30 VDP’s on a dealer’s website for a particular car should equal a sold unit. What should that number be for 3rd party sites and how will scarcity factor in to the equation? I’ve seen well priced, well merchandised scarce cars with over 200 VDP’s on 3rd party sites sit in inventory for more than 60 days.

  • MV

    As a former employee at one of those third party VDP suppliers, I have come to the conclusion that there is NO EXACT SCIENCE to used vehicle sales. There is too many outside variables and non constants to figure it out exactly for each situation. That being said, I’m from a region where the third party provider preached 30 VDP per unit sold. I had to educate my accounts as to what this meant. Not specifically that 30 VDPs or more and the unit is not sold… its your fault (as some consult), BUT that that unit just needs more. I suggest to change the “sales equation”, you first need a baseline. To do so, take your last few months SRP/VDP totals… and divide by the units sold… this will give you an idea of what your current mix will do. For example, 100,000 SRPs produced 2,000 VDPs and you sold 30 units… then your VDP per sale is 67. Take the average of a few months to give yourself a baseline. Here is where you want to increase the “sales equation”. you can do so by changing 1 or 2 things. (1) stock better inventory – higher demand priced EFFECTIVELY or (2) increase advertising frequency and or reach. Not a new concept… this has been the standard of advertising for any product for centuries. The internet has tried to complicate things with metrics, although a very useful tool to help gauge and effectively make PROFIT changes… its still a “simple” equation of selling items to consumers that want/need your item. Do this for the last few months as see where you can improve. Then to take it “to the next level” and increase your bottom line in a positive way, break it down per unit. Vauto and such programs help dramatically to “watch” these metrics closely, so you can adjust on the fly… but to say an industry standard of 30 VDP per unit should sell that… I think the industry standard should be based more along the lines of the direct correlation from VDPs (virtual test drives) to unit Sales, just like increasing actual test drives should increase the frequency of sales. Increasing VDPs should increase sales (exponentially), but it is just one part of the equation, and with other factors of the equation (such as 14 year old boys virtually tire kicking your 2010 EVO that gets 265 vdps a day) it is just figuring out a baseline for yourself and increasing it. Hope that helps.

  • Danyel,

    Thank you very much for your question. First, it should be understood that a confluence of conditions must exist in order for any vehicle to sell quickly. For example, a vehicle with high scarcity, but priced wrong or merchandised incorrectly is not likely to move quickly or profitably.

    One immutable fact is that vehicles which garner high and frequent exposure statistically sell faster than those that receive less exposure. Unfortunately, however, the correlation between the number of VDP exposures and the rate at which a vehicle might sell is not so precise as to say that a certain number of VDP exposures equates to a sale. The imprecision of proper pricing and merchandising prevents the single factor of how many VDP exposures a vehicle receives to be a precise indicator of a vehicle’s propensity to sell. Therefore, we are well advised to do everything possible to properly price and merchandise a vehicle with the comfort of knowing that such conditions will create more VDPs, which will generate more calls and showroom visits, which will ultimately generate faster and more sales. Accordingly, in my opinion, attempting to quantify the number of required VDPs on any site as an indicator of a transaction is misguided.

  • MV,

    Great points. I agree completely. It’s a shame that you’re no longer with one of the third-party providers as you definitely have great insight and advice to offer.

  • Adam Hayford

    Dale,
    I am seeking some information and was hoping you could share what you believe the average look to book percentage should be, and why?

  • Adam,

    Thanks for your question. The answer is not necessarily straight forward. A proper look to book has many dependencies.

    First, it depends on the appraisal policy of the dealership. Some stores will not appraise a vehicle until and unless the shopper has demonstrated a commitment to purchase the car that day. Other dealerships will appraise any vehicle for any shopper that walks through their door and wants to know what their car is worth. Obviously, stores that require the customer to go through all the steps before getting their vehicle appraised will generally have a higher look to book percentage.

    Another consideration is the strength of the new car franchise brand, providing dealers with leverage that allows them to win trade-ins at a higher rate than do brands of lesser appeal.

    Yet another consideration is how heavily appraisers are hitting their cars. In other words, I could assure a dealer that my look to book would be 100%. I would offer every customer $1 million for their trade. So you begin to see that there are many variables that can influence a look to book percentage. Having said all this, I believe that the dealership that counts all of their appraisals should be getting between 33 and 50% of their trade-in appraisals with an average acquisition Cost to Market (CTM) around 80%. Note that the acquisition cost to market is derived by dividing the ACV (Actual Cash Value) by the vehicles average retail asking price. Be sure not to include any reconditioning or pack.

  • Adam Hayford

    I can see that you replied in the small column to the left, but not on the post. I cannot read your entire reply could you repost?

  • Adam,

    Thanks for your question. The answer is not necessarily straight forward. A proper look to book has many dependencies.

    First, it depends on the appraisal policy of the dealership. Some stores will not appraise a vehicle until and unless the shopper has demonstrated a commitment to purchase the car that day. Other dealerships will appraise any vehicle for any shopper that walks through their door and wants to know what their car is worth. Obviously, stores that require the customer to go through all the steps before getting their vehicle appraised will generally have a higher look to book percentage.

    Another consideration is the strength of the new car franchise brand, providing dealers with leverage that allows them to win trade-ins at a higher rate than do brands of lesser appeal.

    Yet another consideration is how heavily appraisers are hitting their cars. In other words, I could assure a dealer that my look to book would be 100%. I would offer every customer $1 million for their trade. So you begin to see that there are many variables that can influence a look to book percentage. Having said all this, I believe that the dealership that counts all of their appraisals should be getting between 33 and 50% of their trade-in appraisals with an average acquisition Cost to Market (CTM) around 80%. Note that the acquisition cost to market is derived by dividing the ACV (Actual Cash Value) by the vehicles average retail asking price. Be sure not to include any reconditioning or pack.

  • Adam Hayford

    Thank you Dale.

  • On the fence

    Dale,
    I was in the car business for a little over five years. I managed a successful used car department at a Toyota dealership. I left about 16 months ago and took a b2b sales position. While getting my car serviced at said dealership, I was talking to the used car managers and learned they still don’t have a good grasp on the internet leads. I half jokingly said if you want someone to run the Internet department and not work nights and weekends, call me.. Well the GM did call me and asked me to come in and talk to him about it. The dealership currently has two people handling the new car internet leads. And the used car department has the leads randomly assigned to random sales people. If he creates a new position, it would be to oversee the Internet department for new and used. He asked me to basically put something on paper describing exactly what I see myself doing to increase sales and revenue. I’m not sure where to start. Also, the phone ups are currently going to whoever is “on deck” to help the next customer that walks in the door. Would you suggest to him that all phone ups should be handled by the Internet department as well. I know it’s hard to help bc I don’t have the exact numbers of inbound leads vs the number of sales they are getting out of those leads. Any advise you may have to justify the new position would be greatly appreciated. Thanks dale

  • On the Fence…

    Thanks so much for your question, it sounds like you have a great opportunity. Unfortunately I am not in a great position to dispense advice on this subject as there are many people much more knowledgeable than me on the subject of running effective Internet and BDC departments. Two people that I would recommend that you talk to are Jasen Rice of LotPop, and Sean Stapleton of VinSolutions. These two individuals are both highly skilled and experienced in this area and good friends that I believe would be willing to provide you with direction. Sorry I can’t be of more substantive assistance. Send me an email if you’d like or need an introduction to either of these two gentleman. Stay in touch and let me know how it goes.

    Again, thanks.

  • Adam Hayford

    Dale,
    Any chance I might get a sneak peak into the Subprime portion of Vauto? Or better yet, if you need someone to beta test please let me know?
    Adam

  • Adam,

    Thanks so much. We are just a few weeks away from a soft launch. Please contact your performance manager so that you can see the system in the very near future. Thanks so much.

  • Jack

    Hi Dale,

    I am absolutely new in car business and even in USA but I got lucky to get a position of pre-owned inventory coordinator in prestige dealership. I was taught how to use vAuto program and read your book Velocity 2.0 to get understanding and idea of velocity principles of used cars business. Our average inventory car value is more then 38k so my goal became to buy a fast moving cars that are under 20k. But I met a problem trying to buy cars at the auctions for the price 84% to market. Mostly all of my bids are outbidded by a thousands more. As I noticed, the only way to buy a car 84% cost to market, is to bid on a cars with a low condition reports that lead a big expenses on reconditioning and time until car can actually start selling. I am spending all my time checking auction lists and choosing the right vehicle but I cant say that my results are good. I was able to buy 2 cars that were 86-88% cost to market, priced 95% to market and were sold within 30 days. I will be happy to hear your advise or any suggestion.

    I bring apologizes for my English, it is not my native language.
    Thank you

  • Jack,

    Congratulations on landing the job, and your English is just fine – no apology needed.

    With respect to your question regarding cost to market, unfortunately you are under a common misunderstanding about the 84% benchmark. I do not mean to say that a dealer should never buy a car that will cause them to have more than an 84% cost to market when fully reconditioned and ready for sale. Rather, the 84% benchmark is an average cost to market for all vehicles in inventory. This means that it is okay to own some vehicles with a cost to market that is higher than 84%, so long as you own some other vehicles with a cost to market below 84%.

    The real question is how to know which vehicles are okay to own for more than 84% and which vehicles are not okay. I would recommend that you apply a two-pronged test. First, does the vehicle in question present physical attributes that make it visually attractive and distinctive? The second test is to know the vehicle’s market day’s supply. In other words, it’s okay, and in fact even expected to be in a vehicle for more than 84% if it possess the attributes that are likely to cause it to transact in the mid to high 90% of market. Conversely, there are some vehicles of no special appeal and have high market day’s supply that likely transact in the high 80’s or low 90’s as a percentage of market and these are the vehicles that must be owned below the 84% benchmark.

    Hopefully this explanation clears up the misunderstanding, and your frustration in buying every vehicle against that benchmark.

  • Kevin Rude

    Dale,
    Many times in evaluating vehicle, we find a high market day supply when there may only be a half a dozen the whole country. How can this be? Hard to decide which direction to go. low supply or high market day supply. We have been working with vAuto for about 2 years now.
    Happy to hear any explanation/suggestions you may have.
    Thanks,
    Kevin

  • Kevin,

    Thanks for your question. Arithmetically, market day’s supply is the current availability of a given vehicle divided by its average daily retail sales rate over the past 45 days. For example, if there were 10 similar vehicles in the market and they’ve been selling retail, on average at a rate of 1 per day over the past 45 days, then you would divide 10 by 1 to derive a 10 market day’s supply.

    Vehicles like the one that you reference with only 10 similar vehicles in the country that also have a high market day’s supply suggests that they are not selling at a very rapid rate, hence the high market day’s supply. Think about it, any vehicle that is 1 of 10 similar vehicles in the entire country must be a pretty unusual vehicle. Highly unusual vehicles often require highly unusual buyers, therefore its high market day’s supply suggests a more than ordinary element of risk.

  • Kevin,

    Thanks for your question. Arithmetically, market day’s supply is the current availability of a given vehicle divided by its average daily retail sales rate over the past 45 days. For example, if there were 10 similar vehicles in the market and they’ve been selling retail, on average at a rate of 1 per day over the past 45 days, then you would divide 10 by 1 to derive a 10 market day’s supply.

    Vehicles like the one that you reference with only 10 similar vehicles in the country that also have a high market day’s supply suggests that they are not selling at a very rapid rate, hence the high market day’s supply. Think about it, any vehicle that is 1 of 10 similar vehicles in the entire country must be a pretty unusual vehicle. Highly unusual vehicles often require highly unusual buyers, therefore its high market day’s supply suggests a more than ordinary element of risk.

  • Matt Stevens

    Dale-
    Looking for some good incentive based pay plans for my clean up department. They currently are paid hourly and they don’t always seems as motivated to get cars cleaned faster. I was going to go with a flat rate pay, but they must at least get minimum wage. Wondering if anyone had any good ideas?

  • PDR

    Dale, I want to thank you for the excellent information you have provided in all your Velocity books. I was promoted as GSM a few months ago with a background in Marketing and Accounting and I am more of a numbers guy. My first project here was focused on getting our volume numbers up in our New department, more recently I have focused on helping Pre-owned. We currently sell new vehicles 2 to 1 over used. Our turn is 60 days and days supply is about the same. I have no background in pre-owned but frankly I was surprised to learn this department is not run based on the equity and ROI of individual vehicles but more on gut. Our store has been on Vauto for years but it was primarily used as a trade in value tool. Looking through our vehicles I see good reason why our used car manager has held on to some vehicles hoping to find the perfect buyer. Many are scarce and should bring customers and profit but for whatever reason, Bad Color, options they simply will not move. At what point do you feel is best to just cut your losses on a particular vehicle age wise? And how is it best to do so? Wholesale them out to the auction (Our Auctions are very strong) or cut prices at huge losses to retail out of it with a hope to get a trade customer and give finance a shot. Thanks in advance.

  • Paul,

    Thank you so much for your note. I personally visited your store approximately 10 years ago, and I remember Mark Scarff well. Congratulations on your promotion. Regarding your question, here is my perspective. I often say that if you can’t retail a car in 45 days that you’ve set up for retail, then it is nothing less than a failure of management. This is the case because I could retail 100% of your used vehicle inventory in 2 weeks. To be sure, you wouldn’t like the result, but you know that I could do it.

    In light of this fact, if you can’t retail every vehicle within 45 days that has been set up for retail, then it can only be for one of two reasons. Either you didn’t know where it needed to be priced in order to find a retail buyer, or you weren’t willing to price it there. After 45 days, either one of these is nothing less than a failure of management.

    The upshot is that age management begins on day one. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no better way to know whether a vehicle needs a price adjustment and how much, than monitoring its SRP and VDP performance on-line. I believe that this information is the purest, most unbiased, relevant and actionable information that you receive in your dealership from any source. It tells you exactly how your vehicle is fairing out there in that very competitive transparent environment. If all of the other marketing conditions are right, and it’s still not getting sufficient SRP and VDP action, then the issue can only be price.

    So I guess you get the idea, all cars set up for retail must be retailed regardless of outcome, by 45 days. Does this make sense to you?

    Thanks.

  • Paul

    Excellent, that clarifies it for me. Thanks again for taking a moment and for this forum.

  • MIke

    Dale,

    Have we created a monster with your pricing analytics? Case in point, as a consumer searching to purchase a newer vehicle, searching all the dealerships, third party vendors, etc…including Craigslist for several months. I’ve made reasonable offers online with only one person contacting me. Visiting a dealership, being rudely treated, I made a reasonable offer and was told “this is the price, we already reduced the price”, “I know they won’t accept your offer”. I had the salesperson go submit my offer. Reluctantly he went inside to ask. Expecting an counter offer. After 5 minutes of waiting, keep in mind the salesperson doesn’t know my name, didn’t write a sales order, etc…the salesperson returned and told me “we can’t accept your offer” and walked me off.
    Telling this story to others, I’m finding this is beginning to be normal business now. Either accept the price given on the vehicle, or not. No negotiation, no counter offer, nothing…

    Today, the vehicle I made an offer for, it’s price was reduced lower than my offer. That’s hilarious because they could’ve had their funds ten days earlier and applied those monies towards another vehicle. BTW- they use vAuto
    Hmm…Why do managers hold out to make an average $2 to $3 thousand gross and then reduce the price every ten days when you have a customer willing to purchase at a fair offer.
    Do they think us consumers are stupid and don’t watch pricing on the net? Kind of makes “we don’t reduce the price” statement false. Where is the credibility?
    No matter how well you price vehicles using your analytics, etc…people expect a price reduction. Consumers want to win. I’m certain you even negotiate price on goods. Women don’t pay retail prices when they shop, they look for sale racks, etc…and wait until that item has been reduced 75%. Everyone negotiates for all products. You can’t remove that from the sales process. You may argue that persons do buy according to vAuto processes, but the customer has been shopping and watching until you reach a price they are willing to pay.

  • Peter Stratton

    I have a huge issue with V Auto support. Our dealer group owns 140 stores. Yes we are big. This needs to be resolved right away. By the end of today,

  • Steve Kohler

    Mr. Pollak,
    Do you have a email for a personal email?
    Thank you,

  • Ty Bullard

    Dale

    Would love your perspective on the example below and what option you think a dealer should choose and what option you think a sales manager paid on total gross profit % in a calendar month would choose and if they are different, why? Is there a pay plan issue driving this? Should we now be looking at ROI, turn, rate of return, etc. as potential pay plan drivers?

    For example:

    gross profit – $1200
    investment – $35000
    days in stock – 10

    equals: ROI – 125%
    Turn – 36.5
    R of R – 3.42%

    Sales gets 25% after $500 pack which is ($175)
    Sales Manager gets 5% of total gross which is ($60)
    Interest @ 5.5% which is ($52.74)

    Effective Gross Profit now equals $912.26
    Effective ROI equals 95%

    gross profit – 2500
    investment – 35000
    days in stock – 21

    equals: ROI – 124%
    Turn – 17.38
    R of R – 7.14%

    Sales gets 25% after $500 pack which is ($500)
    Sales Manager gets 5% of total gross which is ($125)
    Interest @ 5.5% which is ($110.75)

    Effective Gross Profit now equals $1764.25
    Effective ROI equals 88%

    Thanks for any input on this question.

    Take care

    Ty Bullard
    Joe Bullard Automotive

  • Charles Dubord

    Dale,

    We are currently using vAuto and we’ve set 4 new records in pre-owned cars since we’ve starting using it in force. I’ll keep this concise.

    Here is my one request to help make it even better. Right now the cost to market and bid limits take into consideration a mileage adjustment (it would be foolish not to). However based on the experience in our market with that mileage adjustment (whatever your using, .40 per mile, .25) so far, it needs to be cut in half. It is giving way to much of a bump to low mileage cars, and way to much of a discount to high mileage cars. So sticking to a cost to market strategy of say 75-80 percent on appraisals is not an accurate strategy without being able to adjust this variable to be more in tune with the market. Plus the bid limits could be way off when your shopping for cars. Without this variable in tune… significant efficiency is lost. .
    While I have you… why not incorporate transactional data? You’re already hooked into the DMS. Wouldn’t there be a huge benefit to the dealer, and experience strategies for the stores for you to be able to report transactional data on the cars? (I’d say yes there is!!!)
    Thanks,
    Charlie

  • Charlie,

    Thank you so much for your note and suggestions.

    First, with respect to the mileage adjustment, I agree that they sometimes can get a little wonky when you get to the long-tails (high or low) of the distribution curve. Their accuracy, however, depends somewhat on the type of vehicles that you’re appraising. For example, obviously high miles hurts a late model luxury car much more than an older, high-volume domestic, and vice-versa. We modify these mileage adjustments routinely based on what we see happening to values at auction on various vehicle segments with mileage as the sole variable. While this is not a perfect solution, it is the best approach that we currently know. Having said this, I will bring this to the attention of our data team for review. It would be very helpful if you could email me (dpollak@vauto.com) specific appraisal examples where you think the mileage adjustment isn’t directionally correct.

    Now, regarding your second suggestion on transaction data, I agree that it makes sense, but only in theory, not in practice. This is clearly a case where if you ever saw the sausage being made, you would not want to eat it.

    Transaction data is derived from F&I systems, and we both know that F&I managers only enter a vehicle’s VIN plus a few added pieces of equipment that the lending institution might consider to be an “add.” In other words, the ability to discern a vehicle’s transaction price is only as good as what can be derived from a VIN decode, and that falls far short of knowing enough about the vehicle’s attributes to be meaningful.

    Further, you and I both know that the transaction price that comes out of the F&I office is rarely the deal structure that the customer agreed to in the showroom. Numbers get manipulated and massaged considerably in the F&I office for purposes of getting deals bought, maximizing an F&I manager’s pay program and optimizing factory incentive offerings. Ask a dealership’s sales manager, F&I manager and office manager what the customer agreed to, and you will get three different answers. For these reasons, I’ve long believed that companies and solutions that purport to provide decisioning support based on “transaction data” are either ignorant of the data’s short-coming or naïvely purveying poor guidance. Thoughts?

  • Yogi Brown

    ,
    I have recently taken over as Used car director of one of the largest Toyota dealers in KY. I was previously the internet director which I think gives me a unique perspective on my new position.My question is – Should I keep my inventory archived until I have serviced,detailed,and taken pictures or should it be listed from day one??

  • Yogi,

    Congratulations on your new position. I’m speaking to the Kentucky Auto Dealer’s Association in Naples, Florida in June, perhaps we’ll have an opportunity to meet in person.

    Regarding your question, my advice is to post vehicles on-line as quickly as possible with market-based pricing, robust descriptions and the best possible photos. I understand that your initial photos may not be your best or final photos, but they are definitely important to have on-line ASAP. Work diligently to move the vehicle through the reconditioning process so that you can get better and more photos as quickly as possible. What you must know is that time is the enemy of profitability on the used car lot, hence the name “Velocity Management.” Also, one other thought, and that is that you are extremely well qualified as a used car manager in light of your internet background. Today, the used car business is the internet business.

  • Michael Emmert

    How many VDP’s on average does it take to make a sale? Has it changed over the years?

  • Michael,

    If you look further down this conversation to a similar question posed by Danyel Wheeler, you’ll see my response. Essentially there are too many other factors that go into the sale of a vehicle for it to be an accurate science of simple VDP count. Obviously, the more VDPs a car has, the more people are looking at it, which equates to a higher probability of sale. Thank you so much for your question.

  • Jarod Sanders

    Regarding Market Day’s Supply: When looking at a late model’s Market Day’s Supply, is there any way of measuring a vehicle’s susceptibility of change (i.e.; large run of specific model at the auction, large rebates and incentives from manufacture on new car.)

  • Jarod,

    Thanks for the question. The good news is that you don’t have to worry about such factors if you simply focus on selling your inventory quickly. Factors like the ones that you’ve described present risks in proportion to the amount of time that you hold a vehicle in stock. The key is to get in and out of the cars in the same moment in the market. This will reduce your exposure to all sorts of variables that you do not expect and cannot control.

  • AUTOJOBS

    Hi Dale, How do i go about talking to you about a venture with hireology? You can contact me from my website autojobs.com
    We have services that focus on the hires within the automotive industry for 20 years online.
    Looking forward to speaking with you.
    Steve Brown
    AUTOjobs.com, Inc.

  • Jim

    What are your upcoming speaking engagements?

  • Dale,

    I’ve just been given the opportunity to create and manage a sales department in the service department. Do you have any articles or resources you can refer me to so I can start out in the right direction?

  • Craig,

    Congratulations on this important new responsibility. My best recommendation is to connect with dealer Brian Benstock of Paragon Honda. Of all the dealers I know, Brian and his team
    at Paragon Honda in Queens, New York, do the best job in this area, among almost every other as well. Brian is a friend of mine and I’m confident that he would share his knowledge with you, but an onsite visit would go a long way to furthering your education. Please feel free to reach out directly to Brian, and keep me in the loop of your progress. Thanks for thinking of me.