In December, Old Republic Automotive Services Inc. (ORIAS), a provider of aftermarket products for the auto industry, welcomed Larry Graves as its new senior vice president of sales and marketing.
ORIAS was purchased by Old Republic in 1992. It originated as an insurance agency and warranty administrator formed in 1972. Today, they still write and administer service contracts; however, their product line has grown to include the administration of GAP as well. They are part of the Old Republic International Corp. group of companies, which is one of the nation’s 50 largest publicly held insurance organizations.
Graves has full responsibility for sales, marketing and the management of current and future products and services. He is the primary contact for all of ORIAS’s agents and brokers, and his knowledge of the dealer-agent service business is a real asset for ORIAS. As senior vice president, ORIAS is looking to Graves to strengthen and enhance the company’s growth opportunities in the automobile dealer/agent business, OEM trade and unaffiliated third party arena. And Graves is excited by the prospect of it all.
Graves is originally from Chicago. He got his start in the industry when he was recruited by Pat Ryan & Associates right after college, where he earned a degree in business administration. The company was one of the first to sell services that managed and improved F&I performance in dealerships. Ryan sent Graves through a two-year training program, where he was afforded the opportunity to learn the car business while simultaneously working in insurance. During his training, he had to sell cars, work deals and consult with the business office about ways to increase profits. “They taught me the business, by making me actually work the business.” said Graves.
He stayed with the company for about five years, until he transitioned into management, working with several insurance companies over the course of his career. Overall, he has more than 30 years of experience in the automotive/insurance industry.
Just prior to re-joining ORIAS, Graves served as COO for a third party administrator. His experience ranges from managing a diverse product portfolio – including GAP, credit insurance and automobile warranties – to conducting market analysis studies, product feasibility research and customer satisfaction management. His wide range of areas of specialization are a result of the various facets of the industry his positions have focused on.
When asked what he likes most about the industry, Graves said, “I love the changing industry we are in. This is my 31st year in this business – most of the time working for insurance companies offering or insuring products which are sold in the F&I office in dealerships.”
In his experience, Graves has found that the bottom line in being successful is not determined primarily by having the best product. “Virtually every product that every customer sees on a service contract appears the same – regardless of what company the contract is with – service contracts all say the same thing. What is different, are the people you work with. You have to make a difference and separate yourself by the quality of service you provide.”
Earlier in Graves’ career, when serving as as a district manager for another insurance company, he recalls what was involved in securing a deal. “You couldn’t just tell a dealer that you had better prices; you had to sell service and get them to buy into your promises. You got permission to look at dealer data and then you could say, ‘here’s where you are, here’s where the rest of the industry is and here’s how we can get you from here to there.’”
As to the future of the industry, Graves predicts there will be change in the way certain products are sold. He sees current regulations and rules being reviewed and perhaps changing over the next few years. “With more and more regulations, it’s probable that in the future, everyone will be told how much they can sell products for.”
At ORIAS, Graves sees the company continually looking for new products and new ways to do things. They also invest in finding new ways to approach existing products. Currently, they are working on revamping GAP to be structured as four tiers, rather than the current three-tier arrangement.
In his free time, Graves frequents football and hockey games as often as he can. He also has three daughters - all of whom, he affectionately says, keep him on his toes.