dealer Spotlight Bobby Vansickle: Embracing Floor Plans

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Bobby VanSickle wasn’t initially interested in getting a floor plan when he decided to start his own independent dealership. “I worked for a franchise dealership for 21 years but I wanted more work-life balance. So, about seven years ago, I decided to take everything I had learned and apply it to operating my own dealership and that’s how AFS Ohio got its start. I had heard about floor plans when I was on the franchise side but I didn’t know how they worked for independent dealers. I really didn’t need the additional cash flow at the time and I thought that’s all they provided but it turned out I was wrong.”

VanSickle said that he was approached by somone from NextGear Capital and that’s when he started to rethink his decision about getting a floor plan. “I had worked with MAFS during my time on the franchise side and NextGear Capital had been recommended by the Ohio Auto Dealer Association (OADA) but if it hadn’t been for my Portfolio Manager, I still don’t think I would’ve signed up for one. He really showed me how much of an asset having a NextGear Capital floor plan is and how it could help me to further develop my business.”

Bobby VanSickle Dealership AFS Ohio

It didn’t take long before Bobby VanSickle realized how much more his floor plan had to offer. “It’s nice to have the additional cash flow but what I really like is the convenience and the resources available to help manage my dealership. I’ve looked into other floor plan lenders but I think that NextGear Capital has better tools, a better audit process and I prefer their term plan structure. Before I had a floor plan, I used cash to purchase all of my inventory. I kept about 20 cars on the lot and sold around 15 each month. Now that I have a floor plan, I keep around 150 on the lot and sell 50 vehicles each month.”

While being able to grow his inventory has been great, he says the biggest selling point for him is Account Portal. “I love using the Account Portal! The dashboard gives me a quick overview to see what payments I have coming up and I’m a huge fan of Self Reconciliation because it helps me keep track of the inventory I have between my two locations and I can quickly and easily clear my audits. I also love the titles page and I’m on it everyday. The main reason I floor the vehicles I purchase from auctions is because I don’t have to worry about following up to chase down my titles. I can quickly check their status in Account Portal, it’s such a timesaver and I consider it a huge asset to my business.”

When it comes to COVID-19, Bobby VanSickle says he didn’t have to change his sales model at all. “I was already purchasing about 90% of my inventory online before the pandemic started so the only major change I had to make was making sure the dealership was sanitized more frequently to ensure that our staff and customers were safe. We’ve been really fortunate because AFS has done great despite the pandemic. In fact, we were able to set some new sales records this past year.”

Despite this, VanSickle says that just like other dealerships have experienced, sourcing inventory has been challenging. “Finding inventory can be difficult and when I do find it, it’s often overpriced. I look for the most competively priced inventory whether I source it from traditonal auctions like Manheim, or from wholesalers. I’ve started using tools like vAuto’s Stockwave to help me make more informed decisions when I’m looking to purchase inventory. I’m also fortunate to have my own truck hauling company so I can transport units easier. I’ve noticed that there are less transport options out there because I think so many more dealers are having to go further away to source their inventory.”

In June, VanSickle says he’s moving into a new two million dollar location he recently purchased. “I’m excited about being able to finally own instead of renting my dealership space. I love that it’s closer to home and is going to allow me to save money and also carry more inventory. It’s also going to have a full body shop so we’ll be able to offer different service options to our customers.”

Bobby VanSickle jokes that the advice he would give to a new dealer is to get out, but then says, “Don’t jump in too quick and overextend yourself. I think it’s a good idea that new dealers have a floor plan but every dealer should use it differently depending on their cash flow and business needs. In my case, I wasn’t really looking for the additional cash flow but for the convenience and flexibility that my NextGear Capital floor plan provides. It’s crucial to figure out what your needs are and choose the best floor plan that’s going to help you meet them and succeed.”