In Part One of this two-part exclusive interview, Bud Brian, the founder and CEO of Budco Financial, provides an inside look at how and why he started his burgeoning company.
Tell us a bit about your background.
BUD BRIAN: I started in the world of automotive marketing distribution, working at one of the predominant distribution companies in Detroit—it’s actually still around today.
I was a sales guy, and met another guy there who left shortly thereafter to return to where he had previously worked, a little printing and distribution company called D.W. Hacker. He called me up one day and basically said, “Bud, we’re gonna go out of business if you don’t come over here and run this place.”
I guess it was a little strange that he was calling to essentially hire me as a new boss for himself. But I went over there and just one year later (in 1982), I bought the company from the owner for a grand total down of $25,000. That once very small company eventually grew into Budco, just shy of $100 million per year in sales and nearly 1,000 employees.
So, how did that inspire you to start Budco Financial?
BUD: Through a very interesting turn of events actually. I had owned Budco, which served Ford Motor Company, for many years. In 2006, I decided to sell the company and retire. What I found after a few years is that you can only play so much golf in a week. So in 2012, when I heard Budco Financial was up for sale, I decided to come out of retirement and get back in the game. I bought the installment payment plan portion of the business, and worked for a couple years to establish Budco Financial as a stand-alone company.
I’d say it was really my passions—for the automotive industry, the marketing business and the city of Detroit—that inspired me to come back into business. I’ve always felt this strong commitment to wanting to help the people of Detroit. I’m inspired by the city and the folks who live and work there. That’s why eventually I moved our Budco Financial offices downtown to the city I love. I have high hopes for the future of Detroit.
And what makes Budco Financial so unique?
BUD: Above all else, we are a very customer service focused organization. We want every customer to have a good experience with us. We want to be accessible for them. We will answer the phone in three rings or less.
We also measure everything six ways from Sunday so that we can be assured that we’re giving our customers a superior experience. Doing so requires high-end technology, which allows us to be well ahead of our competitors.
It seems like your goal is to let your customers know that you are there to help them. What are dealerships missing out on by not offering installment payment plans?
BUD: A foolproof way to boost their bottom lines. It only costs the dealerships a nominal administration fee. Then they have this incredible opportunity to offer installment payment plans in order to generate additional sales of extended service contracts. Plus, it provides another opportunity to sell incremental extended service contracts to customers who did not purchase one at the time of the vehicle sale. It’ll also increase flow-through into both their service lanes and parts departments. It’s really a no-brainer.
If it’s a no-brainer, why do you think more dealerships don’t offer IPPs?
BUD: It’s a combination of lack of awareness about the program and high employee turnover. Most don’t think about what happens beyond the vehicle sale. They have no idea that this tool is available to help them sell more vehicle service contracts. And once they realize they have it, that person leaves and you get a new person who doesn’t even know that the program exists. The education process has to start all over again.
Without a doubt, Budco Financial is THE payment plan company in automotive. Now that your team is moving into healthcare, what challenges do you face?
BUD: One of the biggest challenges is that most hospitals are nonprofits and view themselves as civil servants. These healthcare facilities just don’t feel compelled to ensure they get paid for services rendered; it’s surprisingly not a priority.
Are there any similarities between what your team is starting to see in healthcare and what they’ve been experiencing with automotive?
BUD: As with the auto dealership F&I departments, there’s a lot of turnover with the staff. We need to get over those hurdles.
From automotive to healthcare, it looks like there’s a whole world of opportunity. What does the future hold for Budco Financial?
BUD: We’re going even beyond automotive dealerships. We may enter into other vehicle markets, like power sports and capital equipment. There are other finance and insurance products. There are definitely other great opportunities within the F&I world and within other market segments. We’ve finally perfected our systems and processes and look forward to extending them into various other sectors.
After more than 30 years as a spirited entrepreneur, Bud Brian, knows what it takes to build a profitable organization. Click here for Part Two of this exclusive interview, in which Bud shares his expert insight on how to succeed in business.