The Dealer Playbook
The Dealer Playbook

Episode 513 · 5 months ago

Bart Nollenberger: The Next Generation of Automotive Leaders


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Bart Nollenberger is an Executive Director with the John Maxwell Team, automotive trainer, and author. In this episode, Bart shares his compelling story of recovery and sobriety and the four steps to help shape the next generation of automotive professionals.

What we discuss in this episode:

  • Bart shares his recovery story. He went from selling cars and snorting coke in the bathroom to deciding to turn his life around. After 37 years of sobriety, Bart reflects on the lessons learned and breaks down the four steps that can help anyone experience accelerated growth in their life and career.
  • Step 1: Admission. Be willing to admit that you need help — that you don't know everything, that there is more room to grow. The automotive industry can be ego-driven, but Bart suggests that is getting in the way of real potential.
  • Step 2: Come to believe. Believe that there are forces bigger and more powerful than you. Maybe that's God, or Budhha, or the Universe. When we believe in something bigger than us, we can more effectively surrender to it and have it elevate us beyond measure.
  • Step 3: Make a decision. Are you ready to go from selling six cars to 12? Are you ready to own your mistakes and learn from them? Our potential is fully unlocked when we decide to take action.
  • Step 4: Take a personal inventory. Bart encourages a DISC assessment to understand more about who you are and how you operate. You can leverage the information to understand the pitfalls to avoid or where you may be able to align passion with action.
  • Change doesn't just happen. It requires real, authentic, vulnerable work.

Listen to the full episode for insights and context from Bart Nollenberger!

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The car business is rapidly changing and modern car dealers are meeting the demand. I'm Michael Cirillo and together we're going to explore what it takes to create a thriving dealership and life in the retail automotive industry. Join me each week for inspiring conversations with subject matter experts that are designed to help you grow. This is the dealer playbook. Alright, gangs. So a few years ago I pick up this, this book off the bookshelf at a at a bookstore, I mean obviously a bookstore. That goes without saying. Twenty one irrefutable laws of leadership and it's in a nice little bundle and I go man, I gotta pick this up. It's it's something that I'm interested in. Obviously I know a lot of people in the auto industry and throughout the world have read this book by, uh, someone you might have heard of. Game starts with Jay, rhymes with on Maxwell, and so I'm really excited to welcome our guest today. It's not every day you get to sit down with somebody who's got kind of the inside scoop. Is a John Maxwell trainer. Uh. You can also catch him on his brand new podcast, keep the change, which is all about transformation, all about how learning from life's lessons can really help shape just an unbelievable future. My Pal Barton Olemberger. They so much for joining us here on the dealer playbook podcast. Michael Crello, man, I'm checked up to be on your podcast. Oh Shuck UH. You know, we've gotten the chance to to really get to know each other quite well over the past several months and one of the things that always stands out to me is just your heart. You have such a tremendous heart. You Care so much about, you know, people's well being. I think it's fitting, obviously, that that you've found success as a trainer, consultant, mentor and coach in the in the auto industry, but of course also, you know, outside of the industry and your church and your community. Um, it just speaks volumes to you. I'm excited to have you today. I wanna I wanna pick your brain. First and foremost. You have really compelling story that I've gotten to learn, like I said, over the past few months. You're you've now just passed, what is it, thirty seven years of sobriety? Yeah, yeah, to bring me inside of that. What thirty seven years, man? I mean most people can't even stay married for three weeks these days. How what does thirty seven years of discipline like that look like? Well, well, you know, when you compare the marriage, I can't compare with that either, frankly, but I will. That's another story, although I have an incredible pride and you know we've been together for nine years and between the two of us, I gotta throw this out there, between the two of us, we have ten kids and ten grandkids, actually ten and a quarter. So yeah, that's a cool story. But that's all by the grace, grace of God. You know that my faith walk has been a big deal. But, UH, thirties seven. It was actually June fifti I um actually the day before walked into work. I had been at work the night before doing a line of cocaine. I did that every night at that point. I waited about a hundred fifty pounds and my boss, the next morning, when I walked in the door, said, you know, we need to talk because what had happened was I had walked in the bathroom late at night thinking everybody was gone. I was a finance manager and when I walked into the bathroom to do a line of cocaine. My boss was in the stall and he heard it all. And where I thought I was by myself, he heard me the you know, later on I would say I was eating a white doughnut and just inhaling um sugar because I was so full of it. What the fact was? It was cocaine. I had about a four thousand dollar a month cocaine habit.

I was drinking every day, drinking at work, after work, all that. So at that point, though, I wanted to Rehab and that was an interesting story because when I woke up the next morning he had fired me. I didn't say goodbye to anybody. I woke up the next morning crying like a newborn, got on my knees, prayed to God, I didn't even know, for help, and the result was that within two hours and had this intuition to go to a treatment center, and within hours I was in there. And within two weeks one of the counselors came up to me and said, Bart, you'll never make it, and I was so pissed at him I said why not? He said because you never lost your house, your life. You still have your daughter, Um, you didn't lose enough, and I wanted to punch him in the nose. Now, the next day, get this, I'm in the bathroom getting ready to go have another meeting with that Jack and I felt something in my pocket and I opened it up and it was a stash of cocaine that I put there months earlier. And I opened up that stash and looked at it and flushed that baby down the toilet and that was the beginning of the end. Two weeks later I graduated from that Recovery Center and, by the grace of God, never had to look back on it, and I have, yes, thirty seven plus years of sobriety. Wow. Well, first of all, congratulations. Second of all, I just find it so inspiring. You know, like you said, something within you made you look at that second stash and go now I'm I'm good, I'm done. And and so I think it's only fitting now, obviously, all these years later, thirty seven years later, who knew that you would be hosting a podcast called keep the change, where you get to sit down with individuals and hear their stories of transformation and how they've legit not from a financial perspective, kept the change that's occurred in their life. And I want to ask you this now, looking back in hindsight, you know, especially as it pertains to people in the automotive industry, where we know there's a lot to churn, we know there's the turnover is high. The desire for instant gratification is obviously something that we all deal with. What do you think, as you look back to your to your journey over the last thirty seven years, what are what are maybe some words of wisdom that you might be able to impart into the green P or somebody coming into this industry that maybe doesn't necessarily realize how much work it's going to take, how much discipline is going to take, fortitude, all of those sorts of things. Yeah, you know, I I it reminds me of you know, we talked about the John Maxwell Journey. In two thousand thirteen I joined the John Maxwell team and today there's forty two thousand people in sixty four hundred sixty four countries that are part of the team. So yes, I'm special, but I'm just one of forty two thousand. And I say that with tongue of cheek obviously, but when I decided. The reason I decided to do that, Michael, is because, as I looked at our industry, we had some great managers but we didn't have a lot of what John Maxwell would call level four level five leaders. Like a level five leader. Just to tell you, level one is Um, it's it's uh, the promotion. In other words, I had a brain freight on it. Level one means you've got the position. It's positional. That's what and what that means is, Hey, I'm the boss. That's the way it is, and we've seen a lot of those. And then there's a level two is the permission that is a leader that the people have given them permission because of a relationship to lead them. Then there's level three, which is production, and that means the death man that can make four grant of pop and he he might not have a great relationship with his people or he might, but the reality is people follow him because they make a lot of money. They come to that person on the desk right. That's a projection leader. Level four is the future of our business and that is the the people develop...

...leader where they're developing leaders. That that developed leaders. And then level five is that elite leader. That has for decades developed leaders. Now, what's they have to do with your question? Well, I think there's a couple of pieces to this. What we know is that in any business, especially the car business, it's only as good as the leader. It's the head that draws that that is where the business really succeeds. As a sales trainer, trust me, I've been to stores where they say, Hey, go train my new people right and and they don't know, they don't have a clue what I'm saying. But we know that great leaders are part of the training. Great leaders are part of people development. But let's go back to the question you asked me. As I do training for people, as I get with people, whether it's one on one coaching or a group on how to handle a phone call or how to do follow up or how to close, what I know is that, uh, that's the tactical piece. But I'm really believing that the mental piece has more to do with their success than anything else and that that when they're mentally when they have a mindset of of servitude, when they have a mindset of helping people, that's when they grow. But everybody in the room, every human in whether their leader or they're in sales or their young salespeople have something they want to change, they want to grow in some capacity, and I love the steps of recovery because those steps are great leadership and life lessons. And I'm gonna Answer your question with these four steps. Anytime anybody starts anything new or if they're in life, there's a period of in life for a period of time and leadership there's a period of time when they have to admit, when we have to admit something, and in that admission is when power comes from. Like step one, and recovery says we admit were powerless and our life have become unmanageable. Now, when you and I can admit were powerless, that's when we're open to learn. When you and I can admit were powerless, then that's when we get mentors. And every new salesperson needs a mentor or coach, even outside the dealership, to guide them right. So that's what I say to anybody. Look at that first step when you're starting something and meant you don't know what you're doing. You're powerless oversealling cars. You're admit that maybe you're allousy, leader and you're powerless towards influencing others. Somebody has to admit something. That's where the power comes from, by humbly admitting. Okay, number two in the steps of recovery absolutely have to do with life and leadership. And number two is came to believe. And you and I get that. A believer. You're a believer. We believe in and uh, we're people of faith, but there's a lot of people out there that don't have belief. They might believe in their Muslims or agnostics whatever, but we gotta believe in something. If you don't believe in something, you'll fall for anything right, and that's that's the belief. So somebody starting in the business, they need to admit that they need help, they need a coach. And number two, believe in something. Find something they can believe in. Be Very careful of their self talk, because you and I are what we think about. A person first starting in the business has no idea what they're doing and what's going on. The consciously they're saying, man, I suck, and as soon as you and I I say we suck, it goes to other other than conscious part of our brain and we are results. Suck because we are what we think. So believing in ourselves, how we talk, paying attention to how we talk to ourselves, believing in something bigger than ourselves is critical.

So number one, admit. Number to believe. Step three, make a decision. And you and I make decisions every day, right. We make good decisions and bad decisions, but when we're starting something new or for a seasoned leader, we have to make a decision and that decision could be you know what, I'm going to study this craft. I'm gonna spend that hour a day on studying different sales techniques. I'M gonna deep dive into it and I'm gonna make a decision. Within three years, I'm not even gonna have to take it up. I'M gonna have repeat customers making a decision as sex power. So what we say admit, come to believe in something and make a decision. And the fourth one is do an inventory. What I say to new sales people is do some kind of a behavior assessment. I'm a disc behavior specialist and emotional intelligence specialist. I like those because it's self awareness. I need to know me. If I know me, I know my strengths, I know my weaknesses. That gives me a head up on everybody else going into the business. So you know, there's some similarities between the brand new green pea and that seasoned leader. All those steps that I mentioned are good for either one. You've touched on something. Um. I love how you articulated this Um and and I just want to talk through it a little bit more because I think it's so valuable in an industry where the perception is that you must know it all, that you must always have an answer, that you must uh, hustle, hustle, hustle, Hustle. You're shaping out that narrative by saying yeah. But also emotional intelligence, and I know I'm not an expert on it, but I know that an element of of it is self regulation in addition into self awareness, knowing how to pick your spots, knowing when to bite your tongue, knowing when to to speak up and to not, and and those sorts of things. And so I think this is really interesting. I think it was a Harvard Business Review, you know, those compilation books that you can buy at the airport on leadership, hbrs lessons on leadership and emotional intelligence was one of the things highlighted by the author as Um, Um, something so very beneficial for true leaders. And what? What? As I listened to your story and as I listened to your your framework of four steps here, the thing that comes to my mind is that, in order to be a good leader, we need to lead ourselves. M Hm. That like, how how can we? How can we ask somebody else to do something that we're not willing to do ourselves or that we haven't shown the discipline to doing? Um. It reminds me of that one general who offered a commencement speech at a graduation ceremony and he says, if you want to be successful in life, make your bed every morning, have a shof Um. Oh, you know who it is. I didn't even know who it is. Um. Give me your thoughts on that, because to me, admitting your powerless, coming to believe, making a decision, taking an inventory, requires a tremendous amount of emotional intelligence, self awareness, um, but also self leadership. How do I? How do I go from feeling like I'm acted upon in an industry to being the actor? You know what I think about when I look at thirty seven years. It has nothing to do with WHO I am today. But what happened thirty seven years ago is I did all those four steps and I worked the four steps. Okay, so I hope I answer your question. And here's here's here's the here's what happened to me. I knew that I was.

I didn't want to be the person I used to be. Right. So when I do a sales train class or a leadership class, the first thing I ask everybody is who wants to change something? And what do you think happens? Everybody beats their hands way up. Why? Because everyone wants to shift and change something. Right, and yet it doesn't just happen. Change doesn't happen. It doesn't happen. We just happened to win a fifty million dollar platto ticket. We had to go by the damn ticket, had to mark the right numbers. It doesn't just happen. Jesus says, pick up your mat and walk. So what happened with me was that back then and that when I was a fifty pound weekling. Something happened within that thirty days when somebody told me I couldn't do something and I realized I can live the way I'm living now or I can make a decision, as we talked about, to change, to be different. And in that moment when I when I just had to do the work, that's when everything changed. So the none of this. Life isn't easy, but life is actually very simple. If I go into and even we look back at those four steps and we look at emotional intelligence. If I if anybody in this room watching this, either somebody, anybody brand new, a leader of twelve companies, does those four steps, their life is going to change. It's just gonna Happen. If they believe they have to admit something, that in that humility, their life's gonna Change. If they believe that they have to believe in something, their life's gonna Change and make a decision, life's going to change. But going back to that fourth one, doing an inventory, understanding ourselves. That changes everything. In Disk. You mentioned emotional intelligence and let's talk about that real quick. Emotional intelligence, like you said, is for one thing, self awareness. That's that's one of the windows right. The other one is self management. You said self regulation. That's exactly right. Self Self Management. So it's one thing. Hey, I'm really aware that I'm that I need to make twenty phone calls if I'm going to be successful, but I only make two. That's not emotional intelligence. Right. I'm aware as a leader that I need that at a dealership, that I need to get behind the desk, off behind the desk and talk to customers and do one on ones with my people. I'm aware of that, but I don't do it. That's low self, that's low emotional intelligence. So, having said that, there's certain things again back behind some kind of a desk or now emotional intelligence or even strength finders. That gives that awareness of who we really are. But the next pieces, what are we gonna do about it? Right? So I don't again, I think maybe I got off on a tangent about that, but it didn't drive home exactly what you said. But I just think it's so important to understand this. There are a lot of companies nowadays that are giving assessments, but when I took assessts with dealerships, I said, Oh yeah, that's cool, through in the drawer. It's the studying of it and understanding ourselves so well that changes everything. There's what's called the joharry window and the disc behavior assessment. I think you and I have talked about it right. The joharry window. Let's look at a four square. Everybody knows the four square, probably in this audience, and what the Joharry window is. By the way, it was two guys named Joe and Harry that discovered some windows of the mind. Right, and on the left side of the Joharry window is the arena, and this is what's revealed in emotional intelligence or strength finders or disc it's the arena. What's the arena? That's that authentic, real part of ourselves. Right, the right side, at the top of the four square is the blind spots. What are the blind spots? That stuff we don't know about ourselves but other people do. Right. And then if we go down to the bottom left the of the johary window, the left bottom is ask what are those? Well,...

...let's face it, we know what a mask is in the car business. That's the things that I don't want it to let you in on. I'm not gonna let you in on right. Other people don't know it, but I know it. So there's arena, where everybody knows, authentic, real, there's the the blind spot, where I don't know but you know. There's a mask where I know you don't know. And then the bottom on the right is potential, and I love it because what it says is, listen to this. If you and I can increase our arena, our openness, our authenticity, we do that with a client, I mean with tools like roadster and click lane. We're so transparent nowadays and that's the business, that's where it's going. It's not manipulation, it's authenticity, it's realness. Right. So the more we can be an authentic human the guess what, the more our potential increases, the more we can decrease our blind spots. Know Ourselves, know what we're weak at. Figure I love every day finding out what my blind spots are. I love having a heated discussion with somebody that tells me what I suck at, because if I respect him, I'm gonna own it and I'm gonna fix it. That's who I am. And and then there's the mask. Now, Dude, I lived in mask mode right. I was the biggest phony on the planet for those first few years on this planet, especially the first the first years before I got sober, and then even once I got sober, I was just full of it. Right. And when we can decrease our mask. Our potential goes up. So the arena goes up, our PORTENTIA goes down, our blind spots go down, our mask goes down. Guess what happens? We grow, we blossom. That's the secret to this thing, man. That's what makes it so powerful. I study myself all the time and it's hard, man. It's hard because I don't always like what I see. But I'm not the same person today as a salesperson. I'm a heck a lot better. I'm not the same person today as a leader. I'm a I'm a humble servant now, and I'm not the same person as a as a husband or a father, because I was willing to work on me. MM HMM. It's the it wasn't until I decided to improve my circumstances that I realized how competitive I am against myself. Wow, I love that. I never in fact, you know, if I look at the beginning of even my marriage, I've been married now going on fifteen years. I'm sure you know. If we called my wife into the studio now and I and and said is Michael Competitive, she would tell you what I'm about to tell you. When we first got married, he said he wasn't big on competition. He was big on creating a different playing field altogether. Today I realized that that different playing field was actually just me competing against my like I was. I was actually fighting against myself most of the time, and I I hate the way it feels in the moment, Bart, like I just hate it, but I love what comes as a result. Wow, you know what that reminds me of? Michael, remember the Matthew mcconaughey Acceptance Speech? He says, Oscar speech. WHO's my greatest hero? It's me in five years. That's just the sexy answer. It's one that he can deliver. Though, if I said it ms like myself in five years. You know, I was like, Dang, came out so nice. It's true, though, I love...

...thing that we're talking about. I mean you know we're talking about. I love how you said like you went through the steps and and you were talking about this is this is where the next generation of the automotive industry is, Oh my God, and everything we're talking about. For those those listening, I really hope you lean into what Bart's been teaching us, because this is about what the next generation of the auto industry looks like. The thing that I find so compelling here, Bart is these tried, tested, proven universal truths, authenticity, be a good person, live your life in a way that you're you're seeking to grow and improve, create, create an ecosystem for yourself by which growth is the norm. I absolutely love it. Bart Man, I wanna just express appreciation for you joining me on the podcast. How can those listening learn more about you and get in touch with you? Well, thank you for one thing. My called. Thanks for having me. Brother. It's you know, you're one of my favorite people. We have a new relationship within what, six, eight months, but I am so I respect you so much and I really appreciate you giving me some time here. So that's awesome. You can go to Bart Nolemberger DOT COM. You can reach out to me there. Um, my cell phone number is available to I'm gonna give it out. It's eight. It's wrong number. Almost give me the wrong number. Four. We're not in a bar. Yeah, Amen, four, it. Oh, three to seven, eight, seven five one. Four, three seven five one. You can find me on Linkedin, you can find me Barton Olemberger on Facebook, and you can find me on facebook built to win. So those are a few places. And when can we expect the new book? Well, yeah, I'm excited. We're in the second and it it's gonna it's called keep the change. It's a recovery story, Bait and also a leadership story. It's probably we thought it was probably gonna be October. You know how those things are. They get pushed. So we're gonna say by the end of the year and I'm really just uh, I believe it's a game changer. Everybody thinks their book is, but you know, if we can change one person, Hey, hopefully we can change a whole lot more than that because of the book. But it is all about how do we change the lives and help people grow. I'm reminded as we close here, about Patrick Lindsay only meeting he had with the CEO where the CEO found out he did an assessment of himself and all his employees have done it right and he had a meeting with him and he said, I heard you guys thought I was was mean and I heard you thought I was, uh, not very organized. WHO said that? And because of the way he asked, in the tone of which he asked, nobody was going to raise their hand right. So Lindsay only took him to the side and said you might want to reframe that. If you're going to be authentic, you have to be authentic and you have to be sincere, and he went back. He said, you know what, I was wrong. He said, I appreciate you guys telling me where I need some help and I really would like to know how I can make this experience better for you guys, and that opened up the communication everything we've been talking about today, and that was a sign of a great leader, that humble authority of a great leader. So I love it. You got it all. You know how to get a hold of me. Thank you, everybody. Thank you, Mike Cirillo. You're the man, buddy. Thanks for joining me on the dealer playbook podcast. I'm Michael Cirillo and you've been listening to the dealer playbook podcast. If you haven't yet, please click the subscribe button wherever you're listening right now, leave a rating or review and share it with a colleague. Thanks for listening.

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