Talkin’ With Lou: Doug Dwyer, Executive Vice President, Schiefer Media

Dec 2, 2009

Confession: I’ve never met Doug. Through some editorial confusion on my part, Doug and I missed our first chance to talk and eventually ended up in an eleventh hour effort to close this interview. Everything I know of Doug I learned in my conversations with Michael Murray, a senior ad exec at this magazine. Michael points to Doug as one of the most pivotal early influences in his automotive career and the catalyst behind Michael’s racing ambitions. But as you’ll see, it’s easy to love Doug. He wants SEMA to effectively create an Oscar or ESPY award (brilliant idea); he just finished the entire Hemingway collection; he flies his own plane; he’s raced several road racing cars and he hates meetings – maybe just a little more than me. Doug works for the Cadillac of automotive PR firms, Schiefer Media, handling popular brands such as Eagle One Car Care, American Wheel, Weld Wheel, and the Bondurant Driving School.

L.J.: Doug, thanks for taking some time out of your busy schedule to catch up with us at Performance Business. I imagine this is a busy time of year as you get ready for SEMA, PRI, etc. What are some of your most important goals for this year’s SEMA show?

Doug: My goals are the same as the other 35 years I’ve been to this show. There is no other place like it for making deals. I think of myself as a dating service for our clients. I like to introduce people and companies to each other and see what kind of chemical reaction takes place.

L.J.: Is SEMA doing a good job for our industry?

Doug: As I see it SEMA has three strategic responsibilities: 1) Legislative involvement, which they do very well; 2) The trade show, which they are exceptional at; and 3) Marketing our industry, which I don’t think they do very well. Look, what people don’t understand they fear; what people fear they kill. SEMA needs to do more to help the non-automotive people understand this great American art form we are involved in. It is art, you know. I suggest that SEMA create a prize, like the Nobel or Pulitzer for editorial or entertainment. Make it big and give it out every year at the banquet to the non-automotive editor or movie maker that makes the best piece for our industry. And I’d call it the Robert E. Petersen Award, or “The Pete.”

L.J.: What’s a typical day like for you at Schiefer Media?

Doug: That’s what I love about this job; no day is like another, the only constant for me is an ongoing effort to avoid meetings, which are the single biggest hindrance to human progress.

L.J.: Many people don’t understand all the work that goes into successfully building and marketing a brand. Whether it’s General Motors or Lucky Gracie’s Speed Shop, I’m guessing there are a handful of rules every business should follow when implementing a marketing campaign?

Doug: Business is civilized man’s way of waging war. A business plan and a battle plan look pretty much the same: What’s the goal? What do we need to know about that goal? How do we define success? What do we need to do to be successful? What assets do we have? What assets will we need? When are we going to do these things? How do we expand and supply our success? How do we get out if it fails? Simple stuff really.

L.J.: What is the hardest lesson you have had to learn in the media and PR businesses?

Doug: If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Many successful businesses get boring so management thinks that things need to be changed. Often it’s boring because the systems are working as intended. We get bored with our processes long before consumers do. Not that change is bad, but change for the right reasons.

L.J.: As you know, my goal with this column is to find one good idea; something a retailer can implement today to generate more sales. If you were a performance retailer, what would you be doing to differentiate yourself and grow your business?

Doug: Culturalize the image of your business to fit the targeted consumer and make it as easy as possible for the consumer to buy from you. Whether it’s brick and mortar or online or both, you have to do everything you can to get people to visit your place of business. And, because your people are so important to your success, treat them like they are volunteers – like you appreciate that they are working with you.

L.J.: Doug, thanks again for chatting with me today. Any last thoughts?

Doug: I’m living a dream and happy to share it.

DOUG DWYER, Schiefer Media

What’s on your iPOD?
I’m a big satellite radio fan, I have both versions because I need the NASCAR and racing stuff, plus I need the XM for the onboard weather in my airplane. I’m mostly a news junky, talk show geek.

Last book read:
I’m big on biographies, the last book I read was “Founding Brothers” written by Joseph Ellis (but because I have a very long commute, I also listen to books on tape and I just finished the entire Hemmingway collection via audio, it really makes the time fly).

Favorite place to drive:
I live near Mount Palomar and Ortega Highways, both are really first class touring roads.

Person you’d most like to have lunch with
Alive: Newt Gingrich. Passed: Charles Lindbergh