Gart Sutton Expects Seamless Transition

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According to Gart Sutton & Associates (GSA), there will be no shutdown in services when Assurant Solutions hands over its 20 group dealers to it on Monday.

“We are hoping for a seamless transition,” Steve Jones, general manager of GSA, says. “All the current Assurant schedules for training and dealer groups will remain intact until further notice.”

As we reported earlier, Assurant Solutions told its 20 group members on Wednesday that it was transferring them to GSA in five days.

“It just happened very, very rapidly,” Jones says. “We’ve been working with them as a contractor for about six months. And we were going to do some of their 20 groups and maybe help them with some changes in the structure of their training programs. But at that point there was no hint that we would suddenly acquire their 20 groups. That kind of came out of nowhere.”

We reported earlier that GSA managed about 20 dealerships, but Jones informs us that the company added two other groups in the past year. Plus, GSA facilitates more than seven groups for OEM clients.

We also said earlier that the company was based in Corona Del Mar, Calif., but this is just the hometown of Gart Sutton himself. Like him, all GSA employees work from home. This presumably will make the transition of some former Assurant employees to GSA easier. Jones says former Assurant 20 Club head honcho Sam Dantzler is already on board.

At this past year’s Dealer Expo, Assurant Solutions was claiming that it moderated more than 350 dealers in its dealer groups. But Jones says the number being transferred is closer to 300. “There has been some attrition because we’ve inherited a number of them in our Best Operators Clubs,” he says.

What about all the unflattering things Ed Lemco has been saying lately about the 29-year-old Gart Sutton & Associates?

“We’re surprised Ed would make those kinds of comments," Jones says. "We have only made positive statements about him. Incidentally, Ed has never attended one of our sessions. If anything, we are far more intense than Ed ever was. It is just that we have a lot better technology than he did at the time, so our methodology is a little bit different. Instead of focusing on doing it all at the meeting, we focus on their data being available, real-time, anytime the dealer wants to look at it, and we follow that up with monthly critiques from our financial analysts that go out to the dealers by e-mail. So when dealers go to the meeting, they already have a lot of information that normally wouldn’t have been there. As far as I know, we are the only one that has a real-time Web-based 24/7 composite system.”

In a statement released yesterday, Gart Sutton said, “We are looking forward to helping the newly expanded Best Operators Club not only survive in these tough economic times, but to thrive. Finding your edge in today’s competitive retailing market requires a street-smart approach. We provide the tools, skills and knowledge that 20 club dealers need today.”