While an enthusiastic NASCAR follower, Kathy Williamson acknowledged she had never been to an auto auction prior 2003. Although the vehicles in the auction lanes don’t travel nearly 200 mph, the pace at which Williamson helped to develop technology leveraged in the wholesale vehicle space still moves pretty fast, too.
Williamson and her husband purchased Auto Auction Solutions and operated the company themselves until selling it to Auction Edge last year. She remains a part of Auction Edge, now as vice president of EDGE AOS.
“From a technology perspective, the use of mobile devices has been the largest change,” said Williamson, a 2016 Women in Remarketing honoree. “Smartphones and tablets weren’t even in use 12 years ago. Now you can do almost anything on a phone that you can do on a computer. Online selling, via simulcast and other buy-now or bid scenarios, has also increased in usage significantly over the past 12 years.”
From never have been to an auction previously, Williamson more than made up for it during the 12-year span beginning in 2003. She ventured into nearly 150 auction facilities in 36 U.S. states and four Canadian provinces.
“I view myself in the solutions business versus the car business,” Williamson said “Probably five years into my career, I realized I wanted to not just build software, but to work with end-users to provide solutions that make their jobs easier.
“There is no shortage of interesting technology challenges,” she continued. “I thought after installing our products at about 20 auctions, we’d have a good handle on the functionality required at auto auctions. But every auction does business differently. Even today, it’s rare that we leave an install without saying once, ‘No one’s ever asked for that feature before.’ So beyond technology constantly changing, there’s no shortage of user requests.
“Also the people working at auto auctions are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and many have become friends,” Williamson went on to say.
Before venturing into the wholesale vehicle space, Williams spent 14 years with a company that developed accounting software. When, as Williamson explained it, what’s known as the dot-com bubble “burst” in the early 2000s, she spent about 18 months working for contractors in northwest Florida associated with the U.S. Department of Defense.
Now, when not traveling to watch the best in auto racing compete, Williamson is on the road working with auctions to help them deliver the technology services their dealer customers want.
“Having good relationships with our auto auction customers has been the most rewarding experience. A lot of our sales have come from referrals from our current customers. Receiving personal references from your customers is very rewarding,” Williamson said.
“Understanding the problem being solved is the first step,” she continued. “Once I have a good understanding, is this a similar problem to one I’ve solved before and will that solution work in this instance? If not, determine the troubleshooting steps that need to be performed to determine the cause of the problem, then perform those steps. If this does not resolve the issue or the cause still can’t be determined — those technological issues that happen randomly — put into place a process to monitor for this issue to get better troubleshooting information.”
And the individuals Williamson gets to work with in the auction space inspires her most.
“People who care about their customers — auction owners, front office clerks, IT partners in the auto auction industry — it’s rare that a business can survive without customers of some variety and their successful transactions with our businesses is what keeps them as customers,” Williamson said.
Check out the April 15 edition of Auto Remarketing to learn more about the entire class of 2016 Women in Remarketing honorees.
These outstanding leaders will be honored at Used Car Week 2016, where we will be launching our National Remarketing Conference partnership with the National Auto Auction Association.
Used Car Week is scheduled for Nov. 14-18 at the Red Rock in Las Vegas.