Q: Tell us a bit about your role and the path that brought you here.
A: I’ve been at Edmunds for almost 18 years. After finishing business school at Kellogg and working as Senior Industry Analyst for Coopers & Lybrand’s Knowledge Strategies Group in New York, I joined Edmunds as the Director of Marketing and Business Development when we had just 20 employees. Now I’m the CEO and our team consists of 600 people nationwide. We had been a book publisher since the 1960s, then came online in 1994 and discontinued the print business in 2005. It’s been fascinating to be a part of the transition onto the Internet and to be involved in the growth that technology has enabled.
The way I approach my job is very hands-on and people-oriented–with both employees and clients. I interface regularly with senior level automaker executives as well as car dealers from all over the country–operations that are small and big, urban and rural, private and public. Car dealers are among the most innovative, entrepreneurial people in the business sector, and getting exposure to them is a fascinating part of my job.
Q: What is the biggest challenge for you in your role?
A: At Edmunds, we’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and always looked beyond the norm to make a real difference for car shoppers and the auto industry. The larger Edmunds gets, the more challenging it is for us to continually innovate at that level, but that is required if we want to stay at the head of the pack. We have accomplished a lot, but we can never rest on our laurels. Finding new ways to creatively inspire and support employees and our leadership team to help them continually innovate is the toughest part of my role.
Q: What do you think is the most important aspect of your job?
A: We can’t do what we do without our amazing team of talented and dedicated employees. The most important aspect of my job is ensuring that we’re one of the best places to work, hiring and treasuring people with our values who can contribute to building the business for the long run. (I’m very proud to say that we are often acknowledged in this area, as you can see here.)
Q: Describe one of the most unusual or most memorable experiences in your career/current role.
A: One of the most fun elements of my job is getting regular exposure to new cars and trucks. At Edmunds, we test all the new vehicles provided by automakers on a weekly basis, and on our own dime we regularly buy popular cars and trucks for long-term testing, reporting our findings to car shoppers to help make their process easier. One week I’ll be driving a new minivan, the next a pick-up truck, then move into a new family sedan or a sports car. I really enjoy the variety, and I get a kick out of seeing my kids (none driving age yet) get excited about what I’ve brought home on any given day. My kids really love it – but my wife thinks I’m nuts for having to move my stuff from car to car every week.
I’m very proud of our editorial team’s initiative in helping car shoppers, and the reach of Edmunds’ voice. Recently our team tackled a big question: how much would it cost to repair damage done to the aluminum body of a new truck? They took a sledgehammer to a new Ford F-150 to learn the answer, and the video went viral, earning millions of views. Ford’s CEO was even asked about it on the company’s quarterly earnings call. If you haven’t seen the video yet, you can check it out at here.
Q: What are you most excited about for the future of your organization/ the industry?
A: I like to give my team the baseball analogy that even though we’ve hit some home runs, we’re still only in the bottom of the second inning or perhaps the top of the third. I see a tremendous amount of potential for us to grow within the auto industry. We are currently unrolling a new strategy to play a valued role in the used car shopping process. The used car business is four times the size of the new car business, so that alone gives us plenty of opportunities. Also, we see technology continuing to have a major impact on car shopping. Last October we made our first acquisition – the CarCode customer/dealer texting platform – and have found it to be one of the most successful endeavors in our history. (More details can be found here.) As technology evolves, we’ll be busy for generations to come.
Avi Steinlauf, Chief Executive Office of Edmunds.com, directs the company toward the goals of empowering the automotive consumer, maintaining the high quality of the workplace and building the company to thrive for the long term. He joined Edmunds in summer of 1998 as the Director of Business Development and has also headed the company’s marketing and revenue management areas. Previously, he worked for Coopers & Lybrand’s Knowledge Strategies Group. Avi earned an MBA degree from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree from Yeshiva College.