I met Randy McPherson for the first time in February, 2003, at the Interchange Building in St. Louis Park, MN. The interchange building was the “headquarters” for all the Walser Automotive Group’s affiliate companies, which Randy headed up.
I walked into the offices on the 18th floor and was greeted by a receptionist named Rita. Immediately in front of me was a large window looking into a board room occupied by (mostly) men in suits, obviously conducting a meeting. The board room looked out onto the Minneapolis downtown skyline.
I noticed one gentleman right away. He was wearing a pressed flannel shirt and slacks. he had a smooth head and a groomed goatee. Clearly a renegade. I took a seat in the waiting room.
When the meeting adjourned, the men in suits filed out. The gentleman in the pressed flannel shirt walked out, and greeted me warmly. “Hi, Paul, I’m Randy McPherson,” he said.
We went back to his office, and had a nice conversation. Among the family photos and hunting relics in his office, something caught my eye: an empty guitar stand in the corner behind his desk.
The interview went the way most first interviews go, which is to say pretty innocuous. We talked about the Walser Car Club, and how it was birthed. Since the inception in October of 2002, it hadn’t had solid leadership to spearhead enhancements, new partnerships, or growth to new dealerships. In fact, there wasn’t 100% compliance among Walser’s 10 locations in the Twin Cities, Randy said. They were looking for someone to build process, partnerships and new business.
We talked about my experience in sales, e-commerce and loyalty. I told about my experience in building loyalty partners. But Randy became particularly interested when I discussed points–the ability for Walser customers to earn points when they get their vehicle serviced, OR whenever they make purchases through participating merchants, like rental cars, hotels and retail.
This was the first of many conversations between Randy McPherson and me in scoping out what is today the products the re:member group offers.
“What I’d like you to do,” Randy said, “is to put together a business plan and meet with my CFO and me in two weeks. There’s another candidate that we are considering.”
As I left, I mentioned the empty guitar stand in the corner. “Do you play?” I asked.
“Oh yeah,” Randy said. “Do you? What kind of guitar do you play?”
“I play a Martin D-35 that my wife gave me for a wedding present,” I said. “How about you?”
“I play a McPherson,” Randy said.
It was mid February but as I walked out of the Interchange Building that late afternoon, I think it started to rain.