Every so often, our editorial staff selects one aftermarket industry professional to get to know a little better. Participants are asked to respond to a series of questions that can be answered in about the same amount of time you might spend chatting at the office coffee pot or waiting for an elevator. In today’s installment of “Five Minutes With,” we get to know Timothy Cifelli, marketing director for BOLT ON TECHNOLOGY, a little better.
What was your first job in the industry?
I am a full-time, professional, experienced marketer. I’ve worked on the agency side – PR, advertising, branding – for almost 20 years. This is my first client-side or corporate-side position. However, I do have some pretty deep experience working with automotive and aftermarket-related clients. Most recently, I developed and managed the marketing campaigns for ARI, a fleet management company. In addition to that, I did something similar with Holman Automotive, which is an East Coast-based retailer – used and new cars. Prior to that, I was the agency of record for 10 years for the Philadelphia International Auto Show, which after the big boys like Detroit, New York and D.C., is one of the largest auto shows in the country.
What do you like best about your current position?
Great question. I’m going to answer that through the filter of having been an agency guy or a consultant, and that is: When you are a consultant on the outside, no matter how close of a relationship you develop with your clients or your brands, you are still on the outside. You are not really privy to a lot of the discussions and decisions. You don’t have a lot of access to the data on whether something is working or not and I always felt that was the missing piece. I wanted to have an opportunity where I could go somewhere and take all that experience in helping to launch a brand, create a brand, maintain a brand and be in on the ground floor and be part of those conversations.
The team here at BOLT ON, and the environment that Mike Risich has created, is very open, it’s very entrepreneurial. The company in its current form is about 10 years old and even though its 10 years old it’s still a very entrepreneurial feeling. It’s almost like we’re a 10-year startup. We have the same attitude as a startup company, being hungry and wanting to push the needle and do things different than the competition, be a disruptor, but we also have 10 years of success to back it up. It’s exciting. Whenever you are on the outside, you only get to look through the window. I really wanted to get on board with an organization that was going places and help them get there. It was also to work on a product or brand that is truly making a difference in its industry, and not just cranking out widgets. I think BOLT ON provides me both of those opportunities.
What would you say to someone considering a career in this industry?
I don’t think it’s just recruiting, I think it’s retaining as well. Because there are plenty of people who come into the industry, they work here for 5, 6, 7 years but then they move into a trade union, where they become a plumber or an electrician, where they have an apprenticeship and they have better rates and better pay, better hours etc. I think the industry needs to acknowledge the challenge. It’s starting to, but people have been asking this question for a long time. This isn’t a new thing; now they are just starting to talk about it. The industry itself is part of the problem.
I think that shop owners need to treat their technicians in a different way. They are not just turning wrenches – this is talent that you need to seek out and recruit, cultivate and hold on to. That means being proactive, going to some of these trade schools, volunteering as a mentor, providing internship or apprenticeship opportunities with the students so you can start evaluating talent or creating connections and networking so that when they do graduate, they come right to you. You need to consider things like becoming a more competitive and desirable place to work – offering things such as signing bonuses. Helping technicians invest in their tools and supplies. You might think you are paying them a good salary but when they have to spend $30,000 right from the get-go to buy their equipment, they are in the hole. Create an environment that is innovative and cutting-edge and high-tech. They want to be able to work at places that feel like they are going somewhere, not a shop that feels like it’s stuck in the 70s.
What do you do when not at work?
I’m a big geek. I’ve been collecting comic books since I was a wee little kid and now I’ve gotten my son and my daughter into it. All the Marvel movies, the video games, etc. We go to the conventions and Comicon, and that’s fun. And anybody who laughs at it, I remind them of their fantasy football and how that’s no different.
I love the outdoors. I grew up in the Philly area and our normal summer vacation destination was always the Jersey shore. Frankly after 47 years, I’m sick of the Jersey shore. I love going up to the mountains, in a cabin on the lake, hiking, fishing, and thank God my kids and my wife love the same thing. So, we do a lot of that.
I’m also a prolific reader, I read everything – novels, magazines. I still believe in print!
What one word best sums up your personality?
Oh gosh, that’s a hard one! I would say, I don’t take myself seriously but I take the work seriously. I don’t know how I condense that into one word. I’d say creative, and not just in my job. I’m not a proponent of doing the same thing over and over again. I always want to try something new, even if it doesn’t work.
What was your first car?
My first car was a 70-something Dodge Aspen. It was pea soup green, one of those really awful 70s colors. This thing was a tank. The Green Hornet.
Do you have a hidden talent?
Well it’s not a hidden talent but a little known fact: I have an extensive background in politics. That’s what got me into marketing. I started off as a press secretary for a number of congressional candidates here in Pennsylvania. I ended up working for one of the political parties and I did that for 10 years. I ran races. That’s how I learned messaging, targeting an audience, video production, digital messaging, public relations and crisis management. All of that was great training and that led me to PR, marketing and advertising and now I’m here.
What are you currently reading?
The books that I’m reading now – I usually read two or three at one time. So I’m reading the Autobiography of Alexander Hamilton and not just because of the play. This will answer another one of your questions – my childhood hero was Alexander Hamilton.
In addition to the fun stuff like comic books, I love history, particulary early American colonial history and the Revolutionary War. I’m also reading a mystery novel by two authors, Preston and Child, and they have a series of books that are essentially a modern day “Sherlock Holmes” and then I’m reading a business book, “Start With The Why.” I usually have two or three of them going at once.
Know someone who would love to be featured in Five Minutes With? Email editor Amy Antenora at [email protected].