It is not every day that your predecessors hand select you to take the reins of a company they founded. But that’s what happened a year-and-a-half ago when Jonathan Ord and Brad Perry, a couple of finance-industry guys with a bent toward technology, named Sejal Pietrzak their heir apparent. Perry stayed on as DealerSocket’s chief product officer and Ord passed the CEO baton to the 44-year-old Pietrzak.
In August 2017, Pietrzak left a chief administrative officer post with ACTIVE Network, a software provider specializing in online activities-oriented registration (think Iron Man contests and hunting and fishing licenses), database management, and business intelligence for the world of automotive dealership sales software as a service (SaaS).
Pietrzak’s finance and software background made her the perfect candidate to lead DealerSocket, with its next-generation dealership management tools that include pricing and inventory control, customer relationship management, and digital marketing. Born in Royal Oak, Michigan, and raised in Michigan and New Jersey, Pietrzak holds an international studies degree from William and Mary University in Virginia and an MBA from the esteemed Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Like DealerSocket founders Ord and Perry, Pietrzak also has a strong finance background as both a consultant for The Boston Consulting Group and as vice president of the consumer credit group at Wells Fargo.
But it’s in technology where Pietrzak says her real passion lies. “I’ve always been enamored with technology,” she says. “What I love about my work is that technology makes the lives of whoever is using it easier. It allows for innovation. And then to every day wake up and be part of something that is driving things forward, that’s one of the most fulfilling things you can do.”
Since sliding into the driver’s seat of the Irving-based tech company, Pietrzak has adeptly navigated the automotive dealership software landscape, growing the company to serve more than 300,000 active users at nearly 9,000 dealerships across four U.S. offices, and employing nearly 1,000 people.
But it is DealerSocket’s Irving home base that has enjoyed most of the company’s growth: “It’s been a phenomenal year,” Pietrzak says. “We’ve added about 125 people here. We’re now at 280 employees locally. And we’ve found incredible talent in all areas, whether it is engineers, product management, sales, or customer support.”
DealerSocket was founded in 2001 as a customer relationship management software platform. Over the course of the past 17 years, the company has quietly expanded its portfolio of software offerings to now include an integrated suite of products. Pietrzak was brought on, in part, to rebrand and showcase the company’s growing breadth of offerings. The crown jewel, perhaps, is DealerSocket’s new Precise Price tool, which allows carbuyers to configure vehicle design and financing options online so they’re better prepared before they ever go into a dealership.
“We work very closely with the manufacturers, as well as with the dealerships, to ensure that all of the vehicle specifications that consumers may want to add are there,” Pietrzak explains. “We also add other pieces, like types of warranties and insurance you might want to add. Finally, there are finance algorithms around how much you’ll be putting down and the length of the loan term.” It all adds up to a clearer picture for the consumer about how much a car is going to end up costing, and it all but eliminates that old-fashioned sticker shock for a more informed car-buying experience.
And the future looks bright for DealerSocket under Pietrzak’s direction. International growth is an option, with the company’s current offices in Canada and Russia. But Pietrzak remains steadfast on Ord and Perry’s founding vision:
“We’re always managing the present and making sure that we’re doing all the things we need to do on a day-to-day basis,” she says. “But like our mission statement says, we always want to focus on driving the future of automotive forward. We have to have one foot in innovation, while also thinking about where our industry is headed two, three, five years, and even longer down the road. But I think the real challenge is finding the right balance of doing both—and doing both very well.”