Thomas Moorehead. Luxury Dealership Owner and Philanthropist with over 30 Years of Sterling Service in the Auto Industry

 

With a history that spans more than 30 years in the automotive industry, Thomas Moorehead is a national treasure and a pioneer.  Becoming the first African American to own a Rolls-Royce dealership is no small feat, but in his usual understated manner, that is not the only dealership he owns.  In Sterling, Virginia, Mr. Moorehead is also the owner of BMW, MINI, Lamborghini, McLaren, and Harley Davidson dealerships.  Automobile dealerships are not Mr. Moorehead’s only venture; he is the owner of several hotels and a charitable individual who has also donated to the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture and many other causes including historical Black Colleges and Universities like his alma mater, Grambling State University, through the foundation he and his wife, established.  A Monroe, Louisiana native, Moorehead’s rise in enterprise has been simultaneously spectacular and inspirational and I cherish the moment I had to share with him and discuss his path.  Our dialogue is featured below, edited for length and clarity.

 

 

 

 

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Sterling Owner, Thomas Moorehead, Interview

 

Damola Idowu: Introduce yourself and talk about your dealership.

 

Thomas Moorehead: Well first of all, I just want to thank you for taking time to come out to be with us this evening. I'm Thomas Moorehead. I am the owner of Sterling Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Sterling. It’s an honor to have you here this evening. Thank you so much for coming out.  We look forward to having you come back. We have actually been in business now with Rolls-Royce for about a year and a half.  It has been a wonderful experience. We're just getting to the point where we have completed our showroom minus the signage up front.  Once we get that done, it’ll be totally done. But at this point in time, we're so happy to have you all here this evening.

 

Damola Idowu: So now, your journey has been long in the automotive industry.  I mean, we are very fascinated by how you have been able to move up, especially what you've been able to do in this region. I've been looking at the Black Enterprise top dealer list and you’ve been steadily climbing. So, kind of give us a little background to how you’ve been able to get to this prestigious position of being the first African American to actually own a Rolls-Royce dealership.

 

Thomas Moorehead: Well you know for me, this is my 31st year in the car business…

 

Damola Idowu: Exactly.

 

Thomas Moorehead: ...which is a long journey, but I started with a friend of mine, a fraternity brother, who actually said to me that I had to really look at this business, and I was of course trying to get my PhD done at the University of Michigan. So, I was two courses short plus a dissertation.

 

Damola Idowu: In what field?

 

Thomas Moorehead: Oh actually, I was getting it in urban and regional planning.

 

Damola Idowu: Okay.

 

Thomas Moorehead: And he said to me, he says, let me teach you this business. And after about ten different sittings with him and having an opportunity to look at his financial statement over a ten-year period of time. I could obviously see the cyclical nature of the business itself. And what it said to me is that if I get in and learn the little nuances of the business, and truly learn the business, that it would be something that I would truly enjoy. And as a result of that, that's what got me into the business. And for 17 years of my being a car dealer, Mr. Bradley is his name, he was the one who really shepherded me through and got me to where I am today. So my success is really standing on the shoulders…

 

Damola Idowu: Of Bradley…

 

Thomas Moorehead: ..like Mr. Bradley, who took me under his wing and taught me this business.  That’s why I’m standing here today.

 

Damola Idowu: But how did you move in with BMW because we’ve talked to a lot of other people that have owned dealerships with wide range from whether it’s Steve Ewing in Atlanta to Ray Catena doing his thing. So what is the program that BMW Group of North America has to allow people to be able to acquire a dealership?

 

Thomas Moorehead: Well actually, I didn't have any special program, but I had been with General Motors with two different dealerships...So my foundation really came from General Motors. Steve Ewing, the young man that you talk about, he's a great guy, fraternity brother of mine...For me, it was having an opportunity to present who I was to BMW. And once I did that and they looked at my credentials and looked at what we had done with Buick.  We actually had Buick; we had GMC Truck; we had Isuzu and ironically, I had BMW some years ago, but I was in an ad-based community and as a result of that, I turned the franchise in, because it wasn't selling a lot of BMW’s. And what I was looking at, it didn't make a good business case where I was located. So when I turned it in and I actually had another opportunity to come here, I applied again and because of the work that I had done- it's really all about…

 

Damola Idowu: So what was the first market that you got into?

 

Thomas Moorehead: The first market that I got into was Omaha, Nebraska.

 

Damola Idowu: Oh yeah, yeah.

 

Thomas Moorehead: And then I got a store in Decatur, Illinois.

 

Damola Idowu: Yeah.

 

Thomas Moorehead: But it's really all about selling and servicing the automobile. If you take care of the customer -  and what I've always said, I can't be the most expensive; I can't be the cheapest; but I can have the best service component and that's what I've tried to have over the years. When we built the facility across the street over there, what I said to them was, the first thing we have to do is to build a solid foundation in service. And that is really what’s caused me to be the where I am today. The boss of our operation is not Tom Moorehead, it’s Mr. and Mrs. Customer and without them, we might as well lock our doors, because we wouldn't survive. So we're here to make sure that we take care of the boss, Mr. and Mrs. Customer and if we do that, then that's the foundation of being successful in the car business.

 

Damola Idowu: ...So talking about that, so customer service - because in this region you have 7 of the top 15 richest counties. Maryland has the highest median income in the country. You have people with a lot of degrees so you have very affluent potential customers and there's also a lot of other BMW dealerships regionally here. So outside of just customer service and working from the service angle, how did you differentiate and how were you able to build year after year and gain market share at Sterling BMW?

 

Thomas Moorehead: Well it was all about me making sure that we took care of each and every customer that walked through our door.  If I saw a customer walk out of our door and they had a frown on their face, then I knew we had a problem. It was bending over backwards. Very early on, one of the things that I did and we're not perfect and I've always said, if you ever make a mistake then admit you made the mistake then do everything in your power to correct the mistake that you made. And early on in my development, one of the things that I would do, I had a young lady who made homemade coffee cakes, and she would put them in a tin and if we did not perform at the level that we should, we would then call, pick up the car, take care of it, take it back to them.

 

Damola Idowu: Wow.

 

Thomas Moorehead: Once we did that, we would also send out that homemade coffee cake and I wanted to make sure that we left a good taste in their mouths. And that too was kind of one of my trademarks...

 

Damola Idowu: Wow. So even confection...

 

Thomas Moorehead: Absolutely, and it's doing the thing that people least expect.

 

Damola Idowu: And it's the little things is what it seems like.

 

Thomas Moorehead: Absolutely. It's really not about trying to do a lot of big things because at the end of the day, what the customer wants is for you to take care of them. They don't want a lot of thrills. If you take care of them and respect their time, they will come back to you. So that's really the key, respecting the customer's time, taking care of them when they at least come to you and give you an opportunity to earn their business, you've got to perform…

 

Damola Idowu: Now, this is a historic day. And also when we talk about you actually getting the region, that is very huge because that license - or that sales license has been with an automotive sales group that has been dominant in luxury in this region for pretty much almost my whole life. So talk about that process because slow and steady runs the race, but to me that is fascinating and something I'm very curious about - how you were able to be the first, not only nationwide, but also in this region, moving it from Bethesda to Sterling, Virginia.

 

Thomas Moorehead: Well, you know, I had someone tell me one time that, being the first African American to ever own a Rolls-Royce dealership in the world, how do you feel? And I have a good friend of mine, Hank Aaron, who…

 

Damola Idowu: He's doing great...He has his own BMW in Atlanta, too, and Toyotas and everything.

 

Thomas Moorehead: I was sitting and talking to him one day and we talked about that and I really didn't think about it from the standpoint of being the first. What I was more concerned about was making sure that I did the best job that I possibly could and I knew that if I laid a

right foundation, and I've always said, if you level the playing field, we can perform just like everybody else. But it's really about having an opportunity…

 

Damola Idowu: Exactly.

 

Thomas Moorehead: ...whether I am African-American or anything else, and you can do the same.

 

Damola Idowu: Exactly.

 

Thomas Moorehead: It's all about getting an opportunity to get your foot in the door.

 

Damola Idowu: And that's it.

 

Thomas Moorehead: And that's it. Alright, if you have an opportunity to get your foot in the door, once you get in that door, you cannot fail.

 

Damola Idowu: Exactly.

Thomas Moorehead: And that's what I tell all the people around me. When you get entrusted with a brand, you've got do everything in your power to make sure you -  that you're the best dealer that could ever walk on this earth. And if you look yourself in the mirror each and every day and feel like you've accomplished that, then you're going to be successful. The other thing is, is making sure that you keep God in your life.

 

Damola Idowu: Exactly.

 

Thomas Moorehead: If God stays in your life and helps you, then you're going to be alright.

 

Damola Idowu: Another thing that we also observed, and we've been screaming it from high mountains, 20 percent plus of Rolls-Royce buyers were African-Americans - a lot of athletes, young people. We've been writing about them. We've been featuring them. We featured, whether it’s Outcast...I could go on and on down the line of football players that have that. So to me, when you look at the data, it's a long time coming for what you have achieved to be in existence, because a large part of the customer base, substantial part of the customer base, came from people that were similar to you or came from similar backgrounds to yourself.

 

Thomas Moorehead: Well, one of the things that we have to look at is, we have to take care of the customers, whether it is the individual who works in the factory, who honestly wants to drive one of the finest automobiles in the world or the individual who plays ball who obviously wants to drive or the business person who's out there. It's about the person themselves. We don't differentiate; we try to take care of everybody. If you walk through our door, we take you seriously and we're here to serve you. And that's the only reason that we’re in business so without them, we might as well lock our doors. So, taking care of the boss, Mr. and Mrs. Customer is the real key...

 

Damola Idowu: Exactly. And just in conclusion, the new Dawn -  just kind of give us - and how people could find your dealership online.

 

Thomas Moorehead: Well, the new Dawn is going to be a great product for us. It is certainly going to allow us to have people see just how great Rolls-Royce really is. You will love it. The general public will love it. Right now, the first year of sales are all sold out, but 2017, we're taking orders for them now and I'd like to get yours on the list. Okay?

 

Damola Idowu: Alright.

 

Thomas Moorehead: Alright. Thank you.

 

Views: 238

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Instagram now lets you create TikTok-like remixes using any video

You no longer need to dive into Reels to create TikTok-style collaborative videos on Instagram. The social network has expanded its remix feature to let you make collaborations and similar reworks from any video on Instagram. So long as the video was released after the update, you can choose "remix this video" from the three-dot menu to create your response to the clip. You'll still need to share the result through Reels, but you'll also have the same editing tools to create collaborations, voiceovers and effects.

Instagram is also doing more to court livestreamers. You now have the option of highlighting your next Instagram Live broadcast on your profile, giving viewers an easy way to set a reminder. You won't need to attach a regular feed post to the scheduled stream, either. While you can't yet tease later streams, this could help you build hype for an interview or ask-me-anything session.

The expanded remix feature could be important. Instagram hasn't been shy about wanting to counter TikTok, and the Duet feature is a significant factor in that rival's success. The option to remix any video potentially gives Instagram users a wider pool of videos to choose from than TikTok, including footage that wasn't originally meant for that short-but-sweet format.

'Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga' will arrive on April 5th

Two years after the game was initially supposed to debut, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga will finally arrive on April 5th. The long-awaited title from TT Games adapts all nine movies in the Skywalker Saga, and you'll be able to choose which trilogy to start with (so you might want to get the prequels out of the way first).

Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is coming to PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch and PC. It's said to be the biggest Lego game to date, and publisher Warner Bros. Games provided an in-depth look at what's in store with a gameplay trailer.

There are new combat mechanics, including ways to string attacks together and defend yourself with counter moves "in styles tailored to your favorite characters." Expect fresh blaster mechanics, with an over-the-shoulder perspective and third-person aiming reticle, and a cover system. Of course, there'll be a ton of lightsaber action, space dogfighting battles and many opportunities to use Force powers as well.

Many levels will have multiple paths to explore and you'll be able to take on side missions. Class-based abilities are upgradable and there are more than 300 playable characters to unlock. There's also a Mumble Mode, which will replace intelligible voice lines with mumbling, à la previous games in the series.

Based on the gameplay trailer alone, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga seems like a huge game. However, despite the lengthy delays, the development team was still required to work long hours (or "crunch"), according to Polygon

Several current and former employees told the publication that TT Games has had a "challenging work culture over the last decade and a half" and that, during crunch periods, work weeks of between 80 and 100 hours weren't rare (though overtime is said to have been limited in recent months). TT Games has also reportedly had a high level of staff turnover since work started on Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga nearly five years ago.

Oura’s third-generation Ring is more powerful, but not for everybody

The wearables business is hard, especially if you’re a small startup with a device you could, perhaps uncharitably, call “niche.” Oura, which makes activity-tracking rings worn endorsed by a numberof celebrities, recently released its third-generation model. This new hardware is a technical marvel, packing many of the features that most wrist-worn devices take for granted. But the need to keep the cash rolling in has seen Oura, like Fitbit, Apple, Wahoo and others, pivot to a recurring-revenue model. Oura says that this is key to shift from the idea of buying a device that never changes, to supporting its broader goals of building an evolving fitness ecosystem.

Hardware

Image of the inside of the Oura Ring (v3)
Daniel Cooper

Before we get into the specifics of this new Oura ring, let’s take a moment to remember that this device is still a marvel of engineering. Taking the sensors from a smartwatch or fitness tracker and shrinking them into a ring is worthy of enormous praise. For all of its imperfections, it’s amazing to see Oura push the limits of what is capable in such a small form factor. And there’s much more tech crammed in this time around, despite the size and weight remaining the same as the second-generation version. The headline features these new sensors enable include continuous heart-rate tracking, temperature monitoring, blood oxygenation and period prediction.

The sizing process is the same for pretty much every smart ring I’ve ever tried: The company sends you a set of plastic dummy rings you have to wear for a couple of days. Once you’ve determined the correct fit, which is tight and secure around the base of your index finger, but not to the point where it’s uncomfortable, you can order the real thing. This actually was the most stressful part of this review, since I felt that one size was too loose, the other too tight, but I opted for looseness rather than sacrificing a digit to the gods of fitness tracking. Oura says that the index finger is the best place for its ring, but you can stick it elsewhere if you prefer.

Unfortunately, the one thing you can’t do much about is the size of the ring itself which is a bit too big. I’m a big-ish guy with big-ish hands, but it feels a bit too ostentatious on my fingers, enough that people notice and ask me what it is as soon as they spot it. If you have more slender hands, I’m sure you might have a similar issue with folks pointing it out. I suspect that the smart thing to do is visit Parts Of 4 to get some more adornments to balance out the look.

Software

Without a screen, Oura is yoked tightly to the iOS or Android app where all of this data will be displayed. The Oura app is clean and tidy, only giving you the deepest data when you go looking for it. The app breaks down all of the information generated from your finger and compresses it into three scores, which are shown on the homescreen. These are for Readiness, Sleep and Activity, representing how prepared you are to face the day, how well-rested you are and how much exercise you’re doing.

The only other thing you’ll find on the homescreen is a breakdown of your heart rate across the day, showing you where the peaks and troughs are. You’ll also get advice on your ideal bedtime, which is useful when you’re working late nights and need to juggle sleep with getting things done. You’ll also get periodic reminders to move if the app detects you’ve been still for a while, and advice when it’s time for you to wind down for the day.

Go into one of the categories, like Readiness, and you’ll get scores for your recovery index, sleep, as well as your HRV balance, body temperature and resting heart rate. You can also see that my figures dropped quite substantially during a three-day period when I got food poisoning from a New Year’s Eve takeaway meal. During that period, I was given plenty of warnings telling me I wasn’t rested or well enough to do much else – not that I felt like I was gonna go for a run or anything.

As part of Oura’s plan to add extra value to its platform, the company is adding a series of video and audio guides for meditation, breathwork and sleeping. These guides, which are essentially guided meditation audio tracks, can be backed with a white noise option of your choice. You can pick the hum of a train station, the crunch of a forest stroll, the sound of the tide lapping at the land or rainfall, amongst others. These are a thing for people who find those things useful to fall asleep and feel restful but I, personally, do not find them that great.

That said, where Oura differs from its rivals in this space is that it’ll break down your vital signs during your meditation. If you’re wondering how to get better at meditating then you’ll be guided to more appropriate tracks that’ll help prod you toward nirvana.

Oura is working on adding more features to the Ring v3 over the next year, including more content as well as more accurate sleep and period tracking. These will not actually appear as new features so much as they are behind-the-scenes improvements in the underlying systems. Finally, at some point this year, the ring will be able to identify your blood oxygenation (SpO2) while you sleep in order to help detect disorders like sleep apnea.

In use

Image of the Oura Ring V3 on its charging plate.
Daniel Cooper

The best thing about the Oura ring is that, once you’ve worn it a few days, you quickly start to ignore its presence. And while you’re not paying attention, it begins worming its way into every corner of your life, learning your working patterns and getting ready to make helpful suggestions. If you feel like crap in the morning but don’t have the mental wherewithal to comprehend why, you’ll be told as soon as you look at your phone. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing here that other platforms don’t do as well, but this is certainly an elegant implementation of the idea.

Sleep tracking is generally fine, by which I mean it works by tracking movement and therefore can’t tell when you’ve been rudely awoken but haven’t moved. As part of this new pivot, however, Oura is promising that the sleep tracking will soon become vastly more accurate as a consequence of behind-the-scenes changes. This will not be readily visible to users, however, since all you’ll get is a pop-up telling you that things just got more accurate. Still, it offers a fairly good indicator for how the night went, although I find the activity tracking to be a little more on the generous side. Yesterday morning, for instance, it told me that my morning shower was a strength training workout with plenty of burned calories for my trouble. Similarly, it’ll tell me around lunchtime that I need to take a half-hour brisk walk to finish my activity for the day, and then by early evening, having done nothing more than stand at my desk, make dinner and put my kids to sleep, it’ll tell me I’ve completed my goal.

One of the features that Oura is tempting its users with is Workout Heart Rate, which I find inadvertently amusing. Because the ring is so chunky, and it has such a hard edge, that I really don’t find it comfortable to wear during workouts. For instance, if I’ve got a pair of free weights, or I’m doing an incline push up on a Smith machine bar, the ring just pushes into the fleshy parts of my hand. For most of the proper “gym” workouts I’ve done, the ring has had to come off, lest I tap out too early or draw blood from the chubby parts of my fingers. But for more ring-friendly jobs, like running, walking, or cycling, you should find this to be a big help.

In terms of vital-signs tracking accuracy, I think it’s always wise to remember that wearables will not be as inch-perfect as a clinical-grade device. But in a number of random spot-tests, the Oura offered the exact same figures as the Apple Watch on my wrist. In fact, Oura’s reputation for accuracy has always been pretty high, and one of the reasons that the company hasn’t released some of these features is to ensure they’re ready to go when they do arrive.

Oura quotes battery life at seven days, although I rarely managed to get past five without having to drop it on the charging plate. Certainly, real-world stamina is a bit far from what the company is saying, but then it’s hardly a deal breaker since you can charge it full in two hours. It’s become common for me to take the ring off while I’m standing at my desk on Monday and Friday mornings and let it re-juice while I’m working.

Economics

The third-generation Oura ring will set you back $299, which gets you the ring in one of four finishes: Silver, Black, Stealth or Gold. In the box, you’ll receive the charging plate and a USB-C cable, and as part of the deal, you’ll get a six-month trial of Oura’s subscription service. Membership, which costs $5.99 a month for new users, will entitle you to “daily health insights,” “personalized recommendations,” as well as more video and audio sessions. Any existing Oura user who upgrades to the new ring will get a lifetime membership thrown in for free.

I want to be fair here and say that I understand why Oura is pivoting to this recurring revenue model. It’s not as if other companies in this space, like Fitbit, aren’t doing the same in the hope of bolstering their bottom lines. And that’s before we get to talk about how much lock-in the Apple Watch gets as a consequence of Fitness+. But I also think there’s a difference between the sort of product that those rivals are offering compared to Oura’s product.

After all, Apple and Fitbit can both offer coaching both on their devices and on bigger screens, which Oura can’t. Not to mention that Oura is really only able to offer guided audio clips (and short videos) through its app. And that while Apple and Fitbit are selling their devices as (having the potential to become) Capital-F Fitness gear, the Oura really isn’t. But, then again, that’s not what Oura is pitching here – it’s for the meditator, the runner, the cyclist, who doesn’t want to strap something beefy to their wrist.

Wrap-Up

Here’s the problem with reviewing Oura: It’s not a device that every fitness person will love. If you want something with more versatility, you’d buy a smartwatch and have done with it. Oura is more of a subtle product, for people who want to be less ostentatious about their health, or simply want something that slips into their lives and does the job. Honestly, since I’m not a gym bro, I really like the data the ring offers me without any fuss or muss.

As for the subscription, it’s likely that Oura will have to keep squeezing as many new features and insights as possible out of this new hardware. Between that, and vastly improving its currently slender content library, it’s worth it if you’re a paid-up member of the Oura family. But, and this is more a comment on the industry as a whole rather than a slight against Oura itself, I do find this need for every company to squeeze some rental income out of their users to be a little bit grating.

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