Our Stories

Travis Smith: Becoming a ‘Data-Seeking Machine’

Travis Smith
General Manager, Mike Smith Toyota

Vanderbilt Executive MBA 2016

Travis Smith never imagined he would return to school. Although he enjoyed his undergraduate years, he says, “I’ve always been an experiential learner, so I didn’t really make the connection between academic experience and professional success.”

The Executive MBA program “has turned that thinking on its head for me,” Travis says. Well before completing his degree, he could already recount any number of ways that the program had reshaped the operations of the Toyota dealership he serves as general manager.

With his new knowledge and skills, Travis, who has been in his role for nearly a decade, overhauled the accounting methods of his organization and a sister dealership, revealing a number of cost-reduction opportunities. He has reduced parts inventory by 25 percent while increasing parts sales by 10 percent. Based on what he learned about marketing, he has made “dramatic changes” in the dealership’s advertising — including messaging, frequency and delivery methods. Most significantly, Travis, who says he always considered himself an “intuitive” manager, has learned to become a “data-seeking machine” and base his management decisions accordingly.

“Pretty much every class,” he says, “has given me an ‘a-ha’ moment where I realize, ‘We should be doing it this way!’ I have gained the confidence to make decisions in a more strategic way.”

He even credits the program with improving his pride within his family. “My wife,” he explains, “graduated in 2009 from Vandy Law. Now I’m catching up with her!”

Learn more about the Executive MBA program.