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Co-Founder and CEO of Cars.com Alex Vetter ’89, P ’22 Joins Student Business Club as Inaugural Guest Speaker

Kelly Slonaker

Canterbury’s freshly minted Business Club had its first guest speaker on November 12. Alex Vetter ’89, P ’22 shared his experience as co-founder and CEO of Cars.com, a publicly traded company and leading digital marketplace and solutions provider for the automotive industry that connects car shoppers with sellers. Since becoming CEO in 2014, Alex has taken Cars.com public and transformed the Company’s business model from an online listings and content provider to a full marketplace solutions platform, uniting media, digital solutions, and data to drive efficiencies for the auto industry. He has also grown the company exponentially, spawning four businesses, including Dealer Inspire, Dealer Rater, and FUEL. 

After Canterbury, Alex earned a B.A. in History and Psychology from Providence College where he played on their lacrosse team, and then went on to play lacrosse overseas for one year. Prior to Cars.com, he served as Manager of Business Development of Classified Ventures from 1997 to 1998, as Business Development Manager of Tribune Interactive/Tribune Media Services from 1996 to 1997, and also had experience working in a factory and bussing tables in a restaurant. When asked how he got to his current position, Alex said, “I think it's been a little luck, a lot of hard work, a desire to improve every day, and a general commitment to try to help others along the way.”

Alex also emphasized the importance of goal-setting, both on a personal and professional level. Every year since the mid-1990s, he has written down three personal and three professional goals, and he holds himself to them. He told the Business Club that one of the goals he wrote down when he was 22 was to one day return to his alma maters to share what he has learned and achieved. The club was thrilled to hear about his journey and help him cross that goal off his list.

The Canterbury Business Club was started in the fall of 2020 by a small group of students that wanted to learn more about finance. Some of them were taking the School’s Syracuse University Project Advance Personal Finance course—a class that is not commonly offered in high school curricula. The club meets weekly and is facilitated by SUPA Personal Finance and French teacher Zach Lord. Topics are proposed by the students and are wide-ranging, including advertising and marketing, stocks and investments, nonprofit and for-purpose organizations, and leadership and management. The club aims to have guest speakers with a variety of backgrounds and careers to share their experiences and connect with students about diverse opportunities.

Alex’s virtual talk was well-attended and left students with valuable lessons about work ethic and what it means to truly lead a team (his team at Cars.com is now over 1,300 strong). He noted that servant leadership—a practice widely instilled at Canterbury—is crucial to being a good employer: “People always ask me what the difference between leadership and management is, and my response is that leadership is a privilege and management is a responsibility. You have to put other people first; to serve is to rule.” 

Alex also shared some advice for current Saints: “You don't realize how many amazing people are around you every day, especially at Canterbury—it’s a special place. Get to know as many people as possible and try something you have never tried before.”

We thank Alex for sharing his time and expertise!