My father always told me to bet on the dark horse. " He's got the drive, the talent and the stamina to win. When no one else believes in him, he will shock the world!"
I remember being a small child visiting my father at the dealership he worked at from the late 70’s to the late 80’s in McKinney, Texas. Carter Chevrolet. Remembering the smell of the showroom, new cars, the parts and service departments takes me back. The smell of gas, oil, grease, new rubber on tires, and hot coolant is in my blood.
There was always a distinct linger of “new” on the fabrics and even the odor of the literature racks on the showroom. Looking at the floor and the shine on it, always glowing. Back in the early 80’s, computers took up complete rooms and were loud. My memory has a spot for the line printers rattling off reports or a customer’s paperwork.
My father started off at that location in June of 1977 in retail sales after a year at a Gainesville dealership. I was born in the spring of the next year. I think back to all the cars I was in and around, including my father’s prized red Chevelle with a black vinyl top. I fondly remember being in the back seat, buckled up, and wondering if we were winning his impromptu drag races. Not being able to see out of the rear quarter window at that age, I distinctly remember the screaming of a 350 Chevrolet block with fuel pouring through a four barrel.
We took that car to Duncan, Oklahoma one time to see family. A sleet storm had come through overnight and left the entire town iced over. Dad loaded me and brother up and we went to some random empty store parking lot and did donuts for what seemed like forever while music blared. Laughing, tires spinning and engine revving. This was my childhood. Cars, music and loads of horse racing. I can’t complain.
We ended up moving 35 miles northeast to the small town of Bonham where my father was offered a managing partner role in a Chevrolet and Dodge store. He ended up buying it out soon after and got rid of Dodge and picked up Ford, Buick, Pontiac, Oldsmobile and GMC. Even remember Geo being in there for a bit. At this point, I lived at the dealership in one way or the other. Started young and learned quickly that we all had to wear many hats in a small store.
I was not the kid with the silver spoon as most “PhD” (pops has/had dealership) kids are. Some employees most likely remember my father yelling at me while riding my rear, “If you don’t walk with a purpose, you’re never going to get anywhere!”. My father walked so fast, most men had to jog to keep up with him. Having GM and Ford on the same lot and under one roof in fixed operations was interesting to say the least. Here I learned many aspects of the dealership. The most important thing I learned, was that your people were your biggest asset. Mr. Wood was a man of few words. What he lacked in words, he made up for in actions. Not a big talker, but when he did, you got honesty and to the point.
I have been in and around every department in a dealership. I got stuck in fixed operations after my father moved me back to parts from the showroom. I had made some good money in my late teens selling cars. He felt if I was to ever be effective, I needed to learn fixed operations. I think it was also because I was irritating long tenured salespeople and selling cars. He did not like to show favoritism, so he threw me to the wolves to learn something he never completely did. Don’t get me wrong, he knew his numbers, but wanted me to have a firm grasp on the backbone of the operations of a dealership.
He ended up selling in 2004 and I moved on after a few years of staying for the new owners. I found myself working in large and small operations in parts, service and even selling vehicles. Selling vehicles was very enjoyable, but was not challenging enough for my mind. I remember working a tent sale at a dealership and putting out six units that Saturday. The next tent sale, I was desking deals. I told another sales manager one day that selling vehicles is easy. People want to buy the vehicle. They came in. The hardest part is getting them to come in. Building the value, trust and experience was too easy in my eyes.
Now in service, you are selling something people either want to put off, don’t really need or can’t afford. They will drive their vehicle with bald tires due to price but freak out when the electrical socket doesn’t work to charge their cell phone. It’s a challenge to make people happy and make them realize priorities.
So here I am, forty years young and have been in the automotive retail industry since the first Bush was in office. I think it’s time. Need to find that dealer who wants to take a chance on the black horse. Growing up around horse racing all my life, I would say I would be a safe bet. The chance for a dealer to have someone to mold their way instead of bad habits they learned from other gigs. Have someone who comes with extensive fixed experience, still has sales experience, and knows P&L like basic math.
Honestly, top notch GM’s usually are not looking. They are with the same company for a long time for a reason. They are usually managing partners. I want to be with that company or dealer who wants to grow a GM into a managing partner and eventually have multiple stores I can look over. Then, they can take a step back while I grow their brand into a household name.
Taking care of employees make happy customers. A huge part of my business acumen revolves around happy customers and employees. That is how you grow a business.
Forget all the shenanigans of trying to build success by blowing in-and-out employees through a store. If you want someone who wants to build something solid and do it the right way, I am your man. Building an empire takes the right people, with the right tools combined with passion. You want someone who is fluent in social media channels and working it to your advantage for customers. Someone who understands the fixed operations as well as familiar with variable. A leader who understands selling vehicles and creating happy customers is an art and talent, not a skill of tongue. Not a glorified sales manager who did well for a year or two and has no idea of accounting, fixed or real leadership. I am someone who has put everything into this business and will continue with tenacity. I bring growth and innovative experience. Maintaining in the status quo is mediocracy. I don’t subscribe to mediocracy. Like my father, I am a man of action. I am the dark horse.