find Your Way Forward: October 2020

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How Dan Reel Used His Entrepreneurial Mindset to Expand During the Pandemic

Even though the automotive industry has seen struggles throughout 2020 due to COVID, dealer Dan Reel decided now was the right time to expand his independent dealership. “I’ve owned and operated a dealership for 22 years in Orwell, Ohio where we have about 75-80 vehicles in inventory. About six months ago, I decided to open a second location 30 minutes away from our first store. My wife said I was crazy to do so during a pandemic, but it was a smaller location with 35-40 vehicles in inventory and I knew that it would have a lower overhead than our main dealership, so I decided to take a chance. The new dealership is in a very high traffic area with a lot of visibility and we’ve busted our chops to make it a success.” Reel says that despite all the uncertainty with the pandemic, his success has been due in large part to his perseverance. “One of the main secrets of our success has been not being afraid to buy inventory. Even with prices skyrocketing and all of the uncertainty, the sign outside my door says auto sales, so I have to have cars to sell.”

Reel said that making quick changes and being adaptable also helped him to be successful. “We were extremely proactive and modified our sales process right away. We setup designated appointment times and offered free home delivery to all in-state customers. Four or five years ago, I wasn’t doing any online buying but then I started doing it here are there, which I’m glad of now because it was good training since I didn’t have a choice during the pandemic. I used to think that I couldn’t buy vehicles online because I had to touch, smell and see them in person but I’ve learned to trust condition reports and the accuracy of the listing. We’ve had a 95% success rate with vehicles we’ve purchased online, so I feel comfortable relying on the condition report.” He also has a prediction for the industry.

“I think that the auction platform with the best condition reports is going to be the industry leader in the future and I think the key to getting there is transparency.  Letting the buyer know who the seller is and what their rating is and having more, better quality pictures. When you buy anything in life the more pictures the better, whether it’s a house, something on Amazon or a vehicle at auction. I personally tell my team not to put less than 30 pictures on our website for each of our own vehicles.”

While Reel says that he’s proud of his success, the driving reason behind it was making sure that his employees and the community was taken care of. When Reel had to furlough some of his employees, he continued to pay their health insurance premiums so they wouldn’t lose their benefits. He also offered a special deal to all of his customers who received a $250 gift card intended to be used at a local business of their choice. “Between my two dealerships I have 18 employees who depend on us for income in addition to a community that depends on our services, so I never let my foot off the accelerator.”

How Jesse Lopez Jumped into Action to Help Dealers Impacted by Hurricane Laura

Jesse Lopez helping dealers impacted by hurricane LauraWhen dealers in the Lake Charles area were impacted by Hurricane Laura, Portfolio Manager Jesse Lopez jumped into action. “I’ve worked with the Lake Charles dealers for the past three years and during that time I’ve built some strong relationships with both the dealers and surrounding community. After hearing and witnessing the damage that Hurricane Laura left on the Lake Charles community, I felt compelled to jump into action and help in any way that I could. After speaking to pastor Bernard from Lake Temple Church, I got a better understanding of how the community was dealing with the devastation. The most immediate need requested were basic necessities like toiletries and bottles of water.” Lopez was quickly able to raise just under $600 and purchased the items to make up kits that were distributed throughout the community. As families start rebuilding their lives, dealer Horace Bennett said that the kits made a big difference and that he was extremely grateful. “That’s what this is all about, helping out one another.”

How Faith and a Positive Attitude Drive HIS Rosedale Auto Sales

Independent dealer Leon Garland is the proud owner of HIS Rosedale Auto Sales in Bakersfield, CA and has been working in the automotive industry for over 20 years. Garland says that a positive attitude and his faith have gotten him through difficult times including the current pandemic. “At the dealership, we’re interested in people first. Cars always come second, so as soon as the pandemic started, we reached out to the community and let them know that we were here if they needed any help. Even when potential customers would contact us, we’d ask them how they and their family were doing before answering any questions about our inventory.”

A sanitized car at Rosedale Auto SalesGarland took his people first approach and integrated it into his operating model. “We adapted to make sure our customers and their family’s health was a priority, starting with scheduling visits by appointment only.  We also made sure that customers knew they could go online and see dozens of images of each vehicle in our inventory. We offer an online calculator on our website so customers can see what type of vehicle they can afford based on their down payment and loan term. They can even complete an application online to see if they’re pre-approved before coming into the dealership. When customers do come in and are ready to purchase a vehicle, we try to get them in and out in about 45 minutes, including a test drive if they want one. Since we’ve made most of our sales process digital, the majority of it is completed before customers come into the dealership, making it both efficient and contactless.”

Garland is committed to service and embraces a servant leadership style when it comes to managing his team and business. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a customer or a member of a community who comes to us for help, we try to make a difference in their lives even if it’s just through prayer or some positive reinforcement. We also try to live this philosophy by finding ways to give back to the local community. Some of the organizations we’re involved with include the local Boys & Girls Club, Relay for Life, the Kern County Fire department association and Firefighter’s Union, the Bakersfield Police Department and K-9 unit, the Salvation Army and Red Cross. It doesn’t matter if it’s business or community related, making sure that people are taken care of is at the center of everything we do.”