finding Your Way Forward: March 2021

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Persevering through Adversity: Kalinga’s Auto Brokers

Kalahan Barrett has never let adversity be a deterrent. His first major challenge came during the 2008 recession when his business slowed down. “The local community here in Snellville, GA was deeply impacted by the recession and my business was affected almost immediately. I had to scale back my inventory which averaged around 20 vehicles during that time, but I was able to keep things going and eventually my dealership was on a strong foundation again.”

A few years later, Barrett’s wife was diagnosed with a major illness, but again he didn’t let it get him down. “I run the dealership with my wife and niece. So, when my wife was battling her illness, we had to make some changes to the daily operations, but I never lost faith. I knew that through my hard work and determination we would be able to get through it and I’m happy to say that she’s well again and back to helping out around the dealership.”

So, when the pandemic hit last year, he dug in his heels and rose to the challenge like he had before. “I obviously had to make some adjustments like everyone else did and there was a time when inventory wasn’t moving off the lot, but I just really believe that keeping a positive attitude no matter what life throws at you is the only way to survive. I’ve owned and operated my dealership now for about 20 years and during that time I’ve seen it all, but nothing could’ve prepared me for the pandemic. However, I’m pleased to say that business continues to improve, and I believe one of the keys to my success has been to keep a positive attitude no matter what life throws my way.” 

Transforming a Detail Shop into a COVID Cleaning Station

Patrick Smith, owner of AP Auto Haus in Fairport, NY was in the process of ramping up his inventory for tax season when the pandemic hit, and he was forced to shut his dealerships down. “We had three dealerships in operation before COVID started and we were in the process of opening a fourth. We had stocked up on inventory at all our locations for the upcoming tax sales, but our local government shut down all dealerships as soon as the pandemic started.  That was a really tough blow because I had no money coming in and was struggling to pay my bills. The only thing I could do was find a way to get our detail shop back up and running. Luckily, I was talking to one of our suppliers and he told me about a fogging machine used in the medical industry that’s supposed to kill all types of bacteria and how we could probably use it to sanitize our vehicles. He only had two machines available to sell at the time, so I quickly purchased one and got permission from our town to open our detail shop as a COVID cleaning station so that we could sanitize vehicles for the local community’s front-line workers. Then we had some of the larger insurance companies contact us and they started paying us to sanitize their vehicles as well. We also had local officials bring in their vehicles along with our own customers who came in to have their vehicles sanitized. The income wasn’t enough to make up for our normal cars sales, but it got us through the worst part until we were able to open the dealership back up in July.”

Once he was able to start selling his vehicles again, Smith made some changes to his daily business operation to meet the needs of his customers during COVID. “I always want to see a lot of pictures when I purchase a vehicle online, so I make sure my customers have the same opportunity when they’re looking at inventory on our website. We also put a GoPro on the dashboard of each vehicle so our customers can do a virtual test drive and still ask questions while one of our staff members drives the vehicle they’re interested in. I’m in my late 30’s and grew up very old-school and believe in a firm handshake and looking people in the eye so it’s taking me some time to get used to a virtual sales process, but it’s also opened us up to a new customer base. Our entire sales process is now contactless. We have a firm no haggle price for every listing on our website and we put the plates and registration on for the customers before we deliver the vehicles, so they just have to complete the paperwork when the vehicle is delivered to finish the transaction.”

Smith says that he credits his adaptability along with the support NextGear Capital gave him to keep his head above water. “I was using another finance company along with NextGear Capital but they turned their backs on us and tried to take every penny they could. NextGear Capital stood by us and they’re the reason why we were able to stay afloat. I lost 90% of my business and had to close two of our dealerships but I’m grateful that I’m still standing. Some other dealers I know have had to take early retirements and some have lost everything. We’re still hurting and at a major deficit but we’re still here and I take that as a major win and appreciate NextGear Capital’s continued loyalty to our business.”

NextGear Capital Team Members Volunteer Virtually

As most team members continue to work in a virtual environment, NextGear Capital’s Community Relations team has been looking for virtual volunteer opportunities with different nonprofit organizations. Most recently, several team members participated in an event with Girl Talk Inc. where they created cards with encouraging and positive messages for the girls in the organization. They also held a Virtual Volunteer Fair last month, partnering with local organizations who’re affiliated with national nonprofits including the American Red Cross, Gleaners Food Pantry, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful and Big Brothers and Big Sisters. This Virtual Volunteer Fair is held quarterly and features different organizations each time to ensure our efforts are spread across as many worthwhile causes as possible. Learn more about the impact NextGear Capital and other Cox Automotive team members are making here.