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All-Big Ten honors. Qualification into the NCAA Golf Championship. Star at two sports. CPA. Given her obvious desire to compete, excel and her thirst for learning, it's a bit of a surprise that Courtney Cole never thought much about joining her family's business. After all, people who thrive on competition do well at car dealerships, and students of the industry generally reach great heights.
Good thing she took that summer job selling cars. Had she not, Hare Chevy would be missing one of the two sisters who currently own the dealership. But then again, probably not: it's hard to picture someone of Courtney's drive sitting behind a computer as a CPA for some non-descript widget maker when there are Chevys to sell and mountains to climb, mountains that have been there for six generations and only seem to get taller every year.
That's not a typo. For six generations, Hare Chevy has been weathering storms, surviving wars and Great Depressions. Today, Courtney and Monica Peck guide the business that began as Wesley Hare and is now the oldest transportation company in America. Since 2008, in fact, they have grown the dealership substantially, and were named one of GM's Dealers of the Year -- an award given to the top two percent of Buick, Cadillac, Chevy and GMC dealers in the region. They did this despite weathering a few cloudy days of their own like the Great Recession and an unthinkable GM bankruptcy, thanks to an emphasis on competition and the opportunity that comes with continual industry education.
And that's the key: opportunity. For attendees at the 2012 DrivingSales Executive Summit, their opportunity will be to take full advantage of the lessons learned and ideas that motivate Courtney and her team at Hare. Her breakout session "Differentiate Your Store to Crush the Competition and Make Your Bottom Line Dark Black!" promises to be full of great insights and actionable takeaways. We can't wait!
What can #DSES attendees expect to hear from you?
CC: All the fun things we can do in the car business, all the niches that can make extra money, from expense savings to events and promotions. As small as it sounds, things like this: we took the managers to dinner -- in a limo, with spouses, for hitting a huge goal. That made a difference.
What do you love about the car business, or digital marketing?
CC: The sky is the limit! The thing I love is putting together a team of competitors who want to win and are open to change. A team that's all about achieving a goal that you didn’t think was possible. As far as digital goes, it's exciting to find that next thing that differentiates you from the competition.
What’s your passion? What makes you get up early in the morning?
CC: Chasing goals. If we sold 400 units, how do we get to the next level? It's all about constant improvement, of reaching goals. The people are always what makes it all come to together, so putting the right team together and watching them achieve their goals is what gets me up in the morning.
What was your best car memory?
CC: My first car was a red Geo Spectrum 5-speed...it went 0-55 in about three days! Mostly, though, the most amazing stories I have are of being a six-generation family business.
CC: We were able to purchase the dealership from my Dad in 2008, and we had to maneuver through the recession. Despite that tough start we’ve grown this thing substantially. I'm also proud of our commitment to learning, of being a student of the industry. It's important -- to learn as much as you can so that you can implement best practices. Because of that we’ve always sent our people to conferences, etc.. We're constantly running our people through this stuff all the time.
Tell us about a recent dealership pain point that your team was able to solve.
CC: This is something that we’re just now in the process of implementing. An all-day service clinic, having an extra person there, a service concierge who talks to people as they wait, gives them a questionnaire. The key is to ask the right questions, to sell more service contracts. Right now we're finding that the big issue is navigation and technology. People don’t have the time to figure these things out. When that's aligned with videos on the website, it works well.
What are the three main topics dealers should be focused on as we head into 2013?
CC: First, Used Cars - It's something you can control. Second, Niches. It can be anything, but find additional opportunities like accessories. It's an opportunity to make more money. Anything that can improve your return per car. Learn and then implement! Finally, be focused on compliance. The big elephant in the room is factory and federal compliance.
Speaking at DSES is…
CC: I'm excited to talk about the things we've done and what we've learned. There’s some good things to offer. But I am really excited about what I will be able to learn from the conference!