■ By Richard Perry / Contributed
Greetings from The Hemet Car Guy,
As a member of our Regional Hemet/San Jacinto Chamber of Commerce, I pay close attention to the monthly add and drop list of the membership. When I drive down Florida Avenue and some of our other commercial streets I see the empty buildings and remember the businesses that were once there. I get it – I know it is difficult, whether you run a business or a non-profit, that there are challenges, regulations, lack of employees, lack of customers and even some people who just simply don’t want you to succeed, so businesses aren’t successful or close down altogether. As far as auto dealers, cuts have come largely at the expense of urban dealers, some smaller rural/small town stores are actually doing okay.
Many of these smaller dealerships are family enterprises; three and even four generations old. Their old testament is due to their flexible business practices that are not particularly tied to a manufacture. And now that some of the bad used car dealers are closed, the good ones may do even better. There are things any business or even non-profit can learn from a used car dealership.
Know your customers. Small-town auto dealers know what vehicles their customers prefer. This comes from having long-lasting ties to individual families, and Lord knows I’m always selling new cars and trucks to grandparents and parents, and putting the children into affordably-priced used cars. Part of knowing your customers means considering their changing tastes. New car dealers sign franchise agreements that, at times, puts limits of what they are able to stock in. Many dealers have told me they make more servicing cars rather than selling them. While our dealership doesn’t have a service department, we refer them to honest repair facilities that treat them just right.
Investment in the community. In many areas, car dealers are supplemental for youth sports teams as well as school musicals and church raffles. True, it is good visibility to have your store’s name on scores of soccer uniforms and church bulletins, but something more can be done. Car dealers are part of the life of these towns; their philanthropy to support good transportation to get to and from different life events also supports causes and activities that add texture to the community.
Entrepreneurship. Six years ago when VIP first opened, I was awarded “Entrepreneur of the Year” when I’ve joked, “I don’t even know how to spell it.” These kinds of dealers are open for a reason. When you live, breathe, or worship your work, the last thing you do is hide behind the lettuce at the supermarket when you see a customer. No, you eagerly greet them because you believe in your business.
We have faith in ourselves, our business, and our community. Not every dealer is worthy of imitation. Just as there are poor businessmen in every field, there are less-than-reliable automotive retailers, especially ones who cheated their customers, not to mention their own employees. Something can be learned from successful dealerships that may help any of us grow our own businesses.
I appreciate all of you and hope this helps!
Richard Perry is the Hemet Car Guy and owner of VIP Autos in Hemet. For more information, visit www.hemetcarguy.info.