Oh yeah, it’s coming. Don’t even think it’s not. This picture pretty much tells you why I got out of the car business and moved out of Minnesota. A dealership is a lot of physical and mental work in the winter. (In the summer too, but not so much). Everyone has their reasons to leave, but how about reasons to start in the first place. That’s my story today.
I didn’t have the inclination or money to go to college and steer my working years towards a career. Instead, I drifted around traveling, and when not doing that, worked on the farm with my Dad. I was thirty-five when we sold the farm, my Dad retired, and I was on my own, with a live in girlfriend and her 10-year-old daughter. Got a little money from the sale, but that was soon gone, putting the bulk of it into an old house and living expenses. I tried selling real estate, but the market was not so good, and my selling skills double not so good. With the remaining money I had, which was dwindling quickly, I bought a little sign installation business putting up real estate for sale signs. I worked hard for a year, didn’t make any money, then found a buyer for what I had paid for it. Unfortunately, he had to pay me on payments, and when he figured out he couldn’t make any money either, quit paying me. I didn’t even bother to go get the signs and equipment. Licked my wounds and went on.
I started a carpet cleaning business with an old van and a rented carpet cleaner. The worst was cleaning bathrooms that had carpet around the toilets. Yuck. After about six months of hard work, the van pooped out, but I didn’t want to give up my dream of becoming the Carpet Cleaning King of the World. The King needed a van quickly, so I turned to my best friend who had been selling cars for about six months in the town where we grew up, about 20 miles from where I had my money pit, I mean my house. I went up to see him, and it didn’t take long to find out someone with no money, no credit, and no real job couldn’t get a loan for a van. Even Fingerhut would have turned me down. He came up with a great idea, knowing my dire situation, why don’t I sell cars. He had come with me on a couple of my sign installs, and after driving 45 minutes and trying to dig through rock to put the sign in the ground, he had asked my how much I got for each install. I proudly told him $15, which included installation and removal. He told me something I will never forget, as he leaned on the tailgate puffing on a cigarette. “I wouldn’t do that job for $100 a sign” he proclaimed. And he meant it. It was at that moment I knew I was doomed doing that. That’s when I dumped it.
I didn’t particularly like car salesmen, people, or big business, so it was a hard sell. He worked on me and the manager for a few weeks, then I finally was able to get a position at the dealership selling cars, and the rest, as they say, is history. (28 years to be exact). He did me the biggest favor of my life.
I’m not going to toot my own horn (well maybe a little) but selling cars was what I guess I was destined to do. I loved it and was rewarded financially like I had not imagined. I didn’t know much about selling but learned quickly with cassette tapes in my car on the drive to and from work. I didn’t know much about cars but found out you didn’t have to. Keep in mind, this was before the internet, before cell phones. I got by with enthusiasm and a big smile.( I learned that by watching a young guy in our real estate office. He didn’t know one thing about houses but sold a ton of them. I knew a lot, and couldn’t close a sale. All he had was a huge grin and a big coffee mug.) People buy from someone they like. And I learned one thing about each car, just one. I remember we had acquired about 120 Eagle Premiers and Dodge Monocos, and everyone ignored them because they were a bit different. The dash moved and the engine was in sideways. I thought that was pretty cool, so everyone I talked to I showed them that car. I ended up selling about 60 of them myself, keep in mind we had 7 other salespeople besides me. My biggest selling tool was with the engine sideways, there was what was called a dog bone support that held the engine up. If you got in a head on crash, the dog bone would break, and the engine would drop to the ground and go under the car instead of in your lap. Pretty sure all the cars did that but didn’t matter. That seemed to strike a concern with people and they bought them like crazy. That has served me well ever since. That you don’t have to know everything, just the right thing.
Albert Einstein once said, ” The only source of knowledge is experience.” I have plenty of that now. Sometimes I don’t feel that way, but if the right question comes up, the right answer seems to follow, at least in what I have experienced.
So I am going to start posting lessons learned, inside tips, funny and sad stories, and other stuff about buying a car. I set up a category just for that, and know that a lot of it will not apply to your current needs, but at some point, it might. I enjoyed the car business and it was good to me financially. Of course, it also affected my personal life, which long hours and lots of stress will do. No one knows which path to choose. Even hindsight is not so clear. To be sure is to be certain beyond question. I am not sure about a lot of things. I’m certain about less.
But I do know one thing for sure. The car business is not about cars…………..it’s about people.