My career in automotive retail began in 2002 at Ft. Myers Toyota located in sunny Southwest Florida. The first twenty two years of my professional life (term used very loosely) was spent in the restaurant industry. Those years contain many stories for another day and most likely another blog. If you have read Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential” you’ll pretty much get the jist.
One day while sitting in the service lounge at Ft. Myers Toyota waiting for the completion of an oil change on my 1999 Solara, it hit me. I had reached the point of burnt out restaurant manager probably two years prior to this day, but as any foodie will tell you it’s a hard thing to walk away from. I had been racking my brain for quite some time for a new career path, but consistently came up empty.
I had been a loyal customer of Ft. Myers Toyota for several years and two car purchases. I always had a great experience there and really got a positive vibe from the employees that I came in contact with. I started to think “Hey, this would be a pretty cool place to work” So I walked up to the reception desk and asked for an application. The woman manning the phones that day I would come to know and love as Candy. She point blank asked me what position I would be applying for, to which I replied “sales”. Well, Candy returned “At Ft. Myers Toyota we only hire the best of the best, do you have any experience selling cars?” I told her that I did not, but would appreciate an application anyway. Candy relented and tore off your standard employment app, but only after she finished with “If by chance you do get an interview, you may want to dress more appropriately” obviously referring to the fact that I was in shorts and god knows what kind of t-shirt, my usual day-off errand running attire.
So a few days later by some miracle I received a call and was told that I had been granted an interview with the General Manager John Marazzi. I was a extremely nervous to say the least. The interview went well, as it turns out John had been a regular in a restaurant that I had managed when I first arrived in Florida, and like a good bartender I remembered his usual. I think that went a long way to gaining an opportunity with the dealership.
As the interview wound down he said “In order for you to walk away from something you’ve been doing for so long and start over again selling cars there has to be a certain degree of pain in what you are currently doing or your likely to give up and go back to your comfort zone when the going gets tough.” He then told me that he wanted me to go home, discuss it with my wife and decide whether or not there was indeed enough pain to make the move.
I went home and talked it over with my wife Rhonda. She was hesitant to see me walk away from a salary and go straight into commissioned sales, but something else that John had said during the interview kept nagging at me, he said “Boy, you sure do work a lot of hours for such a small amount of money”. The more we discussed it that night the more I felt like it was the right move. So with her blessing I became a car salesman and my journey in automotive retail began.
to be continued…..