A Toyota dealer in Southern California showed Patrick Southward the best way to sell Fords at his family's dealership in suburban Detroit.
Southward, 30, now a hard-charging co-sales manager at Gorno Ford in Woodhaven, Mich., learned the values of teamwork and sales immediacy by starting on the sales floor in a completely unfamiliar environment.
Southward was working in the service department at his family's dealership when a friend took a job as a deckhand on a large sailboat on the California coast. When a customer with California license plates came in for service one day, Southward told the customer that he was going to California for a visit and was considering making a more permanent move. The customer gave him a phone number to call for a job if he decided to move.
"I was sitting on the beach in Malibu, and I called this guy. I wrote down the phone number he gave me in the sand, and when I got back to Detroit I sent a resume," Southward recalls.
With a job at David Wilson Toyota of Huntington Beach, Calif., in hand, Southward moved to Southern California. Starting on the sales floor, he quickly moved into F&I and ultimately into sales management.
"You have to be creative enough to move to be able to make a deal. You have a team: a sales department, a finance department and a service department, but nothing happens until that car is sold," Southward said. "In California, there is no buying a car and coming back two days later to pick it up. When you buy a car, you drive it off the lot that same day. Time is death."
After five years on the West Coast, Southward returned to his family's dealership in July 2009, this time in the sales office, where he helps manage a staff of 20 new-car salespeople. The dealership sold about 2,300 new vehicles in 2011, up from about 1,900 in 2010. This year, sales are on track to top 2,500.
"He's an amazing young guy with lots of talent and lots of energy," said Bob Miller, general manager of David Wilson Toyota of Huntington Beach, Calif.
-- Larry P. Vellequette