For Scott Simons, general manager of Valley Honda in Staunton, Va., successful auto retailing is a combination of good people and good numbers.
"Surround yourself with the best people you can find and let them do what they are good at," says Simons. "And then make the numbers happen."
He is clearly doing that.
When he stepped in to manage the store, which is owned by Carter Myers Automotive Group of Central Virginia, it was selling 40 to 50 new vehicles a month. He started off this year selling more than 100 a month. In February, it was 143. In March, 157. And by May, it was 165, putting him at more than 120 percent of the store's planned selling objective.
He is reaching for customers from outside Staunton, a city of about 24,000 people, and handily outselling his nearest Toyota competitor.
When Carter Myers recruited him from another Honda store in the region, bringing a number of people with him, Simons found Valley's service department doing $60,000 to $70,000 a month in business. Under Simons it has been doing more than $140,000 a month. Parts and labor sales were running at around $30,000. They are now closer to $70,000.
"It's a new age for general managers," Simons says. "Store owners -- whether it's an individual or a group or a public chain -- expect you to be on top of your numbers. There's just no way around that."
Simons has been pursuing an auto industry career since he was a teenager, when he would do the negotiating with finance managers every time his father bought a new vehicle. It sparked his interest in finance and helped him land his first job with Virginia dealer Huddy Hyman. Since then, Simons has picked up an M.B.A. from Radford University and recently graduated from the National Automobile Dealers Association's Dealer Academy.
"There aren't too many chances out there anymore for people like me who want to own their own dealership," he says. "I didn't grow up wealthy, and my father made it clear to me that the way you succeed in life is through drive and hard work and attention to the bottom line.
"There's only one way up in the auto business today: sweat equity and making the numbers."
Says Simons: "I've been wanting this opportunity all my life. And I'm not going to miss it now."
-- Lindsay Chappell