Within a few months after Nicholas Parks took over money-losing Rogers Dodge for his uncle in 2008, the store near Houston was hit by two hurricanes, suffered with the industry the collapse of credit markets and finally was ordered closed by Chrysler as part of the automaker's 2009 bankruptcy. More than once, Parks had to decide whether he really wanted to stay in auto retailing.
But even with the string of setbacks, he got the store running profitably.
"What I learned was resilience," said Parks, who had given up on a law career in Washington, D.C., a few months before returning to Texas. "That no matter what happened, I was not giving up."
Today Parks is general manager and owner of a minority stake in South Dallas Hyundai, a growing dealership that he and his uncle, Peter Nankins, bought together in February 2010. It has been the opposite experience of his baptism by fire.
He bought into the store just before the launch of the wildly successful Hyundai Sonata mid-sized sedan, Parks said. Sales have been rising virtually from the time of the purchase, he said. The store now sells about 100 new and 50 used vehicles per month.
Parks said his Dodge experience also showed him the importance of getting the right people into the right jobs. To make the store profitable, Parks said he immediately fired his sales manager and service manager and promoted younger people in those departments who were willing to work hard and learn. The first month after taking over the store, it was profitable, he said. By contrast, it had lost $100,000 in each of the previous 10 months.
"We look to promote from within," Parks said. "If you have the right person, you can teach them the management skills."
-- David Barkholz