Since becoming general manager of Lee Buick-Pontiac-GMC about four years ago, Scott Lee has lost the Pontiac brand and endured both a recession and General Motors' bankruptcy.
His store's unit sales are up 80 percent since he took over, putting him on pace to sell 916 combined new and used vehicles in 2012.
Lee Buick-GMC's average annual sales grew to $19.6 million for the three-year period ending in 2011 vs. $14.6 million for 2006-08. Profitability has improved sharply, too.
Lee credits the success to a better focus on the "customer experience," a more disciplined approach to used-car sales and a more aggressive pricing strategy that closely tracks the pricing at rival stores.
The Florida Panhandle's population growth has fueled some of Lee Buick-GMC's sales growth. But Lee says the store's market share also has increased.
In 2008, Lee, the son of the store's owner, David Lee, persuaded his father to make him general manager at the Crestview store, where Scott had been working for about two years. Scott Lee saw an opportunity to grow at a faster clip than the market.
"I wanted to take the dealership along with that growth by putting the right people and work environment in place," he says. "And that has led to a much better customer experience."
Lee also brought ideas from a 20 group that he joined in 2008, such as the focus on market-based pricing and the idea to curb the sale of used cars to wholesalers. New processes for customer handling also were put in place, including a better sales-to-service handoff.
"Before, the customer wasn't meeting service unless there was a problem," Scott Lee says. "Now it's just part of the process, no matter if it's a $3,000 used car or a $60,000 Denali."
Lee's father describes his son as "extremely aggressive without being threatening" in trying to improve service and sales across the business.
The Crestview store and another Buick-GMC store that the elder Lee runs in Fort Walton, Fla., recently received their official ratings from the factory. "I've been getting 'satisfactory' marks," David Lee says. "And he's been getting 'superior.'"
-- Mike Colias