Anthony Ries says it was sheer persistence that vaulted him from a dealership sales manager job to vice president of sales for the 15-store Bernie Moreno auto group in fewer than two years. Ries was 25 when Moreno hired him in April 2014.
But Ries almost didn't get into the car business at all. He was busing tables in Cleveland to pay his tuition at the University of Akron when a friend at Rick Case Honda in Euclid, Ohio, offered him a sales job. He recalls initially saying, "No, no, no. I'm going to law school." But money was tight, so he gave it a try.
The full-time student was soon working "part time" as a sales consultant 40 hours a week. "When I was done with class, I'd go straight to the dealership," Ries says. "When there was downtime, I was sneaking out the textbooks to do my homework."
The dual duties didn't hurt his grades. Ries graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science magna cum laude in 2012. And the C he got in Spanish class that kept him from summa cum laude still rankles. "I was crushed," he says.
That pretty well sums up Ries' approach to life. "I don't want to walk into a situation where I'll be average. I want to be the best," he says.
Selling cars during college went so well that Ries set aside his plans for law school to keep working at the dealership. Then he met the "electrifying" Moreno and quickly discovered they shared ideas about how best to run a dealership, he says.
Within four months of hiring Ries, Moreno dispatched his young hire as general manager to fix a money-losing Buick-GMC dealership in Beachwood, Ohio. Under previous management, Ries says, the store had amassed a staggering inventory of vehicles from at least three model years.
By year end, the dealership had cleaned out the old inventory. It jumped from the bottom 10 Buick-GMC dealers in Ohio to one of the fastest-growing stores in the Midwest for those franchises and was scrambling to get enough inventory, Ries says.
In 2015, he says, the dealership boosted its new-vehicle sales 55 percent from the previous year to 1,070 units and swung from a net loss in 2014 to a net profit. The store is continuing its growth rate in 2016, reaching record first-quarter net profit. Ries attributes the success to hiring the best people and building the processes to fit their strengths, the opposite of the way most dealerships operate.
He is still burning the candle at both ends. Long hours at work take their toll on time with his wife of two years and their 6-month-old son, he admits. But when he's home, Ries tries to avoid work calls and focus fully on his family.