Abe Razick thought it was a joke when the Hyundai local market representative asked him if he would be interested in becoming a dealer. It had been his longtime dream, but one he never thought he could pull off.
"This isn't the typical scenario," said Razick. "Out of the blue, I got a phone call."
Today, Razick is dealer principal of Hyundai of Yuma in Yuma, Ariz., in a 50-50 partnership with Adli Kakish.
In 2014, Razick and his old friend Kakish were senior managers at different dealership groups in California. Neither worked at a Hyundai store, but they had business acquaintances at Hyundai Motor America who had worked with them previously, via the Nissan North America dealer network.
The pair jumped at the chance, even though the Yuma dealership was "in the middle of nowhere," Razick said.
"We both decided to walk away from our great positions and sell everything we had and take the leap of faith into the unknown," he said. "We cashed in everything, as in, cash in your 401(k), sell all your property, wipe yourself out clean."
After they took over the dealership in March 2015, vehicle sales at Hyundai of Yuma more than tripled, he said. "I think before, the most they ever sold was 19 cars" in a month, he said. "In our first month, we sold over 80 cars." By the end of 2015, new- and used-vehicle unit sales combined had quadrupled.
Razick said his business career got an unlikely start. As an unmotivated teenager in Chicago, just graduating from high school was a long shot, he said. "I'm a Hispanic kid from Chicago, living in a not-great neighborhood. My best friend was a gangbanger," he said.
A speech at Razick's high school by talk show host Montel Williams, a former Navy officer who began his military career by enlisting in the Marines, persuaded Razick to stay in school and get his diploma, he said.
Razick joined the Marines after high school and served in an aviation unit, including stretches in Okinawa and Australia. At age 20, he left the military and figured he would become a police officer.
To earn some spending money while waiting a few weeks for a new police academy class to start, Razick took a job at a dealership, expecting to wash cars. Instead, the dealership put him to work selling cars. He did so well at that, he never joined the police force.
"They handed me a pen, gave me a desk and a phone, and said, "Welcome to the car business.' I told them, "I don't want to sell cars! All they do is rip everyone off!' They told me, "You don't have to do it like that.' So I treated customers just how I would like to be treated. And in two months, I made $37,000," he recalled.
Razick said he's proof that general managers can acquire dealerships, even if they aren't part of a family business.
"You don't have to have $50 million. Put your name out there. Join the advisory boards and go to the meetings. You can't just go to meetings and complain about everything like everybody else does. Bring something to the table that nobody else is bringing," he said.
"When everybody else complains you say, "This is how we can sell more cars.' They'll be shocked."