Walt Kelsey comes by his hypercompetitive personality naturally. As a basketball star at Division II Northern Kentucky University, he set the school record when he poured in 50 points in a single game in 2004.
Kelsey was a hard worker on the court, setting the NKU record for minutes played in a season, with 1,112. Now, he has transferred lessons from the basketball court to the car business.
"Just the things you learn from athletics growing up," he said. "The day-to-day grind, the accountability, the responsibility -- it's more than a full-time job being a college athlete. I made my transition into the car business, which is known for long hours, weekends and late nights."
Kelsey had worked for his father, Michael, when the latter was general manager of McCluskey Chevrolet in Cincinnati. In early 2015, Michael Kelsey fulfilled a dream when the family bought an underperforming Chevrolet store in Greendale, in the far southeastern corner of Indiana, just over the Ohio state line from Cincinnati.
The new ownership had an almost immediate effect. Under Walt Kelsey's leadership, sales have jumped 215 percent, and Kelsey Chevrolet topped the Cincinnati market in customer satisfaction its first year.
The store also nearly tripled the net profit while reducing employee turnover by 60 percent and adding 15 to 20 employees.
Walt Kelsey's brother-in-law Paul Cluxton, who also had worked at McCluskey, also made the move to Greendale. Kelsey and Cluxton share the general manager title, while Michael Kelsey is president.
Basketball excellence runs in the family. Cluxton holds a stunning record: In the 1996-97 season, also playing for NKU, he made 94 free throw attempts and hit 94 of them, a perfect 100 percent.
The Kelsey and Cluxton families live within a mile of one another in Western Hills, a Cincinnati neighborhood about a 15-minute drive from the dealership.
"Twelve of Mom and Dad's grandkids live within a mile of their grandparents," Walt Kelsey says. Kelsey Chevrolet pushes the family story in its advertising tag line: "From Our Family to Yours."
Kelsey Chevrolet does not trumpet its low prices in ads.
Says Walt Kelsey: "We knew we were taking a little bit of a risk not advertising prices. And we're probably missing a few deals when people open the newspaper and don't see Kelsey Chevrolet offering some super, super deal." Those kind of deals often make customers feel like they've been victims of a bait-and-switch, he says.
"We don't want customers to have the experience of coming in and butting heads."