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Tafi Jaji

AGE:37
POSITION:General manager, Rick Hendrick Chevrolet Duluth
ACHIEVEMENT: Led his store to No. 1 in overall net profit among all Hendrick Automotive dealerships, the first time a domestic franchise had achieved that distinction

Tafi Jaji decided that if he could sell vacuums, he could sell cars.

Jaji was studying in Ohio University's aviation program. When flight costs ran high, he decided to get a job to pay for school. He answered an ad to sell Kirby vacuums, and sold seven in his first week.

But he didn't get paid.

"They said I was in training, so I didn't get a check," he recalled. "But one thing I learned was, "Hey, if I can sell a vacuum, I can sell a car.'"

And so in 1997, he started selling cars in Jacksonville, Fla., at a Mitsubishi dealership. He soon fell in love with selling cars and decided he would rather do that than go back to school. He hasn't looked back since.

After rising to the position of general manager at a Dodge dealership, Jaji took a drop in rank to sales manager to join Rick Hendrick Chevrolet Duluth in suburban Atlanta in 2010. In 2011, he was approached to build a subprime department at the dealership.

Jaji had reservations but knew from experience that he could do it. He also saw it as an opportunity to prove himself and fill a major gap in the store.

His success with the subprime department brought him more opportunities within the dealership. He was promoted to general sales manager in July 2012, retail operations manager in May 2013 and his current position of general manager in November 2015.

"I worked my way back and had no problem doing that," he said.

Despite his personal success, Jaji is most proud of the dealership's teamwork.

"One of my favorite accomplishments is that we took a store, through a lot of work, team-building and education, and we ended up being the No. 1 Hendrick store" for overall net profit in 2015, he said.

The dealership was the first domestic franchise to achieve that distinction. The Hendrick Automotive Group, of Charlotte, N.C., ranks No. 6 on Automotive News' list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., with retail sales of 116,831 new vehicles in 2015.

"It's a great testament to all the people in the store, coming together and working together as a team," he said.

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