Car dealers are all too familiar with the old saying: What goes up, must come down.
Even the most successful retailers have experienced sales declines at some point in their careers. But when things go south and stay south, it can be tough to get back on track.
Some dealers seem to have the Midas touch with sales. Look deeper, and their sales "magic" typically is nothing more than long hours of hard work, discipline, teamwork and a keen focus on the basics.
John Staluppi Jr. took a gamble by taking over a Hyundai point among the cacti, sand and neon-lit casinos of Las Vegas - a long way from his home turf of Long Island.
"We were leaving everything that was comfortable and that represented success," says Chris Shaffer, general manager of Staluppi's dealership, now called Planet Hyundai.
The two hit the jackpot, increasing sales by 250 percent after scrutinizing expenses, cutting staff and launching an aggressive ad campaign.
Kansas dealer Miles Schnaer managed to revive a Chevrolet-Oldsmobile-Toyota dealership that had been under the thumb of an absentee owner who was on his way to prison after being convicted of fraud involving floorplanning for other dealerships.
"I began advertising to get people to believe in us, to let them know we were new," he says.
Schnaer eventually replaced well over half the original staff. Once people have worked in a negative environment, it's hard to turn attitudes and work habits around.
"People get used to losing," he says. "It's easier not to succeed than it is to sacrifice."
Dallas dealer Sam Pack's market research convinced him he could successfully take over a nearby Ford dealership that was bankrupt.
Pack bought the store, renaming it Five Star Ford of Texas Inc. He had to quickly restaff because financial turmoil had turned away all but a handful of employees. Within a month or two, he also restocked the depleted inventory. Badly needed repairs and improvements also were made.
Eventually, he moved the business to a high-growth area along a highway that loops the metro area. Today, Five Star is one of the top 10 Ford dealerships in terms of vehicle sales.
When John Dionas purchased a Subaru store in tiny Gorst, Wash., he immediately changed its name and remodeled the exterior. He also signed up with Subaru's fledgling Stellar Dealer program, which requires more than 100 improvements, from standard methods for filling out internal paperwork to delivery of vehicles.
And he used his creativity to get himself noticed. For the store's grand opening, Dionas threw a party, complete with mariachi band. At the top of the invitation list was Takao Saito, the head of Subaru of America.
"I said: 'I did this, Mr. Saito, so you would never forget me,' " Dionas recalls. "To this day, when I see him at meetings he spots me right out of the crowd."