Despite growing up in an automotive retailing family and receiving a degree in automotive marketing and management from Northwood University in West Palm Beach, Fla., in 2006, Raquel Case moved to Nantucket, Mass., to work as a professional chef in May 2008.
Just eight months later, she returned to the auto industry as a sales and finance and insurance staff member at Rick Case Automotive Group's Smart dealership in Davie, which today is Rick Case Fiat. About a year later, she became the store's general manager.
"I loved being a chef. It was a blast," Case says. "But the car business was definitely where it was at for me. I just love it and every day is a new day."
Case grew up listening to her parents recap their workdays at the dinner table.
"They discussed every aspect of the business and as I grew so did the company," Case wrote in an e-mail. "It was the most priceless learning experience and I believe the dinner table talk is what has molded me into the passionate businessperson I am today."
The family's car business also lets Case give opportunities to others. Two years ago, for instance, Case hired Cynthia Toro-Azicri out of college as a cashier when the store was still a Smart dealership.
"Then, I taught her to sell cars and she was good at it," Case says. "She helped me build Fiat, doing a lot of our creative advertising, our fliers and banners. She came to me one day and said, 'I want to make more money.' I said, 'OK. What do you want to do?' She wanted to learn F&I."
For two months, Case taught the woman about F&I, she said.
"No one else in any dealership would have given her an opportunity like that," Case says. "She would not be an F&I manager at age 24."
The youthful staff's energy makes the atmosphere more like a fun studio than a car dealership, employees say.
"We're young," Case says. "Older salespeople, who have been in the business for a long time, probably wouldn't want to work here. We're loud, we run around and joke -- we still work, but it would be overwhelming for people who are not fast-paced."
For instance, Case put a fun spin on an old sales spiff called a pull-board. Typically, a pull-board has envelopes with money inside. Each time a salesperson sells a certain number of vehicles, the staffer pulls an envelope from the board and receives the money inside.
Instead of envelopes, Case put balloons on the board. The qualifying salesperson throws darts at the balloons. When a balloon pops, a cash prize ranging from $1 to $100 is revealed.
She also held a scavenger hunt in which salespeople won prizes by racing between Rick Case Fiat and the Rick Case Hyundai store next door to retrieve items such as contracts and customer orders.
Case also takes the fun out on the town.
Dealership staff members are regulars at local art fairs, tennis tournaments and high school football games, where they display the cars and talk to consumers.
Case regularly posts photos and updates on the store's Facebook page and interacts with customers there too.
"We are out in the community a lot. We don't wait for people to come through our door," she says.