Chaz Gilmore rose to general manager of the huge Grapevine Ford-Lincoln store in Grapevine, Texas, because he knew how to sell cars and was a master of online sales.
His successes made him a rising star in the nation's fifth largest auto dealership group, the Van Tuyl Group, which owns Grapevine. The dealership sells 300 new and 200 used vehicles a month.
But the ambitious young dealership executive had a dirty little secret: He was scared to show his face in his own service department.
"I tried not to go back there for fear that somebody would figure out I didn't know what I was doing," says Gilmore, now 33.
To avoid facing the issue, he hired outside professionals to run service for him so he wouldn't have to worry about it. But the department, though profitable, stubbornly underperformed. That was no small problem. The service department at Grapevine employs 70 people and has 64 bays. The department's revenues last year, including service and parts, were $18.1 million.
"I was having all kinds of struggles with service, and I'm thinking, 'Why can't I get this?'" Gilmore says.
Then inspiration came to him from an unlikely source: Ford CEO Alan Mulally.
In May 2012, Gilmore attended a Ford President's Award ceremony in Beverly Hills, Calif., where he received a copy of Bryce G. Hoffman's American Icon, a narrative about Ford's comeback from the financial brink led by Mulally, who had autographed the copy of the book.