Lee got his start when he was 21 as a salesman. He rose through the ranks to sales manager, president and then managing partner before finally opening his own Chevrolet store in Ohio in 1995. It was his until 2008, when he sold it and moved back to Indiana to open Terry Lee Honda. He also owns Terry Lee Hyundai about an hour away in Noblesville, Ind., which also made this year's list.
With a staff full of people he's confident in, the next step is to give them the tools to succeed.
"Once we know we have the right people, it's the processes," Lee said.
Those processes include training his staff to adapt the buying process to what the customer is expecting or is able to do, not the other way around.
"Everybody comes in with a different approach, whether it's leasing or a certain monthly payment they're trying to reach or they're looking to use their trade-in, so we try to find how they want to do it and adapt our style to their style," Lee said.
This has the added benefit of taking the sales pressure off his staff, who don't feel like they have to force a predetermined type of sale on a customer who isn't prepared for it, Lee said.
Training matters, too, rather than the days when he started and salespeople were just expected to work "eight to faint" to close deals, Lee said. A full-time sales trainer on staff gives his employees the tools they need to feel confident in what and how they're selling.
Since the industry is full of good vehicles today that stack up well against one another, Lee thinks it's essential to have his people trained not only on what they're selling but also what they're selling against. This gives his salespeople "conscious confidence" when they're working with a customer, he said.
Lee also points to a diverse sales staff. Women make up 35 percent of sales associates in a group that represents a variety of races and ages, so the customers see themselves in the people they're buying from.
Attrition is an issue many dealers cite as a major head-ache, especially after spending considerable money and time training an employee, but it isn't an issue for the 95 employees Lee has at his Honda store or the 65 at his Hyundai store.
The thorough interview process helps stem attrition. So do the perks. Lee's employees have a 401(k) plan with company matching -- which about 90 percent of his staff puts to use -- plus health insurance, competitive pay, flexible hours, trips to Indianapolis Colts games during football season, holidays off and community outreach programs.
"When you start as a salesperson and work your way up and go through all these things, you realize how appreciative people are of not just the big things, but the little stuff, too," Lee said. "And people know we're doing it because we want to do it."