Dealer Jim Gramm knocked around the car business for nearly 20 years, mostly in sales. But as he approached age 40, a hard reality hit him.
"If you're not an owner by 40, you're going to be a salesman at the age of 60," said Gramm, 57, owner of Safford Automotive Group in Springfield, Va. "I watched guys turning 50 or 60 get weaned out and very few of them walked away fat and happy. I decided I was not going to let that happen to me. I was going to become an owner."
But the cost of a dealership, even in 2000 when he started looking, was multiple millions of dollars. His dealer boss had said she'd help him buy a store, but later changed her mind. Rather than give up, Gramm got creative and with hard work, scrimping money and finding a good partner, he did it. Last April Fools' Day marked 15 years for Gramm as a dealer.
In that time, Gramm grew one dealership into a group of eight in northeast Virginia. He is shopping for "a few more potential deals," hoping for up to 15 stores. His drive for growth isn't greed, he says; it's giving. He remembers his struggle for ownership and he wants to help others.
"Because of the difficulty I had in becoming a dealer, and very few people can start up to become a dealer, I learned that if I could make people owners in a store, they'll work a lot harder," said Gramm. "I could also give them the same opportunity I have."