Automotive News 40 Under 40

Rick Jones

AGE: 35

POSITION: General manager, Mike Shaw Toyota-Scion, Corpus Christi, Texas

Rick Jones
Rick Jones' mission at Mike Shaw Toyota-Scion in Corpus Christi, Texas, is pretty straightforward: Shaw is one of the top performers in customer retention in the five-state Gulf States Toyota distribution region. Jones intends to make it No. 1.

"If we continue what we're doing, we'll get there," says Jones, Shaw's 35-year-old general manager.

Sales are moving in the right direction. For the first two years after Shaw opened in August 2008, just as the market was crashing, the dealership sold about 1,100 new cars a year. Jones forecasts 4,200 new-car sales this year.

Why the emphasis on retention? It's the key to the future, Jones says. "People shop in fewer showrooms today than they used to. With the drop-off in floor traffic, it's way too expensive and hypercompetitive to try to go out and get new customers," he says.

"Once you sell someone a vehicle or a part or service, it's easier to keep them as a customer by delivering a great dealership experience with excellent employees who are well trained."

Starting as a Toyota salesman at age 18, Jones worked with retailer Mitch Pierce in Tempe, Ariz., and later with the Don Massey Cadillac organization in Denver.

"I was lucky to work with great managers," he says. "I learned young how employees should behave and how good companies keep employees and motivate them. At Massey, I learned the importance of being in the service lane to greet customers at 7 a.m. With Mitch Pierce, I learned why it's important to be on time for work and how you motivate people to want to be on time to work.

"Mitch and his people taught me the power of repeat business. They never let the cost of something get in the way of putting a smile on the customer's face," Jones says. "They taught me that it's always important in business to do what you said you'd do."

He ticks off some of the practices that are helping the store grow. "I overpay our people just a little -- maybe 5 percent -- just to keep them happy here instead of out looking for a job. We don't try to oversell customers in the service drive. We always follow up with customers. And I believe it's very important to take care of your local community."

-- Lindsay Chappell