Brian Danahy, 39
General manager, Ed Morse Cadillac
As the grandson of the founder of Ed Morse Automotive Group, a 15-dealership group in Delray Beach, Fla., Brian Danahy probably could have taken some shortcuts to get to his current job.
But his career path was a circuitous one by design. Since he started out cleaning the body-shop paint booth in the searing summer heat during breaks from college, Danahy has sought fresh perspectives from every corner of the dealership.
Early in his career, he bounced around to several Ed Morse stores and positions -- F&I manager, used-car manager and a catchall position fielding customer complaints, among them -- always jumping at the chance for a new experience.
In 2005, he was promoted to director of sales at an Ed Morse location that sold Chevrolet, Cadillac, Pontiac, Buick and GMC out of three stores. He admits to being overwhelmed. The operation sold more than 300 new units a month.
By late 2008, with the economy convulsing and a GM bankruptcy appearing imminent, "I thought, 'Wow, this might be a good time to go over to our Toyota store,'" to become assistant sales manager, Danahy says with a laugh. He made the move, and not long afterward, Toyota had its sudden-acceleration recall crisis. The store swelled to more than 300 customers a day getting their cars fixed, quadruple the normal volume.
Danahy landed at the Cadillac store as general manager in July 2011. He has focused on having consistent processes. One small example: The salesperson schedules the first appointment for every customer. Danahy credits the stronger sales-to-service handoff as a factor in the store's lofty 74 percent rate of customers who return within one year for maintenance.
Ed Morse Cadillac sold 767 new Cadillacs last year, good for a 21 percent share in the Tampa market, up from 16 percent in 2010. It was named a Cadillac Dealer of the Year in 2012, an honor bestowed on just 20 of the brand's 940 dealerships.
One critical takeaway from Danahy's odyssey through the dealership group's ranks: It's hard to break down the barriers between departments. So Danahy has tried to change the culture at the Cadillac store. For instance, employees picked to go on a recent outing to Busch Gardens had to invite one person from another department.
"People who don't normally talk to each other got to hang out," he said. "And when we got back to the dealership, that carried over."
-- Mike Colias