Edward Hwang, 37
General manager, Mercedes-Benz of Foothill Ranch
Achievement: Turned store from underperformer to top-tier dealership
Edward Hwang's rapid rise to general manager of a Mercedes-Benz store in California started with a motivation most college kids can relate to.
He was after beer money, mostly.
"I wanted to have some expendable income and a friend and myself answered a newspaper ad recruiting salesmen," Hwang said. He wasn't expecting it to turn into a career.
Initially he didn't think he'd be a good fit for the job, but after the general sales manager at Puente Hills Toyota saw him through the interview process, "the rest was history," Hwang said.
That was in 1999. Hwang did not finish college, but he was not finished moving up in the dealership world. With a combination of perseverance and humility, he rose through the ranks at various Southern California stores to become general manager of Mercedes-Benz of Foothill Ranch.
Since joining the Mercedes location in April 2014, Hwang oversaw a 67 percent increase in new and used sales volumes. He also steered the Foothill Ranch store from the bottom 10 percent, in terms of overall performance, for Mercedes' Western region to a top 15 percent store nationally, landing it among the brand's Best of the Best.
It wasn't quick or easy. Getting his team engaged was crucial, which took plenty of leading by example. "I don't tell anybody to do anything unless I myself was willing to do it," Hwang said.
Hwang benefited from watching and learning not only from more-senior coworkers working above him, but employees working under him.
Also crucial was deepening relationships with sales and service customers to slowly build their trust so people walking in the door know they're familiar to the staff.
"Going into a restaurant where they know who I am is one of the best feelings I can get," Hwang said. "That's the whole idea of what we try to create here."