Bruno Demir, 37
General manager, Cape & Islands Auto Group
Achievement: Acquired the training, cash to partner with his mentor, then doubled sales at two stores
Bruno Demir followed a long road to reach his current position as general manager and part owner of the Cape & Islands Auto Group in South Yarmouth, Mass., which sells Mitsubishi and Kia vehicles.
"It definitely was not easy, but I just stayed at it. I knew what I wanted, and I didn't want to give it up," he said.
Demir got hooked on auto retail as a college dropout, he said. He formed a plan ultimately to invest in a store of his own. "I wanted to do it before I was 40," said Demir. "I prepared myself. And when the time came, I had the money. I had the experience."
He got both — the money and the experience — by working in dealerships for 20 years in Massachusetts and Florida. Demir grew up in Massachusetts, after his family emigrated from Turkey when he was 7 years old, he said.
"After graduating out of high school, I was not sure what I wanted to do with my life — like most teenagers. I sort of fell into it and got hooked my first week on the [showroom] floor when I sold 10 cars and realized my first check would be more than my college professors', " he said.
Demir said his first mentor was his future partner, Steven Sewell, president of Cape & Islands Auto Group. When they first worked together, Sewell was a sales manager for Herb Chambers Cos. of Somerville, Mass.
Later, Demir moved to South Florida and worked stints at dealerships that were part of South Motors Automotive Group, AutoNation Inc. and Penske Automotive Group Inc.
"South Florida is the big leagues," he said. "And if you work at the publics, they teach you to do it the right way."
Demir sold luxury and mass-market brands. Over the years, he was a salesman, an F&I manager, a sales manager and a general manager. He also worked with customers with prime and subprime credit.
Demir said he got "the call" from Sewell last year. "He said, 'I got a store on Cape Cod, and I'm looking for a partner.' By then I had saved up enough money," Demir said.
Their first dealership together was a Mitsubishi store. Demir said it didn't even have computers. "Everything was on paper, like selling cars in the 1960s."
Quickly, monthly sales more than doubled, to more than 100 new and used units combined, thanks to new salespeople, more used-car inventory, lower advertised prices and online sales leads, he said.
The partners added a Kia store in November 2016. They moved the Mitsubishi store and put the Kia franchise, which had been dualed with Toyota, in the former Mitsubishi store. Kia sales doubled, to more than 50 new and used cars per month, once the brand was in its own facility.
"What could be better than to go into partnership with someone who mentored you 20 years ago?" Demir said.