Jaime Tekela, 32
Director of pre-owned operations, Pfaff Automotive Partners
Achievement: Worked his way up from lot attendant to overseeing all Pfaff pre-owned operations
Jaime Tekela has known he would be working in the auto industry for as long as he can remember.
Tekela developed his passion for cars by watching his father race growing up. He took to the same Porsche cars his dad was passionate for, driving go-karts as if they were high-end vehicles.
When his father was finally able to achieve his childhood dream and buy a Porsche, Tekela went alongside him to Pfaff Porsche in Ontario. It was there that his professional life was set in motion.
"I was speaking with a sales manager at the time, and I asked if they had available jobs," Tekela said. "He asked, 'When can you start?' I said I could start on Thursday. I was still in high school at the time, but I got a job right there on the spot."
He began his career with Pfaff Automotive Partners, an Ontario dealership group with 12 stores selling as many automotive brands, as an entry-level lot attendant, responsible for cleaning vehicles and shop floors and driving vehicles to where they needed to be. For a kid who fantasized about driving some of the finest cars in the world, it was a dream come true.
"It was the absolute dream job," he said. "It was something that I wouldn't trade for the world. I was in love."
Over the next 14 years, Tekela gradually gained responsibilities, working in sales and overseeing used-vehicle inventory. He spent five years as sales manager for Pfaff Audi in Vaughan, Ontario.
For the past two and a half years, he has overseen the group's used-vehicle operations, with responsibility for inventory, pricing, advertising, promotions and the used-sales teams. Tekela finds the challenges thrilling, especially considering consumers' growing reliance on the Internet and the need for dealerships such as Pfaff's to adjust to a new world.
"People are searching online before they do anything," he said. "So the digital showroom is the most important factor in our business today."
The role took some adjusting to, he said. Tekela said he "was used to doing everything," but now he's charged with overseeing everything.
"If there's any low-hanging fruit, I make sure that I attack that in a timely manner. Because in the pre-owned department, if you take your foot off the gas pedal for one second, you could lose an entire month," he said.
Long term, Tekela said, he hopes to continue climbing the ladder at Pfaff, becoming a member of the executive team and perhaps a part-owner or shareholder in the company.
"I've always wanted to have a piece of the pie," he said. "I don't know if that's in the cards, but it's certainly a goal."