Joshua Mitchell, 35
Business development director, Huntington Beach Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram
Achievement: Grew sales nearly six-fold in a small Kentucky market by expanding the dealership's business development center.
Joshua Mitchell is on a mission to change how dealerships operate.
Mitchell sees problems with how dealerships treat their employees, as evidenced by the industry's high turnover. And he thinks they are often too slow to adapt to the realities of the digital age. So he addresses those issues at conferences and by recording weekly online video blogs.
"As a whole, the car business is kind of broken in terms of how we treat our customers, from the customers' experience to our employees' experience. I felt that I have a voice that's different from everyone else's, so I have the ability to make some change," Mitchell said.
His voice was formed during the mortgage crisis that triggered the Great Recession. Mitchell spent eight years working for various lenders, including four companies that went bankrupt as the crisis unfolded. In 2011, Mitchell decided that he'd had enough.
"I was done with that whole process of businesses going out of business," he said. "I decided, 'I'm just going to try my hand at the car business.' It was kind of a Band-Aid to support my family. And then I got sucked in."
He was drawn to the pace and energy of the business — and to the opportunity to do something new at Dan Cummins Chevrolet in Paris, Ky. There, Mitchell directed the business development center, growing it from one person to 20 covering sales and service.
He emphasized the need for the dealership to expand its offerings online, giving consumers as much information as possible on pricing, financing and more. "Our customers can go anywhere. They spend a bajillion hours researching what they want before they ever start to interact with you," Mitchell said. "If you're going to be traditional and not give any information, then you're going to be the one losing."
Mitchell credits the collaborative culture at the Cummins dealership for allowing him to have the flexibility to build up the dealership's BDC and expand the business's online presence. By the time he left for a similar post at Huntington Beach Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in southern California starting this month, Dan Cummins Chevrolet's sales had grown to more than 850 units a month, from 150 when he joined, in a town of about 10,000 residents. Of those sales, 68 percent came via the BDC.