2018 40 Under 40
General manager, Palm Beach Toyota
Achievement: Turned around a struggling dealership from loss to profit; dramatically improved sales efficiency at another store
Shelby Bigelow has a bit of the magic touch — although he'd call it mostly hard work and a friendly demeanor.
Over his fast-moving career from junior sales representative to running a high-volume Toyota store, Bigelow has left a mark everywhere he's landed.
At his first job at a Mazda dealership in Florida, he rose to general sales manager over eight years and mastered everything from Internet sales to the art of being a closer.
At his next sales manager job at another Mazda store, he nearly doubled volume in two years and raised profit per vehicle.
Bigelow's big break came in 2012, when Roger Penske tapped him to run a store as general manager — helping him fulfill a personal goal of doing so before age 30.
It was a challenge. The dealership had a history of chewing through staff.
"It was a store that brought challenges, especially being a new GM, but I did not want this to stop my goals," Bigelow told Automotive News. "I was somewhat fearful to take on this kind of role considering the store's prior performance but it was about getting everyone to share the same vison."
In his first year, Bigelow pulled off a $1.2 million turnaround from losses to profits. It was a milestone in his career that came after attending the NADA Dealer Academy on Penske's recommendation.
That dealership eventually changed owners, and Bigelow moved on to Penske's Palm Beach Toyota in 2016. He has raised sales efficiency from just more than 75 percent to 110 percent today. New-car sales increased from about 200 a month to 280, he said.
Bigelow, a native of a small town in upstate New York, got his first sales job mostly by accident. He had moved from New York to South Florida with his girlfriend, now his wife, after deciding to postpone college.
He started out as a mechanic, but it was the wrong part of the auto business for him. "It just wasn't what I wanted to do," he said.
Before throwing in the towel and heading back home, he gave auto sales a shot. "I picked up a newspaper ad — back in 2002 — and said, well, I can at least try this."
The junior sales position turned out to be a perfect fit.
"I'm not a real people person, but for some reason as soon as I got into the sales side of it, it was easy for me to talk to people," he said. "It was almost like it was natural for me to just open up and have a conversation because I enjoyed finding out more about people and what their wants and needs were."
When Bigelow isn't building on his work accomplishments, he enjoys packing up his orange Toyota Tundra pickup and taking his family fishing.
"For the time I have — I only take one day off a week — I try to at least go out fishing off the boat," he said. "We've got beautiful weather down here in South Florida, so I try to take advantage of that."