Ivette Dominguez, 53
President, Alpine Buick-GMC (and dealer at 5 other dealerships in Colorado, Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma)
Location: Littleton, Colo.
Education: B.A., business administration and marketing, San Diego State University
What drew you to the auto industry? I was home on break from school and I was planning to go to USC to get a masters. And I took a summer job, probably against my parents’ desire. But I started that job and I really fell in love with the industry, even though back then it wasn’t, I would say it was not represented by a lot of women. I worked at a smaller luxury store. I was 22 or 23. And I did have some support from the sales executives there. I think that they liked me and I started and I did really well. I bought a home really soon. And I think that kind of, not that [it] tied me into keeping a job, but I had to pay a mortgage.
First automotive job: I was in sales at a BMW dealership in California. It was 1990.
Big break: At 25, at the BMW dealership, I was given an opportunity to be in a management role. It was a very entry-level management role. But after that particular position, I think I was able to excel and I felt comfortable excelling in the role of management in automotive.
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What is the major challenge you’ve faced in your career? Well, we went through a five-year lawsuit with a competitor over a move. And I would say that’s probably one of the biggest challenges that we ever faced. We went all the way through the [Colorado] Supreme Court. We would get through one hurdle, we would be excited and then all of a sudden we were hit with another letter from an attorney, or a firm, or secretary of state. It was a well-funded adversary, a big corporation, and we were able to take them on and win the case and move. [At the end of September], we moved into our brand-new facility. So it’s definitely rewarding. And I’m no longer sharing an office with my husband, so it’s really rewarding.
You’ve been in the industry 30 years. What has been the most important change you’ve seen? I look around our dealership and our dealership really represents, I think, what the outside world looks like. I have probably 50 percent female. I’m of Cuban descent, so I have, probably about half of my staff is also bilingual. I am very proud of that. And I don’t think it’s always been like that. I mean, I’ve been involved in other dealerships or seen other dealerships and it reflects a very, kind of a white male environment. We have a female [general sales manager], we have female managing partners.
What work achievement are you most proud of? We’ve been very fortunate in the 15 years that we’ve been in business. We really didn’t buy our second dealership until 2017. And I think that, with the help of good managing partners in different states, it’s been great for us to be able to have this type of growth in a relatively short amount of time and in an environment that’s very expensive. We’re not second-generation auto dealers or third generation. We started from the ground up. When we bought our first dealership, we had the money for the business, but we didn’t have all the money for the working capital. So we had to mortgage our home. So we basically had to put it all on the line.
Describe your leadership style. I am definitely big picture and I think that I try to lead by example. And I want to make the people around me better. I give back to them and I don’t think I personally had that.
What have you learned from the COVID-19 crisis? You have to learn how to adapt very quickly to a situation whether you’ve been through it or not. I mean, obviously COVID, I don’t think anybody’s ever had the type of experience that we had. And then, in the different states, we were dealing with different governors, different laws. One dealership had one set of rules, another dealership had another set of rules. And it was really how we adapted and how we got through it. We decided to take the approach that we were going to be all-in, even though in Colorado we had locked showrooms for I think it was about six or seven weeks. We were able to do online sales. My husband got really involved in really fine-tuning the digital experience for the consumers. If they weren’t going to be able to come in, we wanted to be able to offer them being able to digitally sign and contactless deliveries. And we actually really did well during that time.
— Melissa Burden