Mitchell Harris, 33
Corporate director of operations, Shaker Auto Group
Mitchell Harris has spent much of his life around auto dealerships, working as a lot boy during high school and selling cars after college. But a four-year stint as a Mazda district manager made an important contribution to his current success running operations at a six-store group in New England.
"Working for the manufacturer really helped me grow as a manager and as a leader," Harris said in an interview. "I was able to interact with some of the best general managers and learn from them, as well as coach them and teach them lessons I had learned."
Harris joined Mazda North American Operations in late 2015 after nearly seven years as finance manger and general sales manager at the Wellesley Mazda dealership in Massachusetts.
Working for Mazda directly also made Harris an expert in factory programs once he moved back into retail. One reason for the change was to settle down near relatives with his young family.
In November 2019, Harris took over operations at Shaker Auto Group, which includes Wellesley Mazda, two additional Mazda stores, a Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram location, a Hyundai store and a Ford-Lincoln dealership.
"It was a great first couple of months, and then COVID hit and we've been scrambling ever since, changing on the fly," Harris said. Early in 2020, Harris started stocking up on inventory to be prepared for industry disruption. He was able to boost inventory about 20 percent over its normal level, he said.
"When things started opening back up, we had inventory to sell," said Harris. Shaker Auto Group's net profit rose 20 percent last year even factoring in the months lost to COVID, he said.
At the same time, Harris was putting his mark on the group in other ways. An aggressive customer service program for the Hyundai dealership raised satisfaction scores from last place in the district to first.
"At all our dealerships, we're in the top 10 percent for customer experience," Harris said.
Other important accomplishments during his 20 months as operations director have been the hiring of a marketing manager, along with a group-wide human resources manager.
— Laurence Iliff