Paul Gomez, 35
General manager, Audi Lakeland
Paul Gomez got his start in automotive retail following an 11-year stint with the U.S. military.
In his last years of service, the Marine Corps veteran was stationed in Tampa, Fla., where he met his wife. And after leaving recruiting duty, he began searching for another line of work.
"I felt I had enough education to be able to get out of the military and look for a normal job and earn a normal living," said Gomez, who is a few credits away from obtaining a degree from American Military University.
He visited job fairs but couldn't shake the feeling that some of the jobs would cap his potential for better earnings and growth. A dealership general manager — the father of a young man Gomez had previously recruited — suggested Gomez try the car business.
It clicked, and he didn't look back.
He stepped into the auto business in 2013, working as a finance manager before joining Audi Lakeland in Florida in 2017. He became general manager of the store in May 2020, right in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before the pandemic, the dealership had transitioned to a single-point-of-contact process — one that required training sales staff members to also act as finance and insurance managers. Its goal was to streamline the car-buying process for each customer.
He credits the new approach with helping the sales staff generate more leads, especially during the pandemic. Following the change, F&I profits at the store grew 47 percent from the year before. New-vehicle sales rose 17 percent year over year, Gomez said, while Audi sales in his region were down 32 percent.
Lakeland also was the first in that Audi region to incorporate videos in sales and service departments to allow off-site customers to examine used vehicles first-hand.
"Automotive retail is changing quite fast," Gomez said. "My hopes are to be on the tip of that spear to change, to be able to continue doing what we do, which is giving folks the opportunity to change their lives."
— C.J. Moore