Finance manager, Avis Ford
Parys Liddell found his bliss in the finance office.
Liddell, the youngest of seven brothers and two sisters, grew up with many role models. The family was military-minded, with a former Marine father, four brothers in the Army and one sister in the Air Force.
Liddell, by contrast, struggled in school, dropping out his sophomore year to work part time at a car wash. As a minor, he could only work 20 hours per week but loved the job and being around cars.
At his father's urging, Liddell got his GED and secured a porter position in 2012 at Saginaw Valley Ford in Saginaw, Mich. He tried repeatedly to pass the Army entrance exam, hoping to one day work as a mechanic in the armed forces. He enrolled at Davenport University after telling the dealership owner that his goal was to one day run his own store.
"He said, 'You owe yourself one last try,'" Liddell said. "I excelled in college where I failed in high school."
At Davenport, Liddell accepted a work/study position that required a great deal of socializing and event planning, which assisted him greatly when he was invited to move up front to the sales floor. Most of his colleagues were shocked by the change, particularly because Liddell was only 20 years old.
"They never saw me as a salesperson. People put you in a box," he said. "They were like, 'I've got kids older than him.'"
The experience gave him an immense appreciation for both the front and the back end of the store and the possibilities of cross-training competencies.
Fate came in the form of Northwood University's vice president of enrollment, who purchased a car from Liddell. Once again, Liddell was prompted to give higher academia another chance. Liddell finished his bachelor's at Northwood in 2015 and returned for his MBA, graduating in 2021.
After his dealership in Saginaw was sold, Liddell started Avis Ford in Southfield, Mich., in 2019.
He continued in sales, quickly becoming the assistant sales manager.
Many of the store's employees were long-term sales veterans and somewhat resistant to change. Finance wasn't keen to work with salespeople on educating customers on F&I products or signing documentation anywhere outside the business office. The process remained arduous for employees and customers alike.
"You would see people check out. They'd go to the lounge, watch TV, take a nap before the car could be signed for," Liddell said.
When an opportunity came up in the finance office in 2019, Liddell jumped at the chance. He immediately began changing processes based on what he learned observing some of the store's higher-volume competitors. Deals that took hours could be completed in minutes, he determined, and could be done paperlessly. The pandemic only strengthened the need for the changes Liddell wanted to implement, such as remote pickup and delivery; more employees got on board. Cross-training between departments increased service plan penetration to 57 percent from 32 percent. After the first year of implementing those changes, the dealership secured the Ford President's Award — given to dealerships with the highest level of customer service, satisfaction and overall experience — in 2021 and 2022.
"That's how you make a name for yourself," he said. "You don't want to fit in. You want to make things better."
— Jackie Charniga