General manager, Stevens Creek Toyota
Ray Khandan arrived at Stevens Creek Toyota in San Jose, Calif., when he was 17, looking to make a life change by selling cars. He had found himself without a stable home or income and had run out of money for a college transfer.
Khandan was turned away because of his age but returned on his 18th birthday and has worked at the store ever since, rising to general manager in 2017. He said he is incredibly grateful for the stability the store has provided him, and he strives to pass that along to others as an employer and mentor.
"I like to transform people," Khandan told Automotive News. "If I can show you a talent that you don't need a college degree for, and then you use that talent to really take care of yourself and your family, then I feel like it was all worth it."
He employs this attitude of improvement throughout the store, not to "reinvent the wheel" of car sales but instead to "make everything faster."
"We're always learning, we're always adapting," he said.
Khandan also has worked as sales manager, e-commerce director and used-car director at the dealership, which is owned by Steve Cornelius of American Motors Corp.
Khandan is active with the brand as a member of the Toyota National Dealer Advisory Council and the Toyota Dealer Advisory Panel.
A standard of efficiency drove Khandan throughout one of his proudest accomplishments: optimization of the service department. When Khandan began as general manaager, customers did not even come in for free service because of wait times.
By reimagining the service process to prioritize speed, Khandan directed a project that cut Toyota Express Maintenance service wait times immensely. Now, almost 70 percent of customers have their appointments for free interval service finished in under an hour, he said.
As a mentor, Khandan encourages this type of "big picture thinking" in his employees. He described his management style as hands-off and collaborative, encouraging employees to contribute to solutions and improvement.
Khandan hopes to eventually own multiple businesses, including dealerships.
"I am not going to retire as a W2 GM, I can guarantee that," he said.
— Paige Hodder