General manager, Mazda Lakeland
After transforming and relocating a dealership in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic — all with a broken leg — Sophia Justiz is no stranger to a challenge.
In 2018, the Holler-Classic Family of Dealerships acquired an underperforming store with an inventory shortage. Justiz was appointed general manager of the dealership: Mazda Lakeland in Florida.
After relocating the dealership in 2021, a new facility was built. Just two weeks before move-in, Justiz broke her leg on a jet ski.
"We were moving cars, we were moving parts, we were moving files. I was on crutches the entire time, trying to get the lot organized and trying to get everybody's offices put together," Justiz said. "Timing is amazing, how it happens, but it just taught me how to be better at delegation."
The newly constructed dealership opened successfully.
At the grand opening, delayed until 2022 because of pandemic precautions, there were no cars to display because the dealership had virtually sold out, Justiz said. Nonetheless, the month of the grand opening, April 2022, was a record new-vehicle sales month for Mazda Lakeland.
Justiz began her auto retail career as a cashier at a Lincoln-Mercury dealership while in high school. She cross-trained in the store's accounting department. During and after college, she continued to explore different departments and has also worked as a service adviser, in inventory management, as finance assistant and finance director before becoming a general manager.
Justiz is most proud of her team's new-vehicle sales efficiencies, which have nearly tripled since she took over the store.
Justiz expressed love for the constantly changing environment of the automotive industry.
"I love the excitement of the competition. The business is always transforming. No two days are the same," she said. "So every day when you come in, you're dealing with different departments or different people or different customers or different situations."
— Isabella Warren