Meetings are conducted both live in the dealership and concurrently via Microsoft Teams. It's not perfect, but everyone is open to refining their processes on an ongoing basis.
While working remotely, the staff delivered a record December at the 85-year-old dealership, with sales volume up year over year. But that's old news. Bird-Kultgen enjoyed a record April and May in gross revenue across both total sales and service. Two consecutive months above $1 million is a major milepost for a smaller store, says Gabbert.
Establishing and maintaining a virtual environment required a leap of faith, but for Gabbert, that's nothing new.
He started in the dealership business in 2004 with Casa Auto Group in El Paso and quickly progressed. In 2012, he made an abrupt decision to leave.
"I felt the Lord on my heart, and it was this out-of-the-blue call to go into ministry," Gabbert said, confessing that he felt as baffled as colleagues who did double-takes at his decision. "It came after months of prayer. I stepped out in faith."
Lurking behind the decision was a nagging regret about his burgeoning status as a self-described "absentee husband." Gabbert married his wife, Kathryn, in 2007, and they quickly fell into a routine where she went to family gatherings, dinners and parties alone while he worked six days a week. That's the car business, he told himself.
Even with the financial hardship the transition brought, Gabbert was thrilled to leave it in the rearview mirror and work as the executive pastor and children's pastor of a nondenominational Christian church in McKinney, Texas. It gave him the time he sought with his wife and his "L Team" — children Lucia, Lila and Levi.
"I have an ax to grind with the car business, and it has everything to do with the hours being so hard on family and marriage," Gabbert said. "That's my hot-button issue. I've always thought there's got to be a better way to be in this industry without having to work 80-hour weeks. I saw what that did."
Just as he felt called into the ministry, he felt a similar inexplicable call back into the automotive business in 2016, a return he made with great reluctance. It was for a specific job coaching and teaching at dealerships across Texas that he returned, and only with assurances of remote work and a better work-life balance that he moved to Bird-Kultgen last fall.
Upon arriving, Gabbert replicated the success he had at the outset of his career in changing the way the dealership handled contracts in transit. He has created a checklist to ensure contracts are prepared with meticulous details covered, and he hired a finance and insurance assistant whose sole focus is to ensure compliance.