When Yuri Cil was buying a car back in 1998, the finance manager handling his transaction encouraged him to apply to be a sales rep at the dealership.
Cil, a Cuban chef who had never worked in sales, proposed an alternative: "You want me to go to your house and cook something for you? I do great paellas."
But within three months, Cil was selling cars.
Fast-forward two decades, and Cil has climbed auto retail's ranks to become general manager at AutoNation Chevrolet Doral in suburban Miami — No. 1 among large dealerships on the 2019 Automotive News list of 100 Best Dealerships To Work For. The dealership is one of about 250 stores owned by AutoNation Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the country's largest new-vehicle retailer, and among 10 AutoNation stores on the Best Dealerships To Work For list.
Today, Cil, 41, finds purpose in recruiting and retaining employees, especially those who — like him — hail from unlikely places.
He strives to create a dealership environment that motivates employees.
"They have dreams. They want to be managers one day; they want to be a service manager; they want to be a sales manager. They really see the possibility that it can be done," said Cil, who has worked at AutoNation for 20 years.
From employees' first interviews as candidates, Cil helps them map out a career path. Each sales manager is charged with six to seven employees that they coach and help grow within the company.
For Cil, providing that guidance is personal.
"It becomes easy for me to sell cars and take care of customers, so [another purpose] is to help other people do the same that I did," he said. "They can have a better life."
AutoNation Chevrolet Doral has been on the Best Dealerships To Work For list for three consecutive years. This year it moved from the medium dealership category to the large dealership category as its employee count topped 100. It also moved up overall on the list from No. 64 overall in 2018 to No. 28 overall this year. Cil joined the store as general manager in 2016 after a stint overseeing another AutoNation store.