Glenn Lundy got started as a car dealer when he was just 22. He started as a salesman and worked his way up the ladder to a General Manager position at Dan Cummins Chevrolet Buick in Paris Kentucky. During his tenure there he built it into the second-largest US car franchise dealership in the country. In March of 2018, the franchise sold 1043 cars in 27 business days. “We were able to grow the store, 800% in the first five years that I was there,” he told us. “And the way we did it was literally just doing the opposite of all of the things I hated as an employee and all of the things I knew that customers hated.”
He credits his success in large part due to a decision he made to flip the script on how car dealerships traditionally work. Read on to learn Glenn’s inspirational story and gain his advice on changes you can make at your dealership to help you increase sales while creating a more positive, empowering environment for you, your team, and your customers.
The Start of Negative Stigmas
To run a car dealership back in the day, you’d have a great product and people needed cars. At the end of the day, they had to buy it from somebody. And back then, people mostly bought regionally. They bought within a few miles of their house and went to the closest dealership. And So you have tons of dealerships. To this day, even with just a small amount of volume, 20 to 50 cars a month these dealerships can be profitable. Because of that, it was just a breeding ground for the worst of the worst. You really didn’t have much competition because everything was regional. You didn’t have to over-deliver as far as customer service, you could take advantage of people because people didn’t have access to information online to find out what type of rates they should be getting, what type of prices they should be paying, or what their trade-ins are worth. And so for decades and decades and decades we just created these environments that were not consumer-friendly.
Becoming a Car Dealer
When I was 20 years old living in Flagstaff Arizona, I found out that a young lady that had been dating was pregnant. I was in college at the time, but knew I had to go get a job. I started working in an America Online call center, doing telemarketing. Then, I saw an advertisement in the newspaper for Planet Nissan Subaru. It said, “Earn $5,000 guaranteed, apply in person”. At the time I thought, “$5,000 a month, guaranteed. Are you kidding me? That’s all the money in the world.” I thought I could retire in a year. That was my mindset back then. So I applied and the gentleman that interviewed me wasn’t much older than I was, so I found that really intriguing, that this guy was in a General Manager position 21-22 years old. This was a new store, I interviewed, they liked me, and they hired me on the spot. I said I have to give my other job, two weeks notice and the GM looked at me and he said, “Well I’m sorry we were looking for people that could start today.” When he told me that it should have been a sign that maybe, this isn’t the type of company I want to work for if they can’t even allow me to have respect for my other employer. But I took the job and I went all in. I happened to be really really good at it.
Eventually, I become the General Sales Manager. All the while, my child that I barely ever saw was growing up. I was in this culture of drinking, working long hours, and partying. We were making money, driving nice cars, and spending it as fast as we could. We were playing into every stereotype you could imagine. That’s how this dealership was run, it was all I knew. They were open seven days a week so I worked seven days a week. Although my career was incredible my life outside of that building was falling apart. I was getting into trouble with the law because of drugs and partying.
When my daughter was six years old her mom served me with papers. She wanted full custody and didn’t want me to see my daughter anymore. I didn’t have the money to go through the judicial system to fight for custody after having spent all of it on my lifestyle. The court saw my criminal record so they just made their decision. I wasn’t allowed to have any contact with my daughter or her mom. At this point, I got really mad at the car industry, not at myself. I blamed the automobile industry for all of my woes so I packed up everything that I owned into my little Ford Mustang and left Flagstaff, Arizona. I drove to Vegas with a brilliant idea to become a professional poker player.
Just two weeks later I was sitting in a parking lot with no money, no gas in my car, and no one to call because I had burned every bridge. I ended up homeless in the San Diego area. I was homeless for about five weeks. I would try to sleep on the bus, wake up at 6 am, and spend my day walking up and down the street just looking for enough change to get a sausage McMuffin. Then, I’d spend the rest of the day searching for change. I was never the type of person that could ask people for money so I would search for a nickel here, a dime there, until I had enough to get on the bus again. Every day was the same.
My lowest point came when I decided to end my life. My plan was to swim out into the ocean as far as I could. I figured I wouldn’t be able to make it back. Thankfully, when I went out the tide was coming in. The ocean just kept pushing me back into the shallows. I made it to shore and I’m just looking at the stars and something clicked. I begin to realize that the universe is huge and my problems are small. I realized all of these circumstances and situations that I dealt with in my life were my doing. They were my responsibility. I was not a victim, I was the conduit.
A Fresh Start
With some help from a friend, I moved to Paris, Kentucky and eventually ended up back in the automotive industry selling cars.
I started at a place called Dan Cummins Chevrolet Buick Paris Kentucky where I was put back on the sales floor. This was a dealership that had been around for about 15 years. They were selling about 120 cars a month. After a few years, I became the General Manager. Within the first five years I was there we were able to grow the store by 800%. We sold 1043 cars in 27 business days in March of 2018.
The way that we did it was literally just doing the opposite of all of the things that I hated as an employee and all of the things that I knew that customers hated. We started creating a completely different environment. We screened who we brought in and we were very selective about who we wanted on our team.
We trained our people every single day, not just in job skills, but we trained them with life skills too. We taught them how to save their money and invest. We taught them good workout routines and how to take care of themselves physically. We shared books and ideas with them so that they could work on their self-development as well as spiritual development. We really poured into each of these individuals to make sure that we eradicating the negative stigmas that are associated with the car business. And in doing so we were able to become wildly successful in a tiny little town with a population of just 9,600.
Moving On, Helping Others, and Three Keys to Success
After eight and a half years, I felt like it was time for me to do more for the global industry as a whole, versus just serving that one dealership. I wanted to be able to serve more dealerships nationwide. I left last October and since then, I’ve been traveling the country helping other dealerships abolish the negative stigmas associated with the car business.
When I give talks and work with dealerships I give them the following advice to help them propel their dealership forward.
1. Allow for schedule flexibility
Don’t work your employees to death, give them the guilt-free flexibility to attend their kids’ games and enjoy life outside of work. Create an environment that prioritizes family over business.
2. Be as transparent as possible
Everybody likes to play all these games telling potential customers things like, “I’ll tell you how much your trade-in is worth when you come in” or “I can’t tell you the interest rate I’m not a finance person”. All this silly stuff, we just eliminated it, If a customer has a question we gave you the answer. Easy enough, right?
Training should be one of the most crucial and important aspects of your dealership. Make sure you’re training your team every single day. Again, don’t just train them on how to sell a car, train them on all things that have to do with life. This strategy creates a better environment for customers because they actually get to deal with trained, knowledgeable professionals.
In talking with Glenn one of the things we learned is that the success of your dealership can hinge on your effort to make it all about people. You’ll notice his three keys for success have nothing to do with direct financial measures or latest management trends or strategy. Glenn encourages dealerships to focus on people, both their team and customers. Glenn will be the first one to tell you that none of us are perfect, everyone makes mistakes along the way, but there are solutions to everything if you give new ideas a chance and learn to see things a little differently, both in business and in life.
Glenn Lundy has twenty years of automotive industry experience. He spent the first 7 spent in Arizona learning how not to do things. He spent the last 9 in Kentucky, leading a dealership in a small town, population 9,600, through the process of developing a winning culture. At this dealership, he experienced 800% growth in 5 years and ultimately grew from 120 cars a month, to a record 1,043 cars sold in March of 2018. Now, he considers it an honor and a privilege to work with over 40 dealerships nationwide to help them achieve similar results.