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Appeared September 2006 - volume 3 - issue 9 - page 46
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Each month, DBJ features one of our successful Twenty Group members to showcase a dealership. We take a close look at the dealerís history, vision, goals, operations, best practices, lessons learned and secrets to success. By sharing knowledge, best practices, and lessons learned, everyone improves. This is the fundamental key for our Twenty Group success and the reason we exist: To Improve your Profits, Your People and Your Business.
By Tom Herald
This monthís featured dealership is Atlas Used Cars, Inc. dba Atlas Cars. Dwight CdeBaca and his wife Carla own and operate the business they started in 1988 after Dwight graduated from West Point and served eight years in the U.S. Army. Their company employs 14 people at two retail locations and only focuses on buy here-pay here financing. Their original store is in Radcliff, Ky., just outside of Fort Knox and their second store is located in Elizabethtown, Ky. Through patience, determination and a steady focus, the company has grown a viable portfolio of receivables worth over $3 million dollars that produces more than $200, 000 per month in cash flow. This is a well-run business with a history of success and Dwight is about as down to earth person as you will ever find. They do BHPH right.
DBJ: What has been your biggest success?
CdeBaca: That has to be our ability to consistently provide a reliable product to our small community. You see, in towns like this, businesses live and die by word of mouth. When I was younger, I had ambitions of working in ďBig BusinessĒ and becoming somebody important in a large company, but I have learned that life was not for me. I am in the right place, doing exactly what I want to do, helping people. And, I sleep well at night.
DBJ: It sounds like you have a good handle on life and business. What has been your biggest headache as a dealer?
CdeBaca: (Laughing) Lying customers! It is so frustrating when you do your best to help someone and they just donít appreciate it or reciprocate. Itís a huge let down and I take it personally.
DBJ: What dvice would you give to someone new to the business or other fellow dealers?
CdeBaca: Donít lull yourself into a false sense of security by looking at your portfolio and marveling how large it is. Instead, focus on your customers and keep them happy and paying. A lot your customers wonít pay for a good car, but none of them pay for a bad one. And, if you donít know the problems, you canít fix them. Customer service is important. If you donít solve your customerís problems youíre just going to end up with a portfolio that wonít collect and a whole bunch of headaches.
DBJ: How many employees do you have in the company?
CdeBaca: We have 14 total: three in sales, two managers, two collectors, and the rest are our support staff of technicians and office workers. We have a really good team.
DBJ: Why did you join a Twenty Group?
CdeBaca: Well, I sort backed into one. A few years ago we had worked hard, learned a lot and grown our business to be somewhat of a big fish in a small pond. There was really nobody to talk to and learn from. I first heard about Twenty Groups at a dealer conference, so I knew a little about the process. But it was Mig Oakley of Oak Motors who recruited me back at an auction in Indy. He really pursued me and now I know why. As a Twenty Group member you want good members in your group. Itís like Nirvana and very humbling to see how others do business, people just like you. I wouldnít give it up for anything now.
CdeBaca: The process makes you step back from the daily grind of your business, take a different look at yourself, evaluate things and then go forward. You really focus on making and saving money and thatís why we are in business. You grade and compare yourself to other dealers and benchmarks and when youíre doing things well or not so well, there are other friendly faces and voices and opinions to bounce it off of. I really enjoy the friendships I have developed with my Twenty Group members and the knowledge has been priceless. One example is when we fine-tuned our inventory and went from stocking 150 vehicles to 85 of the right vehicles and we maintained the same sales. That alone was and is a huge savings. We make each other better business people. I enjoy the fun places where we meet.
DBJ: What was the coolest location in which your group met?
CdeBaca: (Instantly) Punta Meda Mexico. I really enjoyed that place. But then again Seattle, where our last meeting was, is very nice too. Itís just good to get away from the lot and see different parts of the country.
DBJ: You can directly attribute a significant value to your business from your Twenty Group experience. Can you quantify it?
CdeBaca: Absolutely! Weíve doubled our earnings!
DBJ: What is your fiveyear vision for your business?
CdeBaca: I want to keep it simple. We want to open a third location and double our portfolio. I just like to help people, customers and employees.
DBJ: What is your biggest regret in business?
CdeBaca: I donít know I really have one. Iím happy. I provide for my family and the employees and we do a good job. I donít want to become too big because when you do, you lose touch with the business and I donít see that making me any happier.
DBJ: Why are you in the car business?
CdeBaca: I enjoy it. When Iím not here, I really donít know what to do with myself. I enjoy success as much as the next person. But, I also enjoy helping our employees succeed. I like to teach about business but also about life. I really like to see our people do well and succeed. My job is to deal with employees today. I donít really see that many customers anymore. Thatís the employeeís job and they do very well at it. My job is to nurture them as a family.
DBJ: Whatís the toughest part of being in a Twenty Group?
CdeBaca: Composites! I donít like doing them. But I do like the results they provide. To do a composite right takes time and focus, so I lock the doors and just do it. Then when I get the numbers done, I can sit back and see ďhow we really did last month.Ē The numbers donít lie and the composite helps me keep the business on track and keep things from going askew. Right now our focus is on collections and tracking the numbers is real important.
The benefits of a Twenty Group are huge, but the friendships I have formed with other members are life-long and invaluable.