Hi Bruce! Thank you for taking the time to chat with me today. Let's start with a little background — how you got started in the auto industry?
I've been in auto in New Orleans for 23 years. I began as a 21-year-old salesperson. I was newly married and with a baby on the way, so I needed a stable job to support my family.
I've always had a talent for sales and communication. So one day, a family member who worked at a car dealership told me I reminded her of the salespeople there. Encouraged by her comment, I applied for a job at a dealership and got hired. It was love at first sight, and I've been lucky enough to have a successful 23-year career in the industry.
That's amazing! I understand that you opened your own locations not long ago?
Yes, I own a few independent used car lots in New Orleans called Miller Motors. I started the venture about 18 months ago, during the pandemic. Before that, I worked for other stores in the city's new car market for 21 years and achieved great success. Even though I was a high school dropout, I worked my way up to become the managing partner of several stores.
Wow! Did you imagine owning your own dealerships when you started working at a young age, or did that come later?
I've always had an irrational confidence and strong ambition. Even as early as 24 or 25, I dreamed of owning my own dealership, but I didn't overthink as I progressed through my career. It combined ambition, faith, and feeling like it was my right path. I feel that God led me in this direction.
That's so impressive. The speed of your success, especially coming out of the pandemic, is exceptionally impressive.
Thank you! Many smaller new car franchises across the country sell less than 60 cars a month. So, as an independent used car dealer without new vehicles, selling 60 a month is a great accomplishment. My goal is to reach 100.
How do you feel you've been handling obstacles in the used car inventory market, such as supply issues and the trend of people holding onto their used cars for longer?
I put in the effort to stock good cars by attending auctions four days a week to see the vehicles and make purchases. It's not easy, but it's definitely not impossible. I'm fully committed to the used car business, stocking inventory, and putting in the effort to succeed, while many others simply are not.
It's clear that you believe in putting in the hard work to achieve results, that's for sure! Do you feel that auctions are the best source for obtaining used inventory?
While it's true that auctions are a great source, there are still other ways to acquire cars, such as street purchases. We're continuously improving our acquisitions efforts and have recently hired my 22-year-old son to handle street purchases within the dealership.
Oh, I take it your son is also interested in the family business?
Well, my son is 22 years old and a really smart kid. He graduated high school with a perfect ACT score. He went to Tulane University, where he pursued an Economics degree with a minor in Sociology, almost set on becoming a lawyer. But he recently decided that the law might not fit him right. So, I offered him the opportunity to work with me.
In fact, during our first three days at the auction, he would tell me that I was paying too much for a car because he had done his market research. It's exciting to see him get passionate about something.
As a father who had a difficult upbringing and started as a high school dropout, it's amazing to own a company with my name on the building and have my son working with me. It brings a unique level of joy. We'll see where it takes us.
With your experience and his focus on data sets, that sounds like a dream team. What are some significant challenges you face?
The challenges are like potholes, popping up every day. In my world, subprime banks are tightening up significantly. They are not lending money as easily as they used to, and many small subprime banks are going under. They've become more cautious. I have to align my car purchases with the requirements of the banks I work with. Each bank has preferences for the type of cars they finance, and that's how I increase the chances of getting people approved.
You've got a very adaptable approach to your business, which I've learned is key in this industry. Do you have any advice or tips for someone new to the industry?
If I were coaching a young salesperson just starting out, I would tell them that when you experience some level of success, there will be people who don't believe in you. It could be your managers or others around you. But don't let anyone dampen your parade.
Believe in yourself, know your value, and don't settle for anything less.