To say Gina Lanzatella got an early start in this industry is an understatement.
“I was born into the automotive industry,” she said. “My grandfather owned an Oldsmobile dealership for decades, and my dad was a sales manager for the dealership. I grew up in that dealership.”
With the automotive industry in her blood, Gina is now carrying on the family tradition. She is a sales consultant for our Garber Honda location in Rochester, New York.
You could say it’s a role she’s been preparing for since she was a kid.
“I used to go to work with my father every Saturday since I was 9,” she laughed. “I’d even sit in the morning meetings, and then I would sit upstairs the whole Saturday in the conference room and watch car videos. I loved it. I couldn’t wait to go. I’d spend all day there.”
She said those Saturdays helped shape her career path…but she didn’t know it at the time. She had to spread her wings before returning to her roots.
Finding Her Way
Despite her early love and familiarity with the automotive world, Gina didn’t plan on pursuing the same path as her family.
“Growing up in the industry shaped my career path because I knew a lot more about cars than any female I’ve ever known in my life,” she said. “But originally, I didn’t want to do what my dad did.”
Instead, she went on to beauty school. But all it took were a couple of good ole’ fashioned epiphanies to help lead Gina back to automotive.
“I realized that I didn’t want to touch people’s hair; I was disgusted by it,” she laughed. “I got out of high school and started working immediately in a collision shop for many years. Then I thought, ‘This isn’t fulfilling for me. It’s a boring 9-5. I want to try to sell cars like my dad because I saw he was so successful.’ I started at a Dodge dealership as a car salesperson.”
Gina was now doing what she had watched her dad do all those years ago: sell cars. While she was in the right industry, she was in the wrong work environment
“Believe it or not, I have a horrible social anxiety problem,” Gina explained. “The other dealership I worked at would have all their salespeople and customers out on an open floor, so you could be talking to a big group of people, and they could hear everything you said. That scared me half to death.”
The Right Fit
Two of Gina’s former colleagues were working as sales managers at Garber. They told her that she should apply. After comparing the uncertainty (“I hate change,” Gina said) to the opportunity, Gina decided to check Garber out.
All it took was a tour of the dealership for Gina to know the Garber environment would be a better fit.
“I walked into the dealership and saw that there was no traditional showroom floor,” she said. “I was like, ‘This is great! It’s like working at a bank with an office!’ Then I learned about the growth opportunities and income potential. I was excited for what my future could look like with Garber, so I made the move.”
Her choice to join the Garber team only came with more affirmation that she made the right decision.
“When I met Kevin Parker [the General Manager] I knew things were different here at Garber,” she said. “We have meetings about our mission statements. We have meetings about how to treat people. We’re not the average car dealer.”
She said the work environment is night and day to what it’s like at many other dealerships.
“I’m just so comfortable talking to people here,” she said. “Everybody helps each other. Every year I progress and I learn more and more. I know my boss will stand behind me. There is no pressure. I don’t get sent home if I don’t answer the phone ‘the right way.’ I don’t get sent home if I don’t greet the customer ‘the right way’…those are real things I’ve experienced at other dealerships.”
A Family Affair
Not only did Gina make the switch to Garber. Her dad did, too.
“My father John was working at the same dealership I was at, and he left and followed me to Garber,” she said. “He’s very proud of me.”
While Gina has worked alongside actual family members, she said the culture at Garber is like a real family.
“If I walked in and said, ‘Listen, I have personal things going on’, the response is not, ‘When are you going to be back?’” she said. “Instead, it’s, ‘Take as much time as you need.’ You don’t wonder ‘Am I going to get fired?’ If you’re sick, there’s no question. You don’t get punished. We laugh here all day. There are customers that comment and say to us, ‘I can’t believe this is a dealership.’”
Plus, Garber team members get to spend more time with their actual family.
“The biggest difference between working for Garber and another dealership is the family time we get,” Gina said. “Garber dealerships are not open on Sunday. We don’t have to work open to close. At a lot of other dealerships, you have to work 9 to 9, so there’s so much time you miss with your family. It’s not worth it.”
Gina said her comfort level at Garber shows in her day-to-day life.
“I have been happier here at Garber than I have in all my years of being alive,” she said. “It has a lot to do with how successful I am here. I come in early every day. I want to be at work.”
Support and Rescue
One of Gina’s passions is animals. When tragedy struck and Gina’s heart was called to help, Garber supported her every step of the way.
“When there was a hurricane in Texas, I said, ‘I have to go and rescue the animals,’” Gina said. “Kevin Parker matched whatever I raised in two weeks. We had donation boxes where people were dropping things off.”
Gina said she got support from the entire organization.
“Dick Garber called me and said, ‘I can’t believe what you are doing; it is incredible. What do you need? How can we help support you?’” she said.
Gina was able to go to Texas without a worry about what her colleagues or boss would think.
“None of my previous GMs would have ever let me do that,” she said. “They would have said, ‘No, you aren’t taking time off.’ But Kevin said, ‘I want you to go.’ They even made t-shirts.”
Gina said the support is a reflection of the generous spirit of Garber – an attitude that has impacted her as a person.
“I’m a better person now, thanks to working at Garber,” she said. “Not that I didn’t care about people before, but I care about people MORE now. I feel for people a lot more. When customers need help, we’re there for them. It’s the Garber mentality. Garber wants to help.”
What was your first job? I worked at Spencer’s in the mall. It was the best time ever.
First car: An ‘88 Buick Regal. It was my grandmother’s car that she gave to me. All my cousins were jealous.
What are three things you can’t live without (aside from food, water, air…)? My dogs. I have three dogs: Lucy, Oscar, and Vinny.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you? I am an open book. There is nothing that people wouldn’t know. But one thing I’m especially proud of is that I am involved in an organization called Rescue Treasures, which helps find missing dogs. If a dog runs away, we try to help get them back. We see people at their worst because they are hysterical. They are in complete panic mode. We get to see success stories where we take over. Say your dog went missing…we start with fliers, we get phone calls, track the animal. We video tape every reunification. Every single reunion is hysterical crying and happiness.
Best advice? Not sure where I got this from or who told me, but you have to live every day as if it’s a new day. You can’t worry about six months from now. It is what it is. I used to live in the future. I’d be terrified six months or a year from now for no reason. Now, you just live every day to the fullest. Do as much as you can on that day. Tomorrow is not promised.