How do you become an expert at recognizing who’s the best?
You see it all.
And Jimmy DeGuzman really has seen it all in the automotive industry. 35 years’ worth, to be exact.
He has worked in many sides of the automotive industry: as a sales rep for Ford, as the general manager for a Saturn/Ford dealership, and now, as a successful salesperson at Garber-owned Volvo Cars Rochester in Rochester, New York.
Combining his history with perspective, who does Jimmy think is a true automotive trailblazer in the dealership world?
“Garber is one of the best groups in the industry,” he said. “Why? It’s pay. It’s people. It’s benefits. It’s all of it. With Garber, there’s no hidden agenda. They want to take care of their people.”
He said he feels that affirmation and validation as a team member at Garber.
“Individually, they want to see me grow,” he said. “That’s all anyone would want to ask for, no matter what point they are at in their career. Other dealerships might look at me and say, ‘Well, he has a shelf life.’ Not Garber. Garber notices you. They know your experience matters. That’s a big thing to me. A lot of time, dealerships don’t care about your experience as an employee. Garber cares about us.”
He would know. He’s seen it all.
Seeing it From All Sides
While he’s seen a lot now, Jimmy didn’t initially see himself in the automotive industry. But the automotive industry came calling after college.
A native from Highland Park, Michigan, Jimmy graduated with a business administration degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. After working in sales for Xerox, Jimmy got offered a job to work in the sales division for none other than Ford Motor Company.
“Ford said, ‘Where would you like to go?’” Jimmy explained. “I said, ‘Oh, Philly, DC, New York.’ They said, ‘We have a spot in New York.’ When they said that, I thought I was going to Manhattan. They were like, ‘Nope, it’s a territory in western New York.’”
Jimmy worked for Ford for 12 years. He didn’t know it at the time, but the role was preparing him for his future endeavors in the industry.
He started to learn how to separate the best from the rest.
“While at Ford, I really learned about the automotive industry through years of my role as a corporate rep,” he said. “I’d call dealerships, would look at best practices. In my career, I must have called over 300 dealers. You find out quickly who is doing the right things that allow them to see success and who’s doing the wrong things. I was really immersed in the front side of the business.”
While working in retail, he became intrigued with the dealership life. He decided to learn from those who worked in that world every day.
“I was always curious about the dealership side of things,” he said. “I’d go back to the stores while I was visiting as a field rep and ask, ‘How do you put a deal together?’ I was curious. And I started learning from them. I learned more and more and realized I was a natural salesman. The most fun I had was at the stores.”
Then, a shift happened.
In the early 90s, Ford closed the Buffalo district office Jimmy was based out of. That’s when Jimmy met a man named Bob Hastings. He wanted Jimmy to help him open a Saturn franchise in Rochester.
“Bob told me, ‘Do this with me, I’ll move you to Rochester and you’ll be the GM for the Saturn store.’ Bob was my lead-in to join the retail part of the business. I took a leap of faith, left Ford, and Bob moved me to Rochester.”
Jimmy helped lead the Saturn store to success. He was on his way to reaching a new level in the industry: he was in talks with Ford to own his own franchise store in Pennsylvania.
But life had (exciting) other plans.
“I got the news that my wife was pregnant with our third child,” he said. “That made my decision to say, ‘You know what, I want to see this child grow up. Money doesn’t solve everything.”’
Rather than own his own dealership franchise in Pennsylvania, Jimmy decided to come work as a sales consultant at the Rochester Volvo store: a mere three miles from his house.
Now on the sales floor himself, Jimmy would get to put into practice all of the lessons he learned from his past role with Ford.
As a Michigan man himself, Jimmy knew about Michigan-based Garber before he heard they were acquiring the Volvo dealership.
Still, he did his research.
“When I heard that we were going to sell to Garber, I did my vetting,” Jimmy said. “I knew the name. I knew Garber was a family-oriented group. I heard the employee comments about how happy they were working for Garber and that Garber was the real deal.”
Hearing from others is one thing. Having your own experience is another. But Jimmy realized quickly that Garber had a quality reputation for a reason.
“When I met the Garber folks, I immediately found out that they are a great group to work for,” he said. “When Garber came in, I was impressed. Their systems were legit; it was such an improvement.’”
After witnessing hundreds of dealerships’ processes, Jimmy was most impressed with Garber’s efficiency.
“They were efficient from the start,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of different groups try to run a store, but Garber has things down to a science. They are incredibly efficient. Their efficiencies when they came in were incredible. They had a team for training, a team to set up equipment, a team for IT. Other dealerships are often starting from scratch. Garber has solid teams in place to offer the best support for a solid transition.”
Most of all, Jimmy appreciated Garber’s priorities.
“I saw Garber’s process in sales and service,” he said. “Their expectations…their company values…it’s all written out. Some stores don’t have company values, or they have generic ones. Garber’s values are workable, real-life, not pie-in-the-sky. I wanted to work for a store that has good common values that I can live with and don’t have a ‘What have you done for me lately?’ mentality. I could have gone back into the corporate world, but I wanted to stay in retail because I knew this was the place I needed to be.”
A Friendly Atmosphere
As a Garber team member, Jimmy said he feels support from the top down.
“Everyone is open to answering questions,” he said. “Even if someone stops to ask for directions, it’s a very friendly atmosphere. It starts from the top down. Erika is our GM and she sets the tone throughout the store. When people from Garber Management Group fly in to visit us, I’m not apprehensive, like, ‘Oh God, the corporate people are here.’ It’s exciting. It’s great.”
Garber Management Group, headquartered in Saginaw, Michigan, also provides administrative support for various duties that help all of the Garber dealerships.
“It’s nice to have Garber Management Group with dedicated people to departments like Payroll,” Jimmy said. “They answer my questions right away because we have people that can answer those questions. During the dealership transition, there were a lot of unknowns. They made it simple and easy and I didn’t have to worry.”
At the end of the day, Jimmy said Garber prioritizes the customer: a refreshing change from other dealerships.
“I love Garber’s dedication to customer service,” he said. “We take care of the customers. We are a luxury brand store here, but whether you buy a $5,000 or a $59,000 car, we treat everybody the same.”
From dealership to dealership, you can expect that same level of service and care, Jimmy added.
“Consistency is a word in our business that doesn’t come up too often, but it does here at Garber,” he said. “Garber has a baseline of what to do, how to do it, and where to go to look for answers, where a lot of dealerships don’t. Garber has things in place so you don’t feel lost.
First job? My first job was washing windows. I went around the businesses and had my bucket and squeegee and would say, “Do you want your windows washed?” I was 10 or 12.
First car: 1977 Cutlass Supreme
What are three things you can’t live without (aside from food, water, air…)? My family, driving, and playing tennis
What is something people would be surprised to know about you? I became a grandfather four weeks ago; my daughter had our first grandchild: a girl named Keira. I’m so elated.
Best advice? My father told me, “Success is your best revenge.” I carry that with me every day.