Joe Monkelbaan is a jack of all trades.
As the Business Manager at Garber-owned Volvo Cars Rochester in Rochester, New York, Joe enjoys putting on different hats each day.
His flexibility and willingness are reflective of the team-oriented culture at Garber.
“At the end of the day, I see my role as a dealership employee,” he said. “It’s customer service, whatever that may be or look like that day: whether it is selling that car or appraising the car, working with a warranty problem in the service department, helping desk deals for the guys…my role has evolved throughout my years. Sometimes you have to switch the spot you are sitting on the boat to help the team. I enjoy it.”
While he’s worked in sales for several years (first at Verizon, then at another dealership), Joe said landing at Garber has given him the most lessons.
“I’ve learned more here in the last two years than the first five years in the business,” he said.
For Joe, every day is another chance to learn something new and grow even more…which is exactly what Joe was looking for in a career.
He doesn’t have to look any more.
Joe is no stranger to the automotive world. Growing up in Buffalo, New York, he was around cars a lot.
“Cars were definitely part of my life,” he explained. “My dad has been a mechanic my whole life, so I grew up with my dad always fixing up cars in our garage. I’d go on tow rides with him. It was always something I really liked to do.”
But when it came time for Joe to find his own job, he steered away from the automotive world and drove into sales.
“In my early 20s after working in management at Dunkin’ Donuts, I got a job in communications at Verizon for eight years,” he said.
Changes in the telecommunications industry inspired Joe to want something more.
“The sales transition for phones was moving to online, and I wanted more of a personal touch, sales that gave me more fulfillment. Car sales seemed to be that. I always loved to buy cars and drive cars and drive nicer types of cars.”
Joe didn’t stumble into the car industry on his own. He was pulled by a friend.
“A very good friend of mine, Jerod Ingrassio (who is now the F&I director at Garber Honda Rochester in New York) recruited me to work at a dealership in 2016. I had done well for myself at Verizon and I was managing stores. I moved to Rochester to manage a store out there.”
With Jerod’s encouragement, Joe decided it was time to make a career switch. He officially entered the automotive world as a sales associate.
As a whole, Joe’s life changed significantly after his move to Rochester.
“I came out for one thing – my Verizon job – but in reality, there was a greater purpose for me. In one year, that was when I made a career change, met my wife, got a house, the whole nine yards.”
Because of that one decision to move, Joe became a husband, and together with his wife Kiera, the two welcomed daughter Fiona (and soon will be welcoming son Mason into the world!.
Joe made another decision that would change his life once again: the decision to work at Garber.
The Next Chapter
Car sales was exactly what Joe was looking for – and it showed in his success.
“I joined a dealership as a sales person, and I discovered that I really loved it,” he said. “I like connecting with people and having a sales process. Be fun, build relationships. I enjoyed interacting with the people.”
For the first four years he was there, Joe was one of the top three salespeople. He loved where he worked. He enjoyed his job.
There was just one problem.
“I was extremely happy where I was, but there was a limitation for advancement,” he said. “I was hungry for growth.”
Enter Joe’s pal Jerod, who had persuaded him to join the automotive industry in the first place.
“Jerod was working at Garber, and he had been trying to recruit me for years,” Joe laughed. “But what really got me to come over was during the pandemic, everyone got sent home from work. They took care of us at the dealership, but I actually called over to Garber and saw how they were helping take care of their people. Garber is the gold standard. We tried to emulate their business model.”
Then one day, Garber called. And Joe answered.
It was Joel Williams (now the General Manager at Garber Chevrolet Webster) who made the call that changed Joe’s career path in April 2020.
Garber had just acquired the Volvo dealership in Rochester. They needed a business manager…and they wanted Joe.
He was initially uncertain.
“I truly was happy where I was,” Joe admitted. “It was difficult for Joel to get me out of there; I had my hand gripped tight. But I knew Garber could offer me growth.”
Joe joined the Volvo dealership in June 2020. He’s happy he did.
“Sometimes, the grass really is greener on the other side,” he said.
The Garber Way
Joe said coming to work for Garber was like coming home. He felt comfortable with his colleagues, many whom he had worked with at the prior dealership.
“Garber hires the best people,” he said. “As an employee at Garber, you have a say and you have a word in building the structure of the culture. If you want to serve the customers iced coffee instead of hot coffee or the driveway should be concrete, your input is valued, no matter what it is.”
In Joe’s current role as business manager, he gets variety and challenges.
“My role is a little bit of everything now,” he said. “I will still sell a car, I can do the financing for every deal. But I’ve grown and Erika [Erika Foley, General Manager] has helped me by challenging me and helping me.”
He said this dealership allows him the flexibility to switch hats, as well as the focus to soak things up like a sponge…which can be hard to get at a larger store.
“Coming from a huge volume store to a smaller operation, it has afforded me the opportunity to learn every single facet of the business: the front and back end, the fixed, variable. I’ve been able to learn and now just focus on my one role. We are all in the boat together.”
What Joe values most is the people – and how he is treated at Garber.
“The way Garber treats their employees sets them apart,” he said. “Everybody, from the greeters to Dick Garber, is warm and inviting and you are able to have a conversation as a human being. I never feel like I’m overworked and underpaid. We give back to each other.”
First car? ’97 Dodge Neon. Money green. The rear speakers didn’t work, so I plugged in house speakers.
Favorite meal? Chicken wings, with the bone. Boneless wings are blasphemy.
Three words to describe your personality? Humorous, thoughtful, kind
Bucket list item? To watch the Bills win the Super Bowl
Favorite animal? My Boston Terrier, Oakleigh