Maximum Overdrive

Boyland Auto Group increased revenues and profits through restructuring and a take-no-prisoners attitude

as a systems analyst. Before he was scheduled to start his new gig, however, he received a call from Ron Tonkin, owner of one of the largest auto dealer groups in the U.S. “He asked me if I wanted to get in the car business. He told me to come work for him for 60 days and if I liked it I could stay, and if I didn’t I still had my job at Intel,” recalls Boyland, who showed up assuming he’d be a manager. “They handed me a piece of paper and a pen and said, ‘You are a salesman.’”

Within two months, Boyland was promoted to assistant manager, earning more money than he did as a reserve for the Pirates. Though the average salary for a ballplayer at that time was $100,000, Boyland was making a little less than average. Hooked on selling cars, he never looked back. “I loved the business from day one because it was like sports; it was competitive. Every day a new customer was like a new pitcher,” he says.

It was the summer of 1985 when Boyland, then a new car sales manager, was approached by Tonkin to go into partnership to buy a pre-existing Dodge dealership. With a 30% financial interest, Boyland was on a different playing field. He admits he didn’t understand the dynamics of putting together a buy-sell agreement. Nevertheless, he scored as dealer principal and general manager of Ron Tonkin Dodge, helping to take it from last in new car sales in its zone to No. 1. He did so by relying heavily on advertising and aggressive sales tactics.

PASSIONATE ABOUT PROFITS
Boyland’s success as a car salesman did not go unnoticed. Two years into the operation, Chrysler executives prodded him to sell his interest and operate his own dealership. He did so after much deliberation and with Tonkin’s blessings.

Boyland acquired Gresham Dodge, in partnership with the minority investment division of Chrysler. He owned 25% of the dealership, and Chrysler fronted the balance of the costs to be repaid through dealer profits. “You own a certain p
ercentage of the stock and then, through the profits of the store, you buy more shares,” Boyland explains. “That was a great lesson that I learned. Knowing that until I owned 100% of the stock, I still just had a job.”

With that in mind, Boyland was determined to make enough profits to buy out Chrysler’s majority share in his dealership. It typically takes five or six years for a dealer to buy out the stock. By 1991, Boyland owned the dealership 100%. “A lot of dealers never reached that 100% mark and they ended up losing their stores,” he says.

Although he had total ownership, Boyland still wasn’t turning a profit. “I had a lot of inventory, so manufacturers were happy,” says Boyland. “I spent a lot on advertising, so newspapers were happy. My commission structure was high, so my salespeople were happy. But I wasn’t making any money, so I wasn’t happy.”

He spent three days

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