Navigating the Curves (2011 BE100s Auto Dealer of the Year)

Surviving tragic losses and industry turmoil, Jenell Ross repositions the family dealership to speed past the competition

Inventory was reduced as well since cars are purchased on credit. Whereas the dealership once carried about 300 new GM and Mercedes-Benz vehicles, it reduced that number to fewer than 200. “So the key was to not only take every opportunity we have as far as selling a car or repairing a car and generating that revenue, but we really had to take a good hard look at our expense structure,” says Spencer.

A Time of Loss
By 2010, Ross was running lean and mean. Cost reductions kept the company going as GM, now out of bankruptcy protection, sought to regain its position in the marketplace. But the dealership suffered another blow when Norma Ross, a former teacher in the Dayton Public School District who built the business alongside her husband, succumbed to breast cancer at the age of 75. An already struggling business was forced to contend with the loss of the woman who forged strong ties to the community while the industry that served as their livelihood was in turmoil.

Community members flooded the family with condolences. Norma had been extremely involved in several nonprofit organizations, including the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, where she served on the board of trustees. There, she and her fellow Community Advisory Committee members initiated a series where musicians from the orchestra visited three Dayton-based African American churches to perform classical works written by black composers. “Her biggest asset was to bring the orchestra to the underserved community, and she said in her eyes the committee was for black Dayton residents,” says Mya Cooper, community liaison coordinator for the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra.

Norma continued to work with the organization even while battling cancer. “When she was sick I didn’t even realize,” says Cooper. “For a while no one knew, and she was still on the move all the time.”

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