We had the pleasure of asking John Marazzi, Owner of Brandon Honda, to come to our “Principal’s Office” for a one-on-one question/ answer session. It was an absolute pleasure and fascinating journey into the life of one of the most successful auto dealership owners in the Southeast!
Auto Dealer Live: I wanted to start this with my first question: how did you get started in the car business?
John Marazzi: I started washing cars at 12 years old. Became a lot man at 15 and at 17 years old, against my fathers advice, he did not want me to sell cars, but he was in the car business, I went behind his back and got a job at a Dodge dealership that was 2 minutes from my house because I didn’t own a car. I didn’t own a shirt and tie. I grew up very poor. For that interview, I actually borrowed a buddy’s shirt, tie & pants, went in and interviewed. The guy wouldn’t hire me because I was too young and had no experience. I then went to the receptionist and said, who is the owner? She pointed down the hallway. And I actually went down there, knocked on his door, sat in there and convinced the owner to give me a shot. They hired me and I started that Monday.
ADL: WOW! True rags to riches story!
JM: Part Two to that story is the guy that didn’t want to hire me, the GSM, put a target on my back. At thirty days, he found a way to fire me. And as I was leaving, he said to me “kid, let me give you some advice. You need to get out of the car business because you are never going to make it in this business.” True Story.
ADL: (Laughing) Is that guy still around?
JM: Ummm. I’m not sure. He did end up finding out that I have become pretty successful in this industry.
ADL: Awesome. Well, speaking of successful, why do you think you have been so successful in this industry?
JM: I have a tremendous determination to succeed. When I put my mind to something, I find a way to accomplish that goal. You know I look at the car business as we are not really in the car business, we’re in the business world. And in any business, the people that can develop the best strategy, do the best. And part two to strategy is execution. You know, many corporations and many great CEOs can develop a great strategy but they can’t get it executed. God gave me the talent and the ability to do both. I can figure out ways to out smart and outmaneuver my competition, but more importantly, I know how to make it actually happen and get it to the place to actually do those great ideas. I am not afraid to fail. So if I come up with this great idea and we implement it, if it works, we keep doing what is working. If it doesn’t work, we adjust and restrategize.
ADL: What is your philosophy for a successful dealership?
JM: With us, it’s teamwork. It’s leadership. It’s attitude. It’s effort. It’s a commitment to giving our customers a perfect customer experience. And it’s employee satisfaction. I want to hire and keep the best people. I want to treat them right, pay them fair & inspire them. I want to have like minded people. They have to be intelligent, have a strong work ethic, a burning desire to succeed & a competitive, strong backbone. When I find these like minded people, we treat them right. We pay them right. We give them job security. All of my management does corrections behind closed doors. Recognition is done in front of everybody. When you get that type of atmosphere, and those teammates on board, you can start executing the rest of the strategy which is smart marketing, being super aggressive in the market, taking market share, having management involved early on a deal, having the systems policies and procedures in place. In the game of the car business, it not who sells the most, it’s who spills the least. That is true if you are spending $200,000 a month on advertising or $20,000 a month on advertising. What your really are trying to do is get the most eyeballs to your site, in the door or on the phone, and then doing the best job all the way across the board on all of each one of those opportunities. I am a little manic about that. We track every phone call, we listen to them, and we look at every opportunity. We have a 10 foot rule. We get our mangers involved with our customers early. We do tenacious follow-up on every deal. We care.
ADL: What is the 10 foot rule?
JM: The 10 foot rule is if anyone sees a customer walking by themselves, and you come within 10 feet of them, you simply say, “are you folks being assisted today?”
ADL: What is the number one reason you think a dealership fails?
JM: They are not paying attention. The guy at the top is not paying attention and they are not cultivating their people. They are not stressing leadership. With all these ideas and in-novations, I look at what I knew 10 years ago, what I knew 5 years ago, and what I know now as far as in how to adapt or die in the business world, it is day and night. As I said on your ra-dio show before, if somebody is pitching me a product, I want to hear. I am going to listen to it and if I don’t like it, I will cut them off and say I don’t like it, thank you for your time. If I do like it, I am going to explore it because the technology, the internet, the availability of information a consumer can get now is just incredible. It’s getting more complex and more informative for the consumer. We have to be able to be right there and understand it and use it and have a strategy to combat it and be congruent with it. That’s it. Any dealership that is not doing well, I guarantee you that the guy at the top is not on his game. He is worried more about playing golf than running his business and cultivating his people.
ADL: You mentioned technology. What do you think is the one piece of technology that has made the greatest impact on car sales in the industry?
JM: Obviously the internet. Eight out of ten people in my metro market start their search for a car on Google. They go to Google, they type in “Used Honda Accord”, they type in “New Honda Civic Tampa” and that is where it starts. Where that search leads is really the defining moment. Do you pop up? Are you coming up on the organic search? Are you doing a good job building your site and building your pages to get that free organic? And if you are not, are you spending money and investing the capital to be on page search? And when they find you on page search, what does it say? What is your headline? What is your copy on your page search ad? When you click on it, what happens? Where does it go, what part of your website? When they get to your website, assuming it goes to the right spot, is everything ready to go? Do you have your photos on there? Do you have a great description? Do have the availability of your phone number everywhere on your site so people can simply pick up the phone and call you without searching around. Once they call you, how
does that receptionist handle the call? How long does it take to get to someone who can get them an answer? When they get to somebody, do they handle that call properly? We ensure our guys are trained on how to handle sales calls. We want our people to know that we are recording their calls. We are listening to them. We are giving them constructive criticism on how they handled that call. Then we are giving them the tools to do better on the next call.
John Marazzi is the Dealer Principal of Brandon Honda, in Tampa Florida.