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Last Update: Thursday October 19, 2017

Key Idea: Do What Others Won't Do

The Woodhaven Chevrolet dealership is now buzzing with customers and employees who run to provide service, but it wasn't always that way.

Key Question:

A: 

Look for a deal.

While others in the dealer training program were looking for the best location, Pam took a place that had bottomed out.
 
Q:
So, what happens when we look for the beauty in the ugly duckling?

A:
If we are willing to build on the strengths of what to others is an ugly duckling, we can get rich. This happens all the time in real estate. The individual who can see the beauty in an old house buys it. That person pours money and creativity and their own sweat into making that house into something they want to live in or sell for a profit.

Q:
Did Pamela have a choice when she bought the ugly duckling?

A:
No. She had failed and to the people in authority at GM, she was not a good risk. They would never have offered her an opportunity to own a dealership that was already thriving or that they thought had enormous potential. She started at the bottom and now is sitting close to the top.

Think about it

Is there a failing business out there that you believe you can transform? Is there a department in your business that needs new ideas and new energy?

Clip from: Rodgers Chevrolet - Meet Pamela Rodgers!

Woodhaven, Michigan:  In a quiet suburb just south of Detroit, we go inside an American icon -- the car dealership -- to witness a "can-do" attitude in action. We meet a woman whose love affair with the car is as real and palpable as any romance going. And at this place where GM is sold, driving people to act upon that passion is her business.

Pamela Rodgers is the owner of Rodgers Chevrolet.  We learn that key to her repeat business success is service. From her originally designed, colorful waiting area featuring a speedway theme to a team of highly skilled service advisers, Rodgers Chevrolet is a company that never misfires when it comes to building long-term relationships with customers. This is a team that's as well trained in the mechanics of human dynamics as they are the electronics of today's automobile engine. Keeping that relationship running smoothly is a matter of individualized communications where customer satisfaction is not an optional service.

Pamela's story is all the more unique in that she is one of the few women in the world to own a dealership in her own right. It wasn't passed on to her by her father or a husband, and she took a failing location and turned it around.

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Rodgers Chevrolet

Pamela Rodgers, CEO

23755 Allen Road
Woodhaven, MI 48183

Visit our web site: http://rodgerschevrolet.com

Business Classification:
Automotive

Year Founded: 1991

Do What Others Won't Do

HATTIE: So when you got out of that, then they found you an opportunity?

PAMELA: In Flint, Michigan. Now you're not from this area?

HATTIE: No.

PAMELA: Flint is a GM town, with nine GM plants.

HATTIE: Oh my gosh! So you're going to try to sell Fords in GM territory.

PAMELA: That's exactly right.

HATTIE: Was that like throwing the babe to the wolves? It's like, "Just throw her deeper in the ocean, see if she can swim out of this thing."

PAMELA: It was very tough. It was a very tough market, and we went in right in 1990. And you know the economy was not very strong at that time. So, of course, it was impossible to make that boat float. It just, was just going against the grain in way too many areas. My partner passed during that time.

HATTIE: Your partner died?

PAMELA: Yes. And then again women still weren't accepted into that business. We're still talking – 9, Yeah – 10, 12 years ago, and they didn't think a woman could do it. So, we liquidated the store.

HATTIE: You've had two failures so far – you couldn't sell cars and your first dealership you had to liquidate. Did you ever think about going back to that corporate job since you had that big fat MBA? I mean really, people with MBA's –

PAMELA: Often, often – but that's a lesson in business. Not necessarily giving up every time you hit a bump in the road.

HATTIE: Oh I know – I hearing it, I'm hearing it –

PAMELA: You know –

HATTIE: People look at you today and go "Look at her!" She made it easy.

PAMELA: But they didn't know it took a few hard knocks to get here.

HATTIE: Right – Right -- Okay, so what did you do when the liquidation happened?

PAMELA: Well, when we finished the liquidation, I continued to work with Ford for a couple of months. And then my stipend ended. We looked at a couple of other sites, but my stipend ended. And then I went back to work for the dealer in Flat Rock.

HATTIE: Oh, the mentor!!

PAMELA: Yes, I went back to work for my mentor. At that time, he had purchased a second location in Detroit and really needed someone to manage the smaller Flat Rock store. So, I didn't have a job. (laughing) I didn't have anything to do.

HATTIE: I'm on the street – (laughing)

PAMELA: Right – So I moved back to Detroit and I took a position – accepted a position as general manager of the Flat Rock store at that time. And, he moved on and ran his own second dealership in Detroit. He decided to sell his Flat Rock store. And that's when I became a member of the GM family. To put it delicately, the store was in a cash poor position. He had a huge following from Detroit, so when he moved to Detroit, that following went with him. So all of those other candidates in line from the GM family for opportunities –

HATTIE: Nobody wanted it –

PAMELA: It wasn't on the radar screen for --

HATTIE: Are you telling me you bought the ugly duckling?

PAMELA: I bought the Ugly Duckling -- Yes – as I said, it was cash poor and really didn't have a huge following.

HATTIE: But why – why – why? Because you had already had all of those other failures -- you are setting yourself up for failure to buy the thing that isn't working.

PAMELA: It wasn't working at the time – no it wasn't.

HATTIE: But what was inside of you that thought that you could do something different.

PAMELA: I wasn't ready to give up – I was still determined to become a dealer. I still thought I had an opportunity to make this plan work for me. It was my chance to get back into the game. I didn't think I would have any other offers. It was my chance to get back in the game. So, I took a chance. And I was thankful for GM for giving me the opportunity – even though it wasn't the best.

HATTIE: All right --when was that?

PAMELA: I became a GM dealer in 1993.

HATTIE: So how many years did it take you from when you had the dream "I want to be a dealer?"

PAMELA: To actually become a dealer?

HATTIE: Right –

PAMELA: With GM? I left Ford in 86 – so 7 years.
 
 

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