The Mark of Quality

Dealers represent all the best aspects of doing business in an age in which customer service is paramount to success.

September 2014, Auto Dealer Today - Feature

by David Gesualdo

In Palm Harbor, Fla., a stone’s throw from my offices, sits the 1,000-acre Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club. You golfers will recognize Innisbrook as the site of the PGA’s annual Valspar Championship. In the Tampa Bay area, we consider it an ideal venue for business meetings, fine dining, guest lodging — and, of course, the occasional 18 holes — all with the unmistakable touch of Southern hospitality.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t always this way.

In 2007, Innisbrook was on the block. The resort had grown in size and prominence since it first opened in 1970, but it had lost a fair amount of luster in the decade before it went on the market. The Tampa Bay Times reported that the previous owners, Golf Trust of America Inc., suffered losses totaling $53 million. It showed. The hotel rooms were in need of an upgrade and some of the condominiums and other buildings had fallen into obvious disrepair. I met a friend at the steak restaurant around that time. It had opened to the public in an effort to drum up business. I hadn’t visited in a couple of years and, as I drove by the adjacent course, I was taken aback by its poor condition.

As Golf Trust awaited bids from legitimate buyers, speculation ran rampant. Would Golf Trust pull the plug and let the swamps reclaim the area’s premier golf resort? Would a real estate speculator pull up the greens, raze the woods and turn the place into the next massive housing development?

Happily, a savior arrived in the form of Sheila Crump Johnson, the multimillionaire co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, co-founder and CEO of Salamander Hospitality and part owner of three Washington, D.C., professional sports franchises. Johnson refused to be dissuaded by Innisbrook’s past misfortunes. She bought the resort for $35 million and promised to invest another $20 million in improvements. Within months, the greens had been reseeded and repairs were underway. In the seven years since, old facilities have received a facelift, new buildings and amenities have been added and the mark of quality has returned. Innisbrook is once again a destination of which all of Tampa Bay can be proud.

A similar success story can be found in this month’s cover subject, Don Boyle of the Scott Family of Dealerships in Allentown, Pa., shares his strategies for success in fixed ops. Boyle joined forces with our resident online marketing expert, Paul Potratz, to overhaul his five-rooftop auto group’s service business. As you will read, Boyle’s multipronged campaign is built around a singular theme: By making customer service your first priority, you can succeed in any pursuit. Communications between Boyle are well-timed and heavily personalized. His name and face are familiar to every sold customer — as well as the service customers he draws from his constantly expanding market.

He was the only source for Potratz’s article, but I have no doubt that efforts similar to those undertaken by Boyle and the Scott Family team are propagating at dealerships nationwide. After all, properly executed, every service visit is an opportunity for a sale; at the very least, it is a chance to reinforce and expand your brand.

I believe the mark of quality permeates our industry. I see it everywhere, from your websites to your sales processes to your special finance departments. Dealers are building long-term relationships with happy customers. It is a good time to be in the business.

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