We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Tracy Myers, owner of The Frank Myers Group. The Frank Myers Group includes Frank Myers Auto Maxx, Frank Myers Auto Repair, Frank Myers Select Used Cars, Credit Quick of Winston-Salem, and Worldwide Vehicle Protection Plan.
Frank Myers opened the original Frank Myers store in 1928- more than 100 years ago in East Bend, NC. His grandson, Franklin Myers, his great-grandson, Tracy Myers, and his great-great-great-grandson, Presley Myers, have continued the Myers family tradition of being successful entrepreneurs for more than 10 decades. Their car dealerships and the rest of their family-owned stable of businesses have employed hundreds of people and continue to serve thousands of happy customers in the Carolinas and Virginia.
Tracy, a highly successful entrepreneur, dealer, and automotive industry leader who has served on executive committees for CIADA and NIADA, has been honored with numerous professional awards and recognitions.
In the following interview, Tracy shares his background, experiences, and what he credits to Frank Myers Auto Maxx’s successes.
DEALER MAGAZINE: Thank you for speaking with us! To begin, please tell us about your background and when you started your career in the auto industry.
TRACY: You’re welcome. It’s my pleasure. My background in the automotive industry starts like a lot of other kids with a PHO (Papa Had a Dealership). Starting when I was 12 years old, I cleaned up cars in my dad’s detail shop after school, and I HATED it. It was hot in the summer, and my wet feet stayed numb in the winter. During the summer months, I primed tobacco. It was back breaking manual labor, but even that was better than cleaning up cars. Hahaha. So, as soon as I got my driver’s license, I got a job as a busboy at a local restaurant. I swore I would never prime tobacco or wash cars again. One out of two ain’t bad.
DEALER MAGAZINE: Frank Myers Auto Maxx has been a family-owned and operated store for more than 100 years. Was that something you always saw yourself getting involved in?
TRACY: NO! I actually fought it. My dad was away from home so much when I was a kid that it made me resent the business. Plus, it always seemed so aggressive – and that was the polar opposite of my personality. So, I went to college to pursue any opportunity other than the family business, but I soon realized that being 18 years old and broke as a joke in a strange city was no fun. That’s when I began looking for a part-time job. Scanning the newspaper, which was how we started our job search in 1989, I saw an ad that said: “Make at least $65k year selling cars! No experience necessary, and we will work with your schedule.”
I didn’t want to sell cars, but I knew that I could, and $65k a year was more money than anyone else was willing to pay me. Plus, it was only going to be a temporary situation. So, when I went in for the interview, they asked what kind of work schedule I was looking for. I told them I was in school from 8 am until 1 pm and could work any time after. They hired me in less than 10 minutes, and my schedule was 3 pm until midnight six days a week.
Without any training, I hit the ground running the next day and sold a car my first day. I was hooked. At the end of the first month, my commission check was for almost $7k, and I never looked back. That was an unbelievable amount of money, especially for an 18-year-old. I did the easy math of what college would cost, how long it would take to get my degree, and how long it would take for me to make what college was going to cost. It didn’t take long after that for me to quit school. Haha. I worked at that new car dealership for a few years, gradually working my way up to being a closer and then a 21-year-old sales manager before deciding to move back to NC to work for my dad at his dealership. I broke the news to him over the phone, and he said he had a spot for me. So I worked my two-week notice at the Toyota/Buick dealership, packed everything I owned into a Ford Festiva, and headed back to NC.
Showing up for work the following Monday in a shirt and tie, my dad said, “You’re overdressed for the detail shop.” Did he say the detail shop? WHAT?! So yeah, my dad started me back at the bottom. At the moment, I was furious, but it was the best decision he could have ever made. I asked him why many years later, and he told me that no one would ever respect me if he started me at the top. He was right. Over the years, he had me work every dealership position except mechanic, and I’m a better operator because of it.
DEALER MAGAZINE: Frank Myers Auto Maxx has earned countless awards and recognitions. Can you tell us about some of the prestigious awards that stand out the most/or you and why?
TRACY: Let me start by saying that I have an amazing team, and any award we’ve received is because of them. I’ve always said that they make me look a LOT more talented than I actually am. But the award that means the most to me is the National Quality Dealer of the Year award from NIADA. It’s the most prestigious honor an independent dealer can receive, and I was the youngest person ever to win it.
We were also named the #1 Small Business in North Carolina by the Business Journal. That was extremely special because we were the only used car dealer on the list. More recently, we won the Torch Award for Ethics from the Better Business Bureau and the Family Business Award, which celebrated my family’s four generations of serving the business community.
There are several others, but they all point back to the same thing: my team members who are excellent at what they do.
DEALER MAGAZINE: What makes your group unique? How do you stand out and differentiate your brand and business from others?
TRACY: That’s easy. Our people make us unique. In a marketplace where most dealers sell the same cars that they buy at the same places, pay (approximately) the same thing for those cars, and the market dictates (approximately) what they can be sold for, our people are the differentiators. They help us stand out once guests arrive, but they’re not what makes our brand stand out in our marketing. That’s where the Rule of Thirds kicks in:
- 1/3 should love our marketing,
- 1/3 should hate our marketing,
- And a 1/3 could care less about it either way.
It reminds me of the old saying: “If you try to please everyone, you’ll please no one.” Our marketing is colorful, and it’s bold with a specific call to action and a deadline. We’ve been doing it that way for as long as I can remember. And so now, it’s almost become nostalgic. We have 30-year-olds coming into the store telling us they grew up watching our infomercials and can recite specific lines from them. It’s flattering, and it reinforces the power of a recognizable brand.
DEALER MAGAZINE: What processes or strategies do you have to address inventory challenges?
TRACY: Thankfully, we put alternative inventory acquisition processes in place several years ago that helped prepare us for this. Consigning vehicles is legal in my state, so we have had someone aggressively work our consignment program for almost 15 years. It has been our not-so-secret weapon. Many of our competitors tried to duplicate it but failed because they neglected the two most important parts: people and processes.
DEALER MAGAZINE: For the franchised and/or independent dealerships, what are some best practices or advice that you can share that may help others?
TRACY: I tend to shy away from the phrase “Best Practices” because I’ve seen some really bad business advice dished out under that moniker. However, I’ll be happy to share some tried and true tips that my family taught me, which actually work.
- Hire slow, fire fast.
- Train daily.
- Be open to adopting new solutions.
- Surround yourself with people more talented than you are.
- Never surround yourself with “yes men.”
- A/B test often. This applies not only to marketing but also to processes.
- Stay focused on the 3 P’s: People, Processes, and Product.
DEALER MAGAZINE: What challenges and opportunities do you foresee for automotive dealerships?
TRACY: Winston Churchill said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” As an eternal optimist, I have a gift of turning the challenges of most dealerships into opportunities for us. The inventory shortages required us to adapt quickly and get creative. The employee shortage forced us to examine why turnover in our industry is so high and take the necessary steps to change that. There is usually a way; We’ve just got to take action because a thought without action is procrastination.
DEALER MAGAZINE: What are some of your group’s key objectives in the coming months?
TRACY: Fortunately, we developed and tested a home delivery program a couple of years before COVID hit and had the opportunity to fine-tune it sooner than we expected once the pandemic hit. The next step for us is to grow it, which will help take us into markets outside of our own. This is key objective #1. In addition, we’ve been averaging more than a 4x inventory turn for over three years, and we want to maintain that.
DEALER MAGAZINE: How do you drive business or attract new customers to your store?
TRACY: Predominantly, we drive new business with two types of Facebook ads: Lead gen and direct response/offer pushed to chat – answered by our BDRs. It sounds simple, but we’ve turned it into a well-oiled machine that took lots of A/B testing to get dialed in. Before we started using Facebook, we predominantly drove new business with TV ads and infomercials. Of course, it could be something different tomorrow, but I’m an early adapter and try to stay ahead of the curve.
DEALER MAGAZINE: What are some essentials to increase customer satisfaction and retention?
TRACY: Good communication is the key. Everyone that buys from us gets a call and/or a text from a Customer Care agent in no more than one business day after their purchase. Our goal is to make sure that they are happy with their purchase and don’t have questions, and we explain their warranty (or lack of), invite them to our service department, and even schedule their first service appointment. And, perhaps most importantly, tell them what they can expect to happen next. It’s simple, but it’s the human touch that most businesses miss in today’s marketplace.
DEALER MAGAZINE: What digital tools and processes do you have for Sales and Service?
TRACY: We are 80% digital-based now. By this time next year, our goal is to take that to 90%. Our process begins by scanning the guest’s driver’s license into the CRM and ends with e-signing. Our goal was to speed up the car shopping process as much as possible without losing the human element, which has always been such an essential part of our culture.
DEALER MAGAZINE: What digital technologies or strategies have led to some of the recent successes with your group?
TRACY: We converted our BDC to more than 90% text-based – and it took us to another level. It increased our productivity, connections, appointments, shows, and sales, while employing fewer BDRs than ever before. The power and convenience of e-signing have been a close second for us.
DEALER MAGAZINE: What are some top trends that you’re seeing impacting automotive retail?
TRACY: There are good and bad top trends in all industries. We focus on the positive ones and adapt what can help us learn, grow, or be more efficient. We discuss the negative ones so we will be aware of them and know what not to do. Last week, we continued our discussions on electric vehicles and how we can best prepare to sell and service them as an independent dealership. We’re also discussing how to efficiently accommodate and facilitate more at-home test drives and deliveries.
DEALER MAGAZINE: Frank Myers seems to be a big supporter of giving back to the community. Can you tell us about some of the recent initiatives? And what compels you to support the causes that you do?
TRACY: We do a lot for the community that we don’t talk about or promote. We do them because we care. However, there are some events that we hold annually that are important to us. Twice a year, we shut down the store for our community appreciation picnic in the parking lot of the dealership. We have food, rides, clowns, giveaways, and music. 25 years ago, it started as a way for us to give back to the people in the community. Since then, it has continued to be that but has also been a way for us to provide a day of food and fun to families that are less fortunate. This past fall, we served 5k+ hamburgers, hotdogs, and ice cream cones at the picnic. It’s a blessing to see so many people come together, all with huge smiles on their faces.
We also have our annual Trunk or Treat for many of the same reasons. It allows us to provide families a safe space at our dealership at absolutely no cost to them while giving our team the “why” it is so important to have a servant’s heart. Finally, let me tell you how proud I am of the huge three-day Salvation Army fundraiser that my team and I have grown from the ground up over the past decade. At the end of last year’s event, we raised $30k for them. We do it because it’s who we are. Jim George said, “The more you manifest a servant’s heart in all you do, the more impact you’ll have on people’s lives.”
DEALER MAGAZINE: Why is it so important for dealers to invest in their communities?
TRACY: At the very core of it all, I believe that giving back is our responsibility. And helping our neighbors allows us to build stronger connections, especially those within our community.
DEALER MAGAZINE: What excites you most about being in this industry? And any closing thoughts that you’d like to share?
TRACY: I’m easily bored, so I’m fortunate that I never have the same day twice. It keeps me on my toes and is always a challenge. That’s one of the many things that I enjoy about this industry. But, of course, I also enjoy people, and this has always been a people business. Finally, I understand that it’s my family’s last name on the sign, just like it has been for the past 100 years. My 20-year-old son is now working for us, so this is more than a used car dealership. This is my legacy.
Tracy Myers will facilitate mastermind exchange sessions at Digital Dealer Las Vegas 2022, Oct. 11-13, 2022 at The Mirage.
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This article was originally published in the May/June 2022 Issue of Dealer Magazine. You can view the latest digital edition as well as past issues of Dealer Magazine here.