Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Roadshow Wrangler

These photographs were taken with a disposable camera. While moving, I came across them and scanned them. Hence, the quality isn't great.

Steve Lance's Cowboy Corral KIA was my employer for many years. Steve, although most definitively not lacking in self esteem, had his name plastered on everything because he believed every customer should have someone to talk to if they were unhappy with their dealings. He wanted to be easy to find. He was a professional bull rider (cue up all the jokes).

We were comfortably setting along Interstate 25, Exit 240, North of Denver selling used diesel 4x4s and gooseneck utility and stock trailers when, in 2002, Steve was convinced to become a KIA dealer. KIA USA was being run by Peter Butterfield who, though not a rodeo contestant, had the same mentality. In the coming years, Steve ended up with four KIA stores.

Steve decided we should have offsite sales. He, and his General Manager, Greg Miller found a guy who could put together a crew. When Steve bought property in Grand Junction for a KIA store, part of the deal was buying the seller's last remaining motor home. That became the sales office.

Steve and Greg wanted me involved. I was interested, but they didn't like my terms. One, money. Two, anything I was responsible for I had full dictatorial powers, and only answered to Steve and Greg. After the second sale, Greg called me into an office and closed the door. 

   Greg, heatedly.  "If I give you what you want, will you do the job for me"?

   My reply, "Yes". And so it started.

For the next three years, I lived on the road. We did 60 sales in 26 different Colorado locations. Each sales was like starting a new business from scratch. Find and rent a location. Obtain all permits from the local government bodies. Get a State offsite permit. Rent motel rooms. Arrange advertising. Get landline phone service. Everything involved a shit load of details. Forget cell phone minutes. Think cell phone days.

Steve has an unusual management style as he is a clear thinker and is decisive. 

"This is what I want done. This is how I want it done. This is where I want it done. This is when I want it done". From that point all he wants to know is, "It is done, or it is not done because......" Doing those sales I spent over $2,000,000 of Steve's money. I doubt we spent more than three hours talking during that time.

Greg Miller has his own direct and to the point management style.

"I want you to do this job, and only this job. I don't want you doing any other jobs. I want you to do just this job"!

Greg and I did spend a fair amount of time talking. In addition to marrying one of the smartest woman I've ever met, he was one of the three best "desk men" I ever worked with. His understanding of the nuances of retailing cars was unmatched by anyone else I worked with.

What made all of this work was that Steve  and Greg totally backed me. It wasn't easy because I operate with the subtlety of a bulldozer at full throttle. There was always some butt hurt manager enraged because I didn't give a damn for their input, desires, or opinions. 

But we had fun and sold cars! 
And, of course, we took trades.
Financial managers will tell you the number one cause for repossessions is a car breaking down and the people not able to afford both the repairs and payments. People in the smaller cities and towns could buy a new KIA about as easily as a used car. KIA's 5 year, 60,000 mile warranty meant real security for the lenders.

Previously, I mentioned Peter Butterfield. He put up significant sums for those dealers with the balls to go for it. Big balls, as we had $32-35,000 committed to every sales with no guarantee of a return. No pressure there.

So how did I become the Roadshow Wrangler? The activity was known  internally as "the roadshow" and neither Steve or Greg would approve "Cat Herder" as a title.

Peter  Butterield built up KIA USA from ground zero. Then Hyundai bought KIA. At a dealer meeting in Las Vegas, the Koreans called Buttefield out into the hallway and fired him. Cost them a ton of money; he was no fool and had an ironclad contract. Down the road this led to another adventure with Steve. Peter Butterfield bought control of ATK Vega Engines, an old established engine remanufacturer and later brought Steve in to  jump start the marketing. Future blog entry.

Since I've "retired", several times I've been approached to organize offsite sales. Always, I listen, and always say "no thanks". When we started doing them, they had never been done on the scale we did them. There was no, repeat  no, blueprint. I loved the job, the challenge, and the self satisfaction of doing something few people could do. I also learned some very hard lessons on what works, and what doesn't work. As Steve remarked one time, I was bored selling cars. The roadshow never became boring.

The single critical item is time. You must make decisions quickly, and you cannot waste time with meetings or waiting for others to get off their asses. At one point I had over $8,000 of my money sunk because one of the financial people wanted control and was slow walking the checks. Once Steve found out, she got an ass chewing she probably still remembers. That is why I won't do sales for other people. Too many "chiefs" with their own little patches of turf they feel they must defend. Fuck'em. Stay on the porch, little dogs.


  1. Another great story. That's big here in Florida except it's used cars. They seem to always setting up at K-mart.

  2. Popular here in Colorado also. Over the years have worked many an offsite used car sale. Offsite new car sales are fairly rare. The Sound Car and Truck stores in the Seattle area would do three or four a year. Most manufactures are against them as several makes are mixed in. For instance, one import sale I worked (1986) had Suzuki, Mazda, Toyota, Subaru, VW, Hyundai and Peuguot available.

  3. Great story! And I'm betting they were sad to see you go.

  4. The Roadshow had a shelf life and we shut it down when the KIA incentives went away. Steve kept me busy with other projects and chores. Once I described my position as "Steve's bitch". Every so often I would even sell a car!