2023 TIME Dealer of the Year Gary Rome on modern retailing, company culture and more

Gary Rome joins Inside Automotive to talk about winning Dealer of the Year, and give his insights into running a successful business

Every year TIME Magazine selects one storeowner for its Dealer of the Year award, and at this year’s NADA convention, the honor was given to Gary Rome, president of the Massachusetts based Gary Rome Auto Group. To discuss the experience, and to provide his insights into running a successful dealership, Rome joins host Jim Fitzpatrick on this episode of Inside Automotive.

Digital retail

Rome notes that digital retailing is quickly becoming a cornerstone for his car business. “We want to make it convenient as possible,” he explains. Customers are doing more research than ever before selecting their vehicles, and appreciate the swiftness an online experience provides. Rome also reveals that his business is making deliveries to web users across the country, an added benefit of hosting the entire process online.

Car prices

In terms of pricing, Rome notes that used car values at his dealerships have declined 15%-20% in the wake of improved vehicle production. Discounts have also crept back into retail strategies, with storefronts waging small-scale price wars to stay competitive. However, Rome remains positive going into 2023, and expects business to even increase 15%.

The award

Rome grew up in the automotive business, and is heavily inspired by his father’s work in retail. While he never expected to be recognized by TIME, he admits that the earning the award had been a dream come true. The title is meant to honor dealers who use their business’s success to support their communities, a passion which Rome takes just as seriously as car selling. His auto group is responsible for multiple charitable donations and fundraising events supporting nonprofits and businesses in the Holyoke, Massachusetts area. The ability to do so, Rome explains, comes from his team and the corporate culture maintained by the company.

"...When we go out into the community to do things, we don't feel like we have to do them, we feel like we get to do them." — Gary Rome

Company culture

Having an excellent culture is also essential for bringing in excellent talent. Employees are now searching for companies which treat them with respect and gratitude for their hard work. Rome recommends setting a budget exclusively for culture building, noting that he invests in cards, birthday parties, celebrations, gifts etc. This way, team members, old and new, feel like valued members of a team, which improves retention, productivity and more.

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