Stellantis dealership in California doubles down on leadership team

Stellantis dealership in California doubles down on leadership team

Wanting to boost sales and fill an opening for a general manager, Bob Nouri borrowed an idea he first heard in the 1970s: Two are better than one.

“I had a mentor; his name was Bob Moore,” Nouri told Automotive News. “He took a guy who was good at used cars and he took a guy who was good at new cars and made them co-GMs.”

Nouri, co-owner of Nouri/Shaver Automotive Group, had two employees with similar complementary backgrounds at his Van Nuys Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram dealership in California.

“I did not want to go outside the organization to hire a general manager so I made them co-GMs,” Nouri said.

Since Raed Malaeb and Jonathan Schwartz were promoted to co-general managers at the Van Nuys store in January 2021, more employees have stuck around.

In 2020, the dealership had a 35 percent turnover rate. That number in 2021 and 2022? About 10 percent, according to Nouri/Shaver CEO Armina Mgerian.

“Having two general managers working together at the same dealership … was the best decision for our auto group,” Mgerian told Automotive News via email. “There is plenty of work for two managers.”

The managers agree. When asked whether the plan was successful, both men answered at once during a Zoom call with Automotive News.

“We talk over each other all the time,” Schwartz said as both men laughed.

One reason Nouri wanted two managers was to cover weekends.

“One of us is always here, if not both of us,” Schwartz said. “Most GMs don’t work on the weekend, and a lot of customer issues or customer complaints, or any other issues, usually pop up on the weekend. By having boots on the ground at all times, we can make decisions on the spot.

“If there are any wrongs, we can make it right.”

Malaeb, a recent Automotive News 40 Under 40 honoree, said having two general managers works because they get along so well.

“There is no ego involved at all,” Malaeb said. “We always just agree to find the best solution for the store. Since we took over, we have almost increased the sales by 30 or 40 percent.”

In 2020, the store sold 5,224 new and used cars, and earned about $11 million in net income. In 2021, the first year with co-general managers, the store sold 5,914 new and used cars and earned $17.2 million in net income.

Inventory shortages contributed to a sales and earnings dip in 2022, Mgerian said. For that year, 5,219 new and used vehicles were sold for a net profit of about $15 million. Through June 2023, the store has sold about 2,455 new and used units, Mgerian said.

No competition, no problems

How do two general managers learn to work for the store together and not against each other? Nouri worked to make it that way.

He spent about 90 days training the men, stressing that neither Schwartz with his used-car expertise nor Malaeb with his sales and marketing prowess was more important to the store than the other. He encouraged them to act like a unit, a team. And he aims to “treat them both like rock stars.”

“I treat them like celebrities,” Nouri said. “I treat them with kindness and warmth, and they just do a great job.”

He backs the words up by giving both managers equal pay, equal bonuses, equal everything. Nouri also has his managers cover other roles, such as finance director.

“We know what’s going on,” Schwartz said. “We’re not relying on a finance director to just give us numbers at the end of the day or end of the week or end of the month. We’re in the trenches doing that ourselves.”

Having that kind of control allows the men to solve problems faster, they say, because they don’t have to wait for answers. And they workshop ideas with each other.

“We can look at ideas, we can look at problems, we can look at new processes we want to implement and get two different sides of the brain to decide if it’s a good idea or bad idea,” Schwartz said.

Malaeb said they support the culture Nouri stresses: Treat customers and employees well.

Malaeb said working in a collaborative atmosphere allows their staff to shine and ultimately helps the dealership move more vehicles. The store stays competitive and even reached No. 1 in the country for Stellantis’ new-vehicle sales in January, selling 291.

For now, the plan is to keep Schwartz and Malaeb together. But Nouri points out that training managers this way also trains people two times as fast. If he needed to cover another of his dealerships, for instance, he could send one of the guys from Van Nuys.

Nouri, who credited Mgerian and partner Pete Shaver for trusting him to try the approach, said he’s considering it at other stores. And there are plenty of dealerships to choose from as the Nouri/Shaver group keeps growing.

After an acquisitive 2022 capped by the December purchase of a Buick-GMC-Cadillac store, the group kicked off 2023 by purchasing the late Cal Worthington’s iconic Ford dealership in L.A. Nouri has owned the Van Nuys dealership for several years, and last year bought out minority partner Russell Westbrook, probably better known for his day job in the NBA.

Back in the dealership world, Nouri remains grateful for his mentor’s vision.

“My mentor was a genius,” he said, “and I think the idea works like a champ.”

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