How did you get started?
I founded Car Vision when I was 27 year old in Norristown, Pennsylvania. I stumbled upon a small lot that could accommodate up to 26 cars. In the beginning, it was a bit of a struggle. However, everything changed when I started selling the inventory online, on a relatively new Website called Autotrader.com. I was one of the first car dealers to advertise and sell cars online. This gave me a huge advantage over much larger, but slower to evolve, competition.
I was running the dealership as a virtual “one man show”. I would buy the cars, truck them back to the dealership, fix and clean them — all by myself. Then I would take pictures, list and write descriptions of the cars online and sell them by myself. It was an incredible experience, but I realized the tremendous value of building a company around a team of talented professionals, rather than trying to “go it alone”.
What inspired you to start this business?
I was born with an entrepreneurial spirit. From a very young age, I was always fascinated with cars and I have been blessed to pursue my passion as my profession. I have always been pretty good with numbers and sales, which are key to success as a car dealer. I decided to apply some of my talents to pursue CarVision.
How do you make money?
We make money by selling cars at attractive prices and building lifelong relationships with our customers. I’ve worked hard to build a good name for myself and our dealership in our community as a reliable and honest car dealership. I believe that this has contributed immensely to our success.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
CarVision became a profitable business almost immediately. The Internet changed everything for us and our ability to look into the future of car sales helped us become very successful.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
When we were starting out, two things came together that really challenged our business. 9/11 was devastating to our business. We grieved for the tremendous losses suffered on that day and no one wanted to buy anything. Business rebounded about a month later. The second serious challenge to our business was during Hurricane Floyd. The stream behind our old location became a river overnight, overflowing into our garage where it flooded about 30 cars, destroying our garage and equipment. It was a very difficult experience, but we rebounded.
How did you get your first customer?
We got our first customer the old fashioned way, by advertising in the local newspaper.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
We are very committed to online marketing. AutoTrader.com, Cars.com and Cargurus.com are very important to our advertising and sales strategy.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
I had to recently fire someone at CarVision. It is never easy to let someone go, but we have to continually put our business ahead of any one individual.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I think what makes me most successful is that I was born with an entrepreneurial spirit and I work extremely hard.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
When I first started to advertise online I made over $80,000 in one month. It was more money, more quickly than I could have imagined and I knew that the Internet was going to change everything for our industry and I wanted very much to be a part of this revolution.
What does the future hold for your business
We have ambitious plans for growth at CarVision. We recently celebrated our 20th anniversary and I look forward to the future, knowing the best is yet to come.
What are you most excited about?
I am most excited about taking advantage of future opportunities as well as further expanding CarVision. Social media and video technology has the potential to bring the showroom experience into the home or any mobile advice. It is great for customers, who don’t love the car buying experience and great for car dealers who are able to scale the experience of educating, entertaining and engaging customers.