WHEN fire destroyed Kelleher Ford Sales in Dauphin in September, 2011, general manager Chuck Burton knew they had a big job ahead to rebuild.
But Burton and his staff never lost sight of what was really important -- no injuries and great work by the local fire department.
"The fire was devastating," he said. "We lost inventory and a building but we're so grateful that no lives were lost or injuries sustained. When you experience something like this, you need to completely change gears and deal with the situation at hand.
"There was a small part of our dealership that was not affected by the fire, so it became business as usual for our staff while the rebuilding discussions began."
Now, after a challenging 13 months, the staff at Kelleher Ford Sales is once again working under one roof.
On Nov. 28, the longtime Ford dealership (the Kelleher family bought the former Forman Ford four years ago) held its official reopening and ribbon-cutting ceremony. Among the roughly 150 guests on hand were Ford of Canada marketing vice-president Graeme Whickman, western region general manager Gerald Wood and Dauphin city representatives.
The new, larger (15,000-square-foot) Kelleher Ford store is at 1700 Main St. in south Dauphin. The building has a four-car showroom and nine service bays, including space for the dealership's new Quick Lane franchise operation.
"It's a new way of doing business for us," Burton said of the Quick Lane feature. "We can offer oil changes without an appointment and still do tire rotations and light maintenance from the pit."
"We're so proud of our staff's dedication," he added. "Even under difficult working conditions (operating out of three different buildings), they have continued to provide our customers the same level of service they have come to expect from our dealership."
Former Bomber Doug Brown keynote speaker at MMDA convocation program
The Manitoba Motor Dealers Association (MMDA) did its most recent semi-annual sales certification program convocation a little differently this fall.
Instead of the usual breakfast program, the Nov. 20 event at the Canad Inns Polo Park revolved around lunch - and the main course was a presentation by recently retired Winnipeg Blue Bombers all-star defensive lineman Doug Brown.
Speaking about "achieving excellence and the importance of customer service", Brown noted that he's purchased three vehicles during his time in Winnipeg. The first truck he bought lasted for 10 years virtually no problems. For his second truck, he turned to another dealer and manufacturer, and wasn't so lucky.
"With that second truck, I had nothing but trouble for the five years I drove it," he said. "I was in and out of the dealership on a regular basis."
But Brown said he purchased his third vehicle from the same dealership because he really appreciated the service.
He said that there were three lessons he learned playing football: If you're not getting better, then you're getting worse; you have to establish an identity; and you can't let other people define you.
Brown noted that the hardest time in any career is when you are first getting started, adding that in NFL training camp he always got to the field an hour before anyone else.
"Effort and performance speak loudest," he said. "Through the years, younger players would often come up to me and Milt Stegall and tell us how lucky we were to have successful careers. Then they would go sit down while we continued working out."
To be successful, especially in sales, you have to be willing to engage as many people as possible, Brown added. "It's common sense. "It's the customer who helps you earn your living."
At this convocation, more than 40 more sales reps and business managers received their certificates, lapel pins and desk toppers, bringing the total number of graduates over the past 17 years to more than 1,300.
The MMDA inaugurated its groundbreaking sales certification program in 1995 as a way to improve the image of the industry, increase the professionalism of the sales reps and encourage stronger customer loyalty. The program has been available online for several years now. Among the graduates this time were a large contingent from Birchwood Chevrolet Buick GMC (12) with smaller numbers from Crown Honda (seven), Birchwood Infiniti Nissan, Mercedes Benz Winnipeg and Steinbach Dodge Chrysler Fiat (four each) as well as sales reps from Kelleher Ford (three) in Brandon, Birchwood Hyundai (two), Birchwood BMW/Mini Winnipeg, Waverley Mitsubishi, Gimli Auto and Metcalfe's Garage, the Ford dealer in Treherne.
The MMDA also gave out two more Gerald Rewucki Memorial Scholarships, awarded to students whose parents work in the auto industry. (Rewucki, formerly president of family-owned Eastern Chrysler and one of the founders of the sales certification program, died tragically in an auto accident several years ago.)
The recipients this time were Jared Kushner, son of Jim Gauthier Chev sales rep Michael Kushner, who is enrolled in the second year of a business management program at the University of Manitoba; and Jena Wilks, daughter of Vickar Chev sales rep Dan Wilks, who is in her first year at Red River College's business management program.
Vickar Nissan donates van to Siloam Mission
Siloam Mission was sorely in need of a new van, and Vickar Nissan turned out to have the answer to the staff's prayers. On Nov. 28, the dealership presented Siloam with a 2012 Nissan NV.
"We were driving a 2002 cargo van with over 300,000 km on it," said Judy Richichi, Siloam Mission's director of finance and development. "The van needed a lot of repairs. We didn't have any money in our budget for that. We also had a problem with the van that we couldn't fit pallets in properly."
So, the Princess Street mission set out to find something newer.
"We got some quotes on several vehicles, one of which was a Nissan NV. One of the dealers we approached was Larry Vickar," Richichi said, adding that Vickar Auto Group staff have volunteered at Siloam Mission for the past several months.
"Larry referred us to (his son) Stephen, who was eager to help us out by giving us a van. It's a beautiful gift that we look forward to driving for many years."