What brought you into the car business?
In 1983 I came to America from Iran. I had always thought cars were an interesting business, and quite frankly as a 19 year old - cars were cool and fun. I still feel that way 30 years later. I started washing cars when I was 19, and from there I worked my way up through the company - eventually becoming the parts manager and then the finance manager before I bought Fairfax Hyundai in 2006. Everything pretty much worked out perfectly - I was in a situation where I had been at the store for 28 years and knew it inside and out. My main goal was to do things the right way; and by sticking to my guns I was able to become very successful without leaving the dealership. I love this business.
What is your favorite part of owning a dealership?
The people. Nothing satisfies me more than getting out onto the floor or out in the lot and dealing with the public. I love talking to our customers - whether it's just a friendly chat or helping accommodate their sale, anytime I can interact face to face, I'm going to take that opportunity. Seeing people continue to do business with us over the years really inspires me. They remember the service and way they are treated - it speaks volumes about our culture and our staff.
What is the biggest challenge you face as an owner of a dealership?
Honestly, the biggest change from simply working at a dealership to owning one, is that isn't about looking after just me anymore. My decisions affect all of our 140 employees and their families. Balancing what is best for the dealership while also keeping in mind that my decisions affect more than myself - it's a big responsibility.
What do you think your biggest draw is to your customers? How do you keep them coming in?
Our brand. It has been amazing to watch the public's perception of Hyundai and Kia change over the years. Now, they are two of the most desired brands on the market and act as a big reason why customers continue to visit the store. My team and our comfort with each other is also a huge plus. I have people on staff who have been with me 10-15 years. That familiarity and continuity helps immensely: people want to deal with people they know. Word of mouth also plays a huge part in our business - our customers know shopping here is never a hassle, and that helps with new business.
What is your life like away from the dealership?
Well, I live and breathe the dealership. I'm in there on days I am supposed to be off, and as I live eight miles from it, it is not unusual for me to stop in for a quick visit even when I've had the day off.
I've been fortunate to have an amazing family; I'm married with three kids. My oldest son is a senior in engineering at Virginia Tech. I'm not sure what he plans to do after he graduates, but I'd like him to experience something other than the car business before he decides whether he would like to take over for me whenever I decide to step away. My middle child just started at Marymount University as an Arts Major - and my youngest is in eighth grade, so there is still a few more years to go before worrying about college.