Happy Thursday. This is JC, sitting here with Joel, the acting dealer principal for Diamond Buick GMC in beautiful Alexandria, Minnesota. And when I say beautiful, I mean, negative seven beautiful, by the way, as I’m watching these rolling hills covered in white snow for this California guy. So thank you for being with us today. We’re going to be discussing a lot of really cool things today. And Joel was kind enough to give me some of his time. And what I mean by giving me some of his time is, I dragged him into his office, I locked the door, and I threw away the key. So now he’s forced to talk to me. So today we’re going to be talking about a lot of things Diamond. So what makes Diamond Diamond, right? So Joel, do me a favor, say hello to the crowd, man, and everyone that’s listening today, and introduce yourself, sir, please.
Hello. I’m Joel Krusemark, here [laughter]. What do you want me to say?
You’re good, Joel. Keep it moving, man. Keep it moving. So let me start here, right. So first and foremost, your store is beautiful, by the way.
It’s really, really nice. And I got to be honest with you, man. So I walked in today, and typically, I judge a store by how many hello’s I get before I get to the receptionist tower.
So I got three.
And here’s the best news. There was only four people in the showroom, employee-wise. And I got three of the four said hello. And I think the fourth one didn’t say hello to me because they just didn’t see me.
That’s what I like to hear.
So I think you get an A plus, my friend–
We like that.
–for the fact that everyone said hello to me. I’ve been to dealers where no one says hello to me before I get to the receptionist tower.
So obviously that comes from the top. So I just wanted you to know that. So talk to me a little bit about– we were having dinner – I don’t know if you remember this – and you started to talk to me about the story of how you got in this industry. I got to be honest, man. You have one of the most fascinating stories. I’m not sure anyone knows it, but I think I need you to share it, man. Because your story is, by far, one of the most fascinating stories about how you got into this industry. So talk a little bit about that history and kind of take me through that.
I started out going– I started working for a gentleman that was a crop sprayer. And he ended up getting into the car business in a small town of Elbow Lake, town of 1,200 people.
And Elbow Lake is in Minnesota– not Minnesota?
Elbow Lake, Minnesota.
Okay. So in Minnesota.
Elbow Lake, Minnesota, about 40 miles from here. He didn’t have his heart in the car business. He was a crop sprayer and he loved to fly a plane.
So he was, like, dusting the crop hoppers. Is that what you’re saying?
Absolutely. Absolutely. But he was in the car business. And so I started, as I was helping him with his crop dusting, loading the plane, between loads, I would go to town and wash his vehicle at the car shop. That evolved into doing some detailing when he wasn’t crop spraying, which then evolved into, one Friday evening he came to me, and said, “I’m going to be gone tomorrow and there’s nobody around to sell cars, so I’d like you to sell cars tomorrow.”
So I didn’t have a clue of what to do or how to do it. Back then we had a pamphlet or a binder, I guess I should say, that was an order guide with about 200 pages, and that’s how you spec’d out a new vehicle.
So what year was this, give or take?
This would have been back in 1988.
That Saturday morning, I wasn’t open an hour and a gentleman walked in, and said, “I want to order a new F150 pickup.” After stumbling through the guide for an hour and a half–
So you’re literally trying to sell a car from a guide.
Okay. This is getting good.
This is good. This is good. This is good.
So after an hour and a half of stumbling through it– he was a very patient man.
He had to have been.
I don’t think he had a choice [laughter].
His first name was Gerald.
Wow. You remember his name. That’s pretty epic.
I do. He said, “If it’s all right, can you just call me?” I said, “You know what? I need some help. I’m going to talk to the boss, and I’ll call you on Monday.” And he’s like, “Perfect. That’ll work great.” So I called him on Monday. Long story short, he became a awesome customer. I think, myself, personally, I probably sold him five or six. But with the network he created for me, probably no less than 30 vehicles, new.
That’s just phenomenal. That’s phenomenal.
Yep. But he was just that kind of guy. He was the customer I needed to start off with.
No doubt. Also, a testament, right? Obviously, you did something right, right? No matter how much you stumbled through– which, by the way, kudos to your mentor, whoever that is, right. You got the ultimate crash course on how to sell a car. “Hey, here’s a book [laughter]. Read through it and go sell a car.” That’s what you got, right?
Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah, so. But a testament to– you obviously did something right, ultimately, right, even knowing nothing about selling a car. And really, I think in the auto industry, we can all agree, 20 years later, we know nothing, right, at the end of the day, right? However, I think the one thing that’s important is to understand, the dealers that are successful understand that we’re in the people business. We’re not in the car business, right. We’re in the people business, so.
I think honesty helps out.
Yeah. No doubt.
I was honest with the customer. “This is my first day. I don’t have a clue what I’m doing [laughter].” And I believe honesty is a key, so.
Yeah. For sure. That’s awesome. All right, so.
After that, I ended up starting to sell quite a bit on Saturdays, evenings. I was going to college at the time. So I would come home, sometimes during the middle of the week. Instead of staying in Fargo-Moorhead where I was going to school, I would come home and sometimes write a lease for a customer.
Because the owner didn’t have a clue how to write a lease.
You just said, “Write a lease.”
Because that’s how leases were done back in the day. [inaudible].
Correct. Correct. Yes. It was a challenge, but I was able to do it. I can remember at one point in time, he told me I sold too many cars. I had to slow down. Saturday, I think I sold five new cars back when 2.9% interest–
You were over their cap [laughter]. Yeah. You were over their cap, right, for the day?
Yep. Yep. He said, “We can’t be trading in that many cars for the day, cash flow.” After that, basically, I worked there part-time, going to college for three years. After the three years, the business was kind of starting to go downhill and they decided they were going to close the business up totally. And my brother had gotten a job down in Minneapolis working for a Toyota dealership. The two of us talked, and he told me, “We’re going to buy that store.” Neither one of us had any money, but we wanted to buy a car dealership. It’s everyone’s dream, I guess. So we went to one of the gentlemen that was involved in the business and told him that we would like to buy the car dealership, but we don’t have any money. And he said, “It sounds to me like that’s a perfect plan.”
Yeah. No doubt. Yeah.
So long story short–
It sounds obvious what you have to have done [laughter]. “I don’t have any money. Of course, I want to buy the dealership,” right.
So he told us if we could come up with a little bit of money that he would look at the possibility of being a partner with us. He did become a partner for us. He said he wanted out in two years and that’s exactly what we did. We bought him out in two years. We ran the store in Elbow Lake for just shy of 20 years. Four years later after we started in Elbow Lake, we went to a town of Morris and opened up a Buick GMC Pontiac Cadillac store down there. We were there for just shy of 20 years and then we relocated that dealership to Alexandria to where we sit today. We also added to the portfolio, back in 2001, a Ford Chrysler dealership in Morris, which we are still operating today that my brother runs.
So all from washing–
So that has to be one of the most amazing stories.
And actually, to back up, the only reason I got the job for the crop sprayer is, I was laying sod one Saturday for a gentleman, and he asked me how much I was getting paid, and I said, “I’m not getting paid, but I hope to get an ice cream cone or something later. He’s going to buy me an ice cream cone and a supper.” And he goes, “You work that hard for free?” And I said, “Yep.” And he said, “I got a job for you. Would you like to come and work for a crop sprayer?” So that’s what started it way back then, so.
So for anyone listening, if Joel comes to you and asks you to lay some sod, take the job guys [laughter]. Take the job, even if it’s for free and he’s not paying you, take the job. Okay [laughter]? All right. So that’s by far one of the most interesting– everyone has a story in the automotive space on how they got in, different variances, right? Some are good. Some are bad, right? That’s got to be one of the greatest stories I think I’ve ever heard. So literally, you were a sod-layer, crop duster turned car washer turned car dealer.
Wow. Unbelievable. So from my understanding, verify with me, you could still be caught in your wash rack washing cars yourself.
Unbelievable. So I think that one of the main things that obviously makes dealers successful, specifically if you’re talking about Diamond Buick GMC is, to this day when I talk to you, there is nothing in this dealership that is beneath you.
Period. You’ll sweep floors.
You’ll pick up calls.
Nobody’s any better.
No one’s any better, man. That’s a great attitude. All right. So favorite part about your job. What do you love about what you do now?
Buying cars is always a challenge that I enjoy. I enjoy selling, seeing the smile on customer’s faces. I enjoy the employees we have. We have a fantastic group of employees that we’ve been blessed with over the years. What else? That’s all I can think of.
More will come to mind, I’m sure.
Talk to me about your partner, Buick GMC. I think that obviously Buick’s gone through some ups and some down’s. GMC, relatively, has held the same market share penetration for a long time.
But I think that over the last few years, I think GMC has actually done a good job of positioning themselves, right. So talk to me a little bit about those brands, right. Because you also have a Ford Chrysler store, right?
Right? So talk to me a little bit about Buick GMC. How are they to do business with? Good partner, obviously. Do you enjoy that partnership? Do you enjoy that brand?
Great brands. Absolutely great brands. They’re very good backing up a customer, taking care of the customer. GMC has become a higher end model of the General Motors pickup. I think, by far, it’s a quieter, more comfortable, more unique, more distinctive– the Denali brand, hands down, is above all. I think Buick is a quieter brand, again, comparing itself even within the General Motors family. They do extra steps to ensure the quietness of it. It’s not yesterday’s Buick. It’s not the mom-and-pop car. They’re core models are the crossovers, whether it be the Buick Enclave or the new Envision or Encore. I thoroughly enjoy the brands. I think they’re top, top, top.
Well, I think there was a misconception with Buick for a long time. You had to be in your late years to even consider one, right?
They had the stigma, I guess, of the old Oldsmobile and kind of that whole thing. And I think that, if you look at the new model lineup and you look at the new body and the new lines, you wouldn’t recognize it as a Buick, personally.
Well, you’ve heard the commercial. “That’s not a Buick.”
I’ve heard the commercial, man. I’ve heard the commercial [laughter]. Hey, that was his Buick one-liner, by the way. That was his making the factory happy, by the way. All right. So talk to me a little bit about Diamond, specifically.
You’re not the only Buick GMC dealer.
Right? I’m sure there’s got to be one within 20, 30 miles at some point. I’m sure. Ever since I’ve spent time here, everyone talks to me about the Diamond difference, right?
Talk to me a little bit about that. What does that mean from a perspective of the entire dealership? What does that mean to you?
To me it means– a lot of it has to do with the employees, how the customer’s treated. I believe we give a consistent value every day. It’s not, who’s the best negotiator? It’s every customer gets the value. I believe we back what we sell. Just last Friday night, I went to leave, and a customer was driving down the road about 15 miles from here. It was 6 o’clock on a Friday night and their check engine light came on, and they said, “What do we do?” And my response is, “Turn around. Get the car back here. I’m going to get you in a loaner car and get you on your way to Minneapolis,” where she was headed. Those kind of things, I think, make the difference. I think we always, hopefully, approach every customer with a smile. The atmosphere around here is very light. We love to laugh–
I’ve noticed that about it.
–and joke with our customers. We typically will get our customers to engage in that laughter.
I laughed this morning when they told me to shovel snow, by the way [laughter]. So it was apparent early this morning, by the way.
But the funny thing is, they weren’t laughing [laughter]. They actually wanted me to go shovel snow [laughter]. And I’m from California, so that wasn’t working out too well for me [laughter].
Yeah. We really think that we’re family around here and we want our customers to feel like family, so.
And I’ve heard that– and your reviews say it, by the way. People have nothing but positive things to say about your dealership, right, ultimately. And I think that’s obviously been a big deal for you guys. So along those lines– and we’ll get into deeper conversations about this on a different podcast. But I think one of the main things that makes Diamond different, right, you recently talked to me about this lifetime program that you guys are about to launch or just started launching, actually.
Just launched. Yes.
I hadn’t heard of something that severe from a dealership, right. Because essentially, you’re talking about giving consumers a lifetime warranty–
–on the vehicle they purchase.
Correct. Every new Buick and GMC, lifetime.
So let me get something straight. I’m a consumer. I’m shopping for a Buick or GMC. I’m pricing out these Buick and GMC’s. I happen to drill down between another Buick GMC dealer, whatever their name is, and you guys. If I buy my car here, you guys will include a lifetime warranty on that car that I bought.
And that’s included.
Absolutely. No charge. Part of our price.
That is by far one of the most valuable things I’ve ever, ever have witnessed a dealership do.
We’re very excited about it.
I mean, that is just absolutely crazy. Because I don’t think people realize, monetarily, the value that that adds to that car purchase, right?
Right? If you were looking as a consumer, if you were looking to set yourself apart from your buying decision, right– if I’m shopping for that car at another Buick GMC dealer and I come to your dealership as a consumer – and I’m a consumer – as a consumer, that would be the difference for me.
That’s what we want.
Buying that car and knowing that for the lifetime of that car, I am covered.
That’s crazy. We’re going to leave at that topic. Because we’re going to talk about that. Because I think that’s a game changer. And I think you have a lot of things to say about that. And as that program shapes up, that’s something that I think people need to hear, and I think that that’s something that people would be excited about. So with that being said, I want to thank you for your time. I appreciate you. I know you’re super-swamped, by the way. I promise I’ll unlock your door after we’re done, so now you can leave.
Awesome. Awesome [laughter].
But with that being said, I appreciate– for anyone out there listening, once again, this is Joel and Jimmy Diamond Buick GMC in beautiful Alexandria, Minnesota. And if you guys are looking for a Buick and GMC vehicle of any kind and you want an included free warranty for the life of the car, that only happens at Diamond Buick GMC. With that being said, Joel, thank you for your time, man. I really appreciate it.
I appreciate it.
Podcast #1: Joel Krusemark, Owner of Diamond Buick GMC