exotic car sales rookie to all-star and some jet charters
Clay Curtis loved exotic cars + his wife knew one of the bosses wives. Would this be enough to get him the job? Apparently so! Time will fly as you listen to Clay's crazy car and (sometimes death defying) customer stories. Clay spent many years peddling exotic iron to celebs, athletes, entertainers and the wealthy. Clay also became partner in a Jet charter firm! Have a good listen and like, subscribe and share the video!
6:24 Jeff and Clay talk about launching what would soon become an exotic car force to be reckoned with...from a plastic wall paper table in a framed in section of store-room above the main (Cadillac) dealership.
7:34 breaking records with no showroom, no real office.
10:06 making exotic car waves from "a city that nobody drove one"
11:24 Rolls-Royce and Bentley factory exec asks us how we are accomplishing what we are accomplishing and when he took it back to the other dealers, they didn't want to do it.
11:50 Jeff isn't sure about hiring Clay!
17:18 Clay rationalizes driving exotic cars home from work.
22:21 Clay learns like lessons from clients.
23:10 Clay getting schooled by a client while riding in his Phantom to go see Tiger's Carrera GT.
Clay Curtis - Part 1
Mon, 2/22 5:34PM • 30:35
cars, people, clay, customer, buying, learned, bentley, sold, money, nice, put, younger, driving, hides, talk, clients, working, salespeople, wallpaper, sales
Jeff Sterns 00:00
Jeff Sterns connected through cars and today I get to introduce my dear friend and past employee clay Curtis. Now I want you to know that I was not excited to hire clay when I took him on in my exotic car franchise, clays wife was the friend of the wife of one of the other bosses in my dealership. And that's why I was supposed to hire him. You can imagine how excited I was about that. I put him through the grinder, he ended up coming through with flying colors. It's very interesting to listen to the perspective that these customers taught him. And you might be interested to learn about, at what speed the tires stop making contact on the road, in a Ford GT 40. Enjoy. Subscribe, comment below. She says, well, the hood would either be this cloth, this cloth, this cloth or this cloth. And you'd probably want to match the carpet. And I'm like, a cloth hood. And it took me five more minutes for her to help me understand that meant the convertible top. And I'm supposed to be the guy you know, I'm the director of operation.
Jeff Sterns connected through Guys, if they're big wigs, we'll have him on the show. And yes, we'll talk about cars and everything else. Here he is now, Jeff Sterns.
Jeff Sterns 01:30
So Jeff Sterns connected through cars, and who can be connected more through cars, and then my dear friend and understudy clay Curtis.
Well, thank you for having me, Jeff, I really do appreciate it. It's been I've been looking forward to this for quite some time. You know, you were pretty influential in my younger years, in a positive way. You know, I'm looking forward to having a nice chat with you and, and kind of retelling some old stories and laugh and maybe a little bit of crying to,
Jeff Sterns 02:05
I hope that we can get to a little bit of crying, then I'll know I'll made it as a talk show host well, like the guy on Jerry Maguire. Are you gonna cry on that show? But you know, Clay, what's nice for me about doing this podcast is calling people out of the past. And have them be just willing to do this with me. Sure. So I appreciate it. And you know, your 20 bucks will be in the mail after
no payment needed. I am thoroughly I've been really looking forward to this. I came back from hiding out in the in the bush just
Jeff Sterns 02:41
for this. And thank you for that. So for the listening audience wondering why clay was off the grid or why he gained back onto the grid play is someone that I know very, very well. And clay is someone that sold cars with me in our roles. Bentley and Lotus new car department. And of course, we sold you name the exotic used and you know, I'll give a compliment. I hate giving a compliments because I need to keep him on his toes. I think I pretty much manage you through a buy through exception, right? Like, just what you weren't doing. I don't tell me what you did. We already got that. What else can we have
about the pain? Just something about the baby? That's right.
Jeff Sterns 03:24
That's right. And I think you remember how warm and fuzzy I was when you were brand new and you want to just come sit at my desk and just bs about cars.
Yeah, I really loves coming in at 832 when you were still up in the war room upstairs at the mansion. And we had those old next house, then you would click her. We started a 30 not 832. That's
Jeff Sterns 03:52
listen to her. On top of we were upstairs and could see when our tardy employees rolled in. To get a grip if this is interesting, I hope it's interesting to you. I mean, if you sold cars, this could be interesting to you. But I'm really trying to make this interesting. What I really hope to deliver to the audience the product that I hope to deliver the perfect steak that I hope to deliver to the guests in you know clay when we were together selling I mean I just wanted to deliver that perfect steak that perfect experience, of course, to our client. But what I'd like to deliver to the listener of this podcast is to get a feel about what was going on in the pod get in the car business forgiving. And what Clay's talking about in the upstairs storeroom is when we started this exotic car department this rolls and Bentley department. We didn't want to park the cars outside because the sun would and birds and sprinklers and whatever would ruin the paint. A lot of them had delicate paint a lot of lacquer paint that sort of thing. You really didn't want to put a high speed buffer and compound on the vendor of a barrier and old rolls cornice just because it got hard water from the sprinkler. And then we of course didn't want them dusty in the sun would destroy the interior is expensive is commonly hides our and a grade hides. If you imagine your most expensive 15 $100 pair, not that I would have it but just imagine it of Italian glove leather. Just because they're expensive doesn't mean they're durable, they probably be the first to fall apart in a snowball fight, or the first to look bad if you left them out in the sun for a few weeks getting rained on. So I don't want you to look down on all these expensive interiors, they're so not durable. I mean, because they were such high quality and so supple and smelled so good. They also didn't do too well in the sun. So we would park them in the service drive where people would pull through with their new and use Cadillacs and Land Rovers. And we'd have four or five or six cars. In the lane, they're hidden out back. So we had no visible cars. And then where we worked, starting with myself and then with a co worker, CJ and then with a co worker, Randy and then with co worker clay here, we were working from a plastic and tell me if I'm I mean, call me out here if I'm exaggerating, I'll let you go.
You're right, you're so far, so good.
Jeff Sterns 06:24
We were working from a white plastic wallpaper folding table right or wrong? Sure, three of us sharing a single 10 inch 11 inch 12 inch little Sony bio laptop, which made us the first employee in the dealership with a laptop. No one had one on their desk, and the reason and outlook. And our CRM was outlook. And the reason that we used outlook was you could search by keyword, you could put notes in it. So if you took in a black herb or trade in and you say oh gosh, who was looking for one of those? Geez, I remember the guy carrying the poodle the other day. So I could search by Turbo R or search by poodle or some other keyword and the five people that we put that in the notes would show up and we'd say oh yeah, and we'd start calling that person we were making and by the way, this was a framed in with like industrial carpet over the cement in the storeroom upstairs of a Cadillac dealership building.
What no showroom,
Jeff Sterns 07:34
no showroom, no real office, we would go downstairs, whoever had it was like whoever had the chick got the apartment, whoever had the customer would get the office. downstairs. And three of us until clay came we were already in our own building. By the time clay came. But three of us would make about 100
more room. I started in the world.
Jeff Sterns 07:55
Oh, you started in the war room. I did. I thought we were in the new building by the time you came.
I watched it get finished off and then and then moved in there. Okay,
Jeff Sterns 08:06
so you were man number four. And the word. So here's what I'll do, I don't understand because the table was against the wall the long way the computer was at the end, we had one of us on each side. And one of us at the end, where were you sitting,
I was squeezed into the smallest spot on the desk on a corner. So every time I'd even try to scoot my chair in, I get stabbed in the gut.
But the corner of the eye was
Jeff Sterns 08:32
the corner of the wallpaper table. So this is how you really know you made it in the car business when you made it to the storeroom to the wallpaper table.
That's exactly what I thought.
Jeff Sterns 08:43
So what we would do is in the morning, there would be two or three or 400 reminders of people to call that would pop up in Outlook. And we'd hit print and print them all because we're all sharing the One Laptop and pass them out. Call the customer leave a message talk to him whatever we did write a note on the paper and then whoever whenever the computer wasn't being used, someone could then enter their notes from their handwritten notes.
What was remind me again what the result was of all that calling when we had no showroom and just a little room upstairs. Well I like memories foggy.
Jeff Sterns 09:25
We were selling approximately 25 exotic cars a month.
Remind me what was going on with the amount of Pre Owned Bentleys and Rolls Royces.
Jeff Sterns 09:39
Well, I mean in that 25 where the Pre Owned
where were we ranked and Pre Owned Bentley sales,
Jeff Sterns 09:46
right? I'm supposed to be you know.
I know you want to talk about yourself. So I'm adding to it.
Jeff Sterns 09:55
In certified Pre Owned we were number one. In crew build Bentley. Rolls Royce United States,
thank you, I knew is something like that I just had a hard time remember.
Jeff Sterns 10:06
So I was especially proud of that because we are in a city that nobody drove them. Really. So unlike street corner in Lauderdale, Palm Beach, Miami, where you might see some of these cars at a light in a downtown or social area, or maybe South Tampa, but I think that we mainly you know, we are in Clearwater, Florida and I think our main local customer was probably Sarasota, the nearest with the occasional Tampa, which was about 45 minutes away. But I think that we sold easily three quarters of the cars 500 miles away or more. It was all telephone telephone telephone. We used to call it a marketing job. were selling a car got in the way, all we did was dial dial dial, and I remember God rest his soul. Our factory Rep. Rodney Moore said, Listen, a lot of dealers are talking about what you guys are doing. And they want to know, some secrets. They said Rodney, I'm happy to share. We each call about 100 customers every single day, legitimately logged not exaggerating. The average number of dials was 500 a week, per person. And we typically use Saturday. Because we could actually wait on some real customers, if that didn't happen on a weekday. So he came back to me. And he says I shared with the other dealers what you're doing. And he said they didn't want to know that. They just wanted to know if he had some secret advertising program or a postcard
working hard. They didn't want to hear that. We just
Jeff Sterns 11:37
talked to our customers all the time, and fill them in what's going on in the market? Or we just got one of these on trade or how's your kids ballet lesson?
Jeff Sterns 11:48
So how was it for you? I mean, I don't know that we ever discussed this because my side of the clay Curtis story is that I think it was our service director at the time or a new GSM let me know that his wife worked with your wife. And he had this kid that wanted to come sell exotic cars, who never sold cars before. So I'm thinking, Well, that makes sense to bypass Hyundai and Honda and Chevrolet and let's just go straight to a Rolls Royce and Bentley let's let's just hire the kid. He's a friend of yours. And of course, I didn't just take you on because you're a friend. I met you. Because you are a friend. And I was excited to have you. Although a little concerned about getting you trained, that it wasn't all about which one do you get to take home tonight?
Jeff Sterns 12:45
that it was something about getting rid of them once in a while. So what was it like on your side? Like before you met us? So are you even walked in?
So before I even walked in? I mean, yeah, I had, I had started working in the financial industry at Raymond James like a month after I graduated from college in 96. And I did a seven year stint there and it was all sales I used to speak in front of groups of people and on how to transition their their books from you. Traditional commission based fee based products, right, put yourself on the same side of the fence as the client. So I had you a little bit of sales experience from that, but I was still young. I mean, I started there 22 I was still in my 20s when I started with you, you know was referred in by you know, someone we both know Well, I remember it was the fall of whatever year was it oh four maybe and you know I needed you know that you get your you get your year end bonus in the financial industry. Right. So I had accepted this job with you. And and like October but had to stay through Raymond James to get my bonus until the end of the year. Right. And so one of the you know, the thing I think I remember the most and and not sure if it's fond memories, but surely memories, I'll never forget it. I was working two jobs for those three months, October, November, December, I was working car shows, automobile events and parties while I was still working all day at Raymond James. Because you're like you have to you have to get going. You have to get going. You know, you have to start meeting people. And so is that how I talk
Jeff Sterns 14:31
like if you're ever imitating
No, I'm gonna do I'm gonna do my impression of you later. That's okay. Oh, God. So, you know, it was really interesting, but at the same time, I had always um, you I had zero interest in the financial industry. It bored me to tears cars I've always had an interest in I mean, even growing up I put a lift in my jeep by myself. I didn't have a lift or anything. Yeah, to throw it up on I mean, I did work on my own cars. I learned how to rebuild a carburetor just by messing around. So, you know, this was right up my alley. You know, I grew up in DC, I met my wife in college. And then you know, she was born and raised here in St. Pete. So I came down here, right after we graduated. You know, the one thing that I'm thankful for is that starting a life of sales is not something that just anybody can do. It takes perseverance, it takes growing thick skin, it takes thinking very quickly on your feet, with a smile on your face all the time, right? You know, for me, I was thankful that I was still moldable, if you will, at that younger juncture in my life, right. And it really, you know, what I learned from, one of the things you always said to me was, always listen to the best salespeople, that you someone that you think is a great salesperson, listen to them, and hear what they say, and how they do it. Not everything they pick up is going to work for you. Because everyone's attitudes and personalities are different. But the amount of arrows they are able to grab and make your own is, you know, it's invaluable. You can't buy it, right. And so, you know, I took that to heart at the beginning. And, you know, we had such a wide range of, of characters, you know, we had you, you know, Randy, who had the best mustache of all time, right? And just nice Southern Boy, you know, like, I could never be like, Randy, you know, hey, hon, like, they would laugh at me. CJ would never even talk, he would just like, whisper in somebody's ear and carceral. So, so, so it was great to be exposed to all sorts of different types of very high end salespeople and all of their different ways. You know, even to a certain extent, our GM at the time, the fat man, you know, I mean, he added, you know, I learned how to not bend the knee by watching him bend the knee so much. Well, I
Jeff Sterns 17:00
mean, okay, so you know, that he might end up being one of the people interested in listening to this.
I that's why I said it.
Jeff Sterns 17:09
Hopefully, you're okay. I'm okay. Here's the fat man,
that there's nothing I haven't told him to his face. Okay. But no, I think my reaction to it was Yes, I was young, and I wanted to take the cars home. But the best way to learn a car is by driving it. Right. And it led to one of my greatest arrows that I was able to put in my quiver, which is, when I used to talk to clients about the cars, you know, people would miss what really matters to the customer that's buying this kind of car, right. And so by taking it home, I you know, I had so many experiences where Hey, it looks great at the dealership, right? standing around all these other toys, right? It's a toy store, it's a candy shop, right? But you will never know how truly beautiful the lines on this car are or its performance or how it looks without number one, obviously driving it yourself. Number two, seeing the car in motion with you not in it, because the car looks completely different when it's in motion. And a lot of the lines that are made for these high end cars are made to be seen. To see beauty in motion, right. You also have to see the car not in the candy store, go park it in the in the in the parking lot at Publix go into the grocery and look at all the other cars around you. You'd be like, Whoa, that cart is really nice. And then the final thing is, how do you feel when it's sitting in your garage. When you get inside the kids are put to bed, all your responsibilities are done, you pour that cocktail, you'll wander back out in the garage, you just stare at it. And you're like, Damn, that's a nice car. And you're taking those home kind of, you know, helps develop, you know, the sales process for me. I mean, you know, but just like anybody I got to the point where it was a mode of transportation from A to B, right? You know, I wasn't impressed anymore. I just wanted it to go either sell it or trade it like do something you know, I know what they are. The only time I really start driving them again is when new models would come out. Right.
Jeff Sterns 19:10
So when when you were new. He was about how does it look moving? How does it look from the outside inside out of its venue in the garage? Yeah, but in short order you got jaded and the only exciting thing about it was somebody owning it other than us
well, I don't know while that was the point you get you saw so many of them you were trained on them. You know I could build one of those cars perfectly for a client in my sleep, you know and primary heights, secondary heights, veneers, what works, what doesn't don't put a tan soft top is five times after putting the top down. It's gonna get rub marks in the sea pillars. You know, all those little things. I think people, a lot of salespeople and I I noticed it as I Made my travels throughout sales in the automobile business. You know, reading the room is really important. And the person who's standing in front of you is buying the automobile there for a multitude of reasons. There are some people that are the tech geeks, right? All they want to talk about is displacement, you know, horsepower, and like torque variances, and all this sort of stuff that the, you know, the nerds like to talk about. I love that stuff. So I was able to carry that conversation. But I, one of the things I've learned quickly is, you don't want to have a conversation about technical specifications in a car with somebody that's buying it for the badge, they don't care, you lose them. Every time something comes out of your mouth. Technically, you need to find what makes them tick and apply the process to what makes them tick. Are they buying it because they want to look awesome when they show up to the ballet? are they buying it? Because, you know, their girls said it was awesome? are they buying it to impress friends? Did their neighbor just get one? Isn't it? You know, is it a competition? Or do you truly understand and appreciate the craftsmanship, the drive the feel everything that all the engineers thought about forever? You know, but you can't talk about one thing when the room is the other? And that's something that I learned real quick, there are some clients, as you all know, I would never want to have a conversation about the car. The conversation will be all about the emotional impact, right? Or, or the family? Or how's it gonna fit here? Or where am I going to put it? I mean, you and I both offered to store people's cars, and they would give us the excuse, well, I don't have enough room, my garage. Well, we have plenty of room here. So I'm happy to have you to put it in the chatroom.
Jeff Sterns 21:51
But it was it was really important. And that's one thing that I took, you know, kind of from, you know, everything that you talked about, and, you know, constantly mentoring me, and you know, I was kind of wild and young and, you know, you having babies and you know, you know, newly married, I was at the beginning of my life, you know, my career and everything, you know, other than, you know, learning as much as I did about sales and dealing with people and technique. I think that the really the most important thing I learned from it all was money doesn't buy happiness. And learning that at such a young age was tremendously beneficial for me, and tremendously beneficial for my family. Right? I mean, if I hadn't to learn that I would have been chasing the dollar my whole life, I would have missed time with my kids, you know, whatever the case may be. But you know, we came across so many miserable people not saying they were all miserable. But right, people can scratch checks for $500,000 cars, but they're unhappy, and it has nothing to do and they have all the money they could meet. And so it really allowed me to step into, like, out of my shell and be and be humans with them. Right. And I think that's where people miss it.
Jeff Sterns 23:10
So do you mind if I jump in here? This is the Jeff Sterns podcast. Do you mind if I participate?
Jeff Sterns 23:22
Thank you. Thank you. So a thing that I noticed. I mean, I'm so glad that you got something. Yeah, look, I sold cars. 27 years, I've been a vendor to the business for eight years. And I learned a lot of what matters to me in life. From my customers, no doubt about it. I mean, the first store was Lincoln, Mercury. And those customers were World War Two vets. Yeah, over and over and over. And they love to tell the story of how they finally have some money. Here's what we did in the Great Depression, I worked the day shift, my wife worked, the night shift. Here's how we got by here's how we put food like putting food on the table stories, and getting kids their kids educated, etc. And they're so proud of that. And so the stories would be about that. And then guess how long we've been married and guess how old we are. And I would get a lot of values from these well, real Greatest Generation, World War Two vet, I mean, I have a lot of values from that customer. I've developed lots and lots of relationships, got lots and lots of lessons. When I moved later into Cadillac, it was still a similar age depending on the car if it was a DeVille or something it was a similar customer age but versus the Lincoln mercury customer was often the people that didn't really have a lot of money their whole life or did okay later but just did okay later. Very close to there. family. And I'm not saying any of these people with money aren't close to the family, they want to be clear about that. But they'd sold their house in New Jersey for 400 grand that they paid 15 for. And now they get a condo near us for 50. And they come home with three or 400,000 in cash in security and they can actually go buy something. The Cadillac customer was the same agent was a world war two vet, but they were often wearing a Rolex at 75 years old. Yeah, slightly different, slightly different. Snow, plenty of them into their family and plenty of them that were happy. But you can, I was able to tell that they were more affected than the first group. And then when we got into the rolls, Bentley, and obviously we met some of the greatest people in the world, you know, a name that comes to mind, I think he's gone is you know, it like Ed Martell. Yeah, for example, just like the nicest. And we and by the way, we met plenty of the nicest people on earth, that had a million dollar piece of furniture or chandelier or, or, you know, something in there for, like, you know, not to even be understood, but you said, I learned that money wasn't everything. What I learned is that money was the amplifier for wherever they were at emotionally, because the charitable people were 100 times more charitable. And the sympathetic people were 100 times more sympathetic, and the humble ones were much more humble. And it was obvious how humble they were. Because they lived in and you know, if you're CEO or everyone's in orbit, because of your money, like you're in, it doesn't mean that they're all hangers on there's just, you're either CEO of a company or CEO of your little world because you're, you've co signed for 27 of your friends, businesses or cell phones are in and they can't afford to travel with you. So you're paying for them to travel with you and etc. Like these people have no one to play with. The younger they are, the younger they are the less people can I know we can name a few that we you know, we're not gonna name names.
We're not name snakes or have been changed to protect yet we're
Jeff Sterns 27:20
not gonna name names. But I think that the person who lives in a vacuum and what I mean by a vacuum cleaner, I mean, they don't get any negative feedback. No one says, Hey, Clay, you're being jerky. Hey, Clay, you're unable
surrounded by sycophants.
Jeff Sterns 27:40
So based on that, if they if they grow humble, it's just more impressive. It's to me, it's just more impressive.
I think you make a great point about the amplification of either good or bad tendencies with money. You know, I came across that normally in the cars, but with plays, right? If you had money, and you had that tendencies, those bad tendencies were coming to light. And I think that's why a lot of times, you know, celebrities have such issues, rock stars and stuff, right? Maybe they had those tendencies before, but they could never act on them, nor did they have the money, the power, the wherewithal, the contacts to be able to do it. Now, all of a sudden, they have all of that
time on their hands, right? And I
Jeff Sterns 28:21
mean, even if you've got the money, and you've got the sphere of influence, and all that, if you're working 5060 hours, it's still harder to do than if you're having your first cocktail at 10 in the morning,
right? You know, I was really, so that was really important to me that that was a life lesson that I've never forgot. And like you said, you know, the good people do good clients, and we've all had clients like that, you know, one of them comes to mind that that, you know, he liked all black black stuff. Still one of my most favorite humans of all time. I talked to him probably once a month, at minimum, still to this day. You know, one of the things he said to me, we were going we were riding in his Phantom on the way over to Orlando to go see Tiger Woods, Carrera GT. Now we didn't want that Carrera GT because there's silver terracotta, everyone had silver, terracotta, right? You use a black black guy. Oh, you wanted to drive but we knew the handler. So we're on the way over there. And he turns to me and looks me dead in the eye while he's driving, says clay. You want to know what makes me tick? I'm like, Well, Mr. Mr. X? Um, I have no doubt you're gonna tell me. He said,
I don't buy these cars. Because like I you know, I want to be like that awesome guy. Like he goes, if I come up to a light and I see the single mom with a bunch of kids and a beater. I feel bad. I'm like, so does everybody when he goes, but when I pull into the Starbucks and some asshole, in a seven series, bmw gets out of his car thinking this shit doesn't stink. He goes, I'm gonna put my car right up on his door and just give him a look and walk in and he goes, That's what makes me tick. I'm like so taking pleasure in the misfortune of other people gives you pleasure. And he's like, no, no just people that that you know they have it but they're still not right. People that
Jeff Sterns 30:20
This has been Jeff Sterns connected through cars.