Don started in the business at the age of 20 with a Mercedes Benz, BMW, Porsche, Audi dealership as a summer job
5:00 Don started in the business at the age of 20 with a Mercedes Benz, BMW, Porsche, Audi dealership as a summer job in the roll of lease consultant. Jeff gets his his first franchise dealership job, gets promoted, gets fired for 1) forging a document or 2) dumping the owner's best friend's daughter or 3) telling jokes on the mic when the band took a break (at the same party I brought the wrong girl to or 4) introduing myself as "The Owner's Partner" at said party or 5) The bankers and politicians at the business meeting after the party (and why the party occured) didn't want to start until "The Owner's Partner" arrived..."you know, the funny one from the party". (it might have been numbers 2-5) 13:43 someone from Don's dealership had leased a BMW five series to a bank president. Don went to the bank to handover the car and do paperwork. But, it was the wrong car! How did Don handle it (at age 20?) 19:29 Jeff: A guy actually reached down into his pants during the deal in pulls out a gun 19:40 Don: I was with somebody wants to pull the gun out. But it wasn't in a car dealership. It was in a bank. 19:55 Jeff tells the story of when his father and his salesman "Joe" were robbed at gunpoint at Jeff's Dad's lot "Motortown" in Detroit.
Don Heditsian - Part 1
Mon, 2/22 5:36PM • 26:30
car, lease, bank, customer, deal, walked, dealership, bmw, salesperson, people, business, jeff, party, gun, fired, don, story, leasing, year, selling
Jeff Sterns 00:00
Jeff Sterns connected through cars and I'm very pleased to have someone that I'm happy to call my good friend, Don had ditzy and Don has been an executive with many car manufacturers, including Ferrari, Bentley, Lotus, Don also sold cars. You'll be shocked at what his first and second car was. And you got to watch because Don was actually in a real bank robbery. I hope you enjoyed the episode make sure to subscribe and leave comments below fella that took delivery of a brand new bi turbo in the rain in five minutes, did three 360 and drove it into a thank god empty because it was raining out carwash and they had to unwed it. A guy actually reached down into his pants during the deal and pulls out a gun and says What do you give me for this and everyone dove on the floor. And he really meant that he was really seeing if we give them a trade value on the gun, oh, my
I was captive in the bank during a bank robbery. And the husband went to the bathroom. And the wife was sitting with the sales manager. And he never came back. And they were just at the point where they needed the signatures to sell the car. The sales manager said you know, let me check on your husband. Let me make sure he's okay. And he and he went into the restroom of the dealership had the contract in his hand for him to sign and found him keeled over dead.
Jeff Sterns connected through cars, 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 01:47
Don who ditzy and is with me here on Jeff Sterns connected through cars, a dear friend and ex business associate, glad we developed a relationship in about a year and change ago, I don't want to say I got the idea to do a podcast, I think I told you the story that another guy had said, we were talking about car stories. And he was a non car business guy who listens to podcasts. And you got to start a podcast. And one of the very first people I call I only called a few people a year ago, and one was done here. What was going on for you? You get this call from I mean, how long it had been since we'd spoken? Yeah,
I mean, it had been a while, I'm gonna say we probably hadn't connected at least five years, it was definitely a surprise to hear from you. And the podcast thing just kind of came out of nowhere. And I thought it was a great idea.
Jeff Sterns 02:37
And mainly because you were excited to do something with me, but we don't know, I'll just put words in your mouth.
I am excited to do things with you. Just the idea of connecting with somebody from the industry, telling stories and sort of reconnecting, just had a lot of appeal. So I'm glad you know, here we are roughly a year later doing it. So excited to be here, Don, I
Jeff Sterns 02:59
mean, you've got this. I mean, the background that I know about is with some great manufacturers, Lotus Ferrari Bentley. You may have had some other paper route jobs or something that I don't know about, but that's how I know you.
Exactly. We we met I want to say it was late 90s. You were down in Orlando. I was up in Atlanta. I don't know if it was you, Jeff or or somebody on your team was was interested in a franchise? And that's how we met Lotus. Exactly.
Jeff Sterns 03:32
And at the time, it was the Lotus Esprit, it was the Pretty Woman car.
Yes, it was. I've owned two of those. They're wonderful cars.
Jeff Sterns 03:40
And I've been before you was Arnie, I think,
well, Arnie was actually the CEO of the company while I worked there. But he was our boss.
Jeff Sterns 03:50
Yeah, okay. Well, Lotus was such a family type manufacturer to those of us in the United States. I mean, I know it was worldwide, but I think my prior contact was already so I was dealing with the CEO, maybe you didn't know it.
Yeah, he's a great guy. He'd been with a company many, many years and just recently retired, he is synonymous with the brand in America and very respected. Great, great guy.
Jeff Sterns 04:15
Um, it's good to hear that you still talk to him?
I do. I do we talk three or four months ago.
Jeff Sterns 04:21
Okay, well, let's be careful what we say because he could see one of these. Who knows? Absolutely. So how do you end up getting in the car business and you know, to the listener, and I don't know who my listener is gonna be maybe it'll be all car guys, but I'm hoping that it'll be people not from the car business that are interested in the car business because they're continually asking me about it at dinner or at events or at parties or whatever about this background. So my fantasy is that's gonna be who this appeals to, but you're getting into the car business. I think also had retail in it. Am I wrong? Or am I making my fantasy thing that
no, no I started I started with car business when I was 20. And I was working at a Mercedes Benz, BMW Porsche Audi dealership was a summer job to start with. I mean, it wasn't coincidental. I wanted to work there in the worst way, because I love those cars. So I managed to get myself a job there, running down to the DMV, getting cars registered, running to insurance agencies, doing customer handovers moving cars back and forth on dealer trades, just whatever they needed me for. I did that for a summer. And then after school, I looked at the prospects out there and thought about, you know, what do I want to do for a career and I wasn't really sure. And they they asked me to come on board full time as a salesperson. So I did that. And I joined the dealership as a Actually, I was a lease consultant.
Jeff Sterns 05:52
So did that mean that somebody that already sold someone a car wanted to lease they gave them to you, and then you help them with the lease or where you were also selling a car, outside of the lease.
So the way would work is if someone came into the dealership interested in leasing, they would be escorted directly to me. And then I would work with them and try to help them find the car they wanted and make it affordable for them. And if they were thinking about buying and then decided to lease during the process, then they would be you know, sort of a to if you will turn it over to me as a referral from the sales department. So what I didn't do was go on a lot of test drives. Because I wasn't really selling off the floor. I was mainly working on the telephone and working multiple states clients just kind of structuring deals on the telephone, rather than than selling in a showroom environment.
Jeff Sterns 06:48
Where the politics in the store when you're getting customers now like let me explain to the listening audience. So in a car dealership, there can be a little bit of a bit of squabbling is the right term, but certainly a high interest in who's getting the customers that are walking in. I think that would be in any sales industry, whether you're selling mattresses or watches or whatever. I mean, you want your share the clients walking in. So people walk in, they mentioned the word lease, they don't get a chance to mention leasing during a deal they're now giving them to how did that go with the other salespeople politically or getting along with everyone?
Yeah, we weren't you know, we were a team. So if it was a cash buyer, or someone that wanted to traditionally finance they would work with with one individual, if they knew they wanted to lease they would work with me from the beginning. So that that's sort of division was clear and fair, and everyone was good with it. If it was someone that sort of changed course, Midway and decided not to purchase but lease, after the salesperson had invested time and done test drives and whatnot, we would split the deal with the salesperson so that it was a shared sort of commission. That seemed to be the equitable thing to do considering we both put effort into the customer transaction.
Jeff Sterns 08:05
Well, a blip that's not even on my resume. Don is my first franchise dealership, after the little used car lot that I worked at, or after I graduated school was a Ford store. About a year there, I get promoted to finance manager f&i manager, do a good job. And eventually I got fired. And I don't know the real story why I got fired. One thing that had happened well before I got fired, was that I forged a notice to cosigner form, by the way, I'm 21. I'm not making excuses. I'm 21 or 22 years old, I didn't even know what was going on. I'm a manager now. But at when we're done doing paperwork, at the end of it, in this case, the weekend finance manager or the business manager that handled the deal gets no let known what forms they may have missed or what signature they may have missed. So I got informed that this customer name which I didn't recognize, I think we delivered 100 cars over the weekend. missed a notice to cosigner so that means the buyer of the car song signed all of their forms, the cosigner signed off just on the loan, and then just a little doc that said by the way as cosigner, I call the woman the phone number on the deal. And she says, Can you get somebody there to sign it? I'm the one that was there in the wheelchair. Do you remember there me I was signing for my daughter. I'm like, sure. I walked around the dealership and not biting and say can anyone do this signature title office receptionist Service Drive. And that was that while simultaneously at the time I was dating the owners best friend's daughter and it was Early 20s time in my life, so I wasn't really settled. And the owner was having a party about opening another location. So it was bankers and it was factory and it was city manager, whatever proving zoning or something, and he's throwing a party, the General Manager's house. And the girl that I'm dating, that's the owner's best friend's daughter. So the only one unrelated to this business that's at this party is the owner's best friend. And the daughter is excited. She's buying shoes and planning and whatever this party and the only reason I'm invited is I'm a manager. So the day before the party, a girl comes into an answer car, and I thought she was pretty. So I said, What are you doing tomorrow night and invited to the party. See, she says, Sure. another story for another day, I walk in a half hour late big appearance. Of course, I lost touch with the girl I brought to the party, like always then five minutes into the party, because there was a band out by the pool, and the band would take breaks. And they had a microphone. So I would of course tell jokes, during the band's breaks.
I can't imagine you telling jokes.
Jeff Sterns 11:11
No. And the once I came out of my shell, so now I'm inside. And the bankers that are can be a little boring politicians, whatever are standing around and I'm entertaining them and I'm introducing them to myself to them as the owners partner, I'm so mister so and so's partner. As a stick again, the girl I brought long gun owners best friend is in the kitchen next to the guy cutting the prime rib and won't even look at me because daughter's sitting home crying. I know that a real we're not going anymore. So finally, fast forward. I didn't get fired a week or two or three before when I got the notice to cosigners. I someone explained to me you can't do that. But I didn't get fired. I didn't get fired. The next day. About a week later, I get called into the general manager's office and he's letting me go. And I should probably have him I still talk to him. He now owns a Kia dealership to reinforce this story. And he's called me into his office to let me go and I'm crying. And he's laughing a little. And by the way, I'm 22 and I've got the house that I live in now half built so a house that's a skeleton getting fired, and he's laughing He goes Jeff, you're gonna be fine. I'm a general manager. Now. I got fired once a long time ago that had nothing to do with my future. And he said, you know, notice the cosigner, etc, etc, on the termination form. And I'm like, I didn't know I mean, I walked around the dealership. I'm asking everyone if they'll do it. I wasn't hiding. I wasn't sneaking. I wasn't being devious. He said, Well, Jeff, when we went to the meeting with the city about the zoning and the whatever to build this building, and the bankers are there and the factory reps are there and the city's there. And they said that they wouldn't start the meeting until Mr. So and so's partner showed up. You know, the funny one from the party. That was the end of my career.
Jeff, any more uplifting stories are
Jeff Sterns 13:06
at that place. So you've had to have a couple stories,
not like that. Well,
Jeff Sterns 13:12
let's talk about some crazy customers or some crazy delivery. Because a couple of these recorded conversations that I've had have had beautiful car business stories. We had one yesterday where a fella that took delivery of a brand new bi turbo in the rain in five minutes. did three 360 and drove it into a thank god empty because it was raining out carwash and they had to unwed it.
Ouch. Well, no, I mean, early stories I could share from my retail days. One in particular, I remember someone had leased a BMW five series, that he was a bank president. We delivered the car in front of the bank and parked it right in front. And I had a chase car behind me to bring me back after the delivery. It also happened to be a BMW five series coincidentally, so the chase car was black. The first car was dark gray, and I didn't actually lease this car. I was just facilitating the delivery of it at that at that time. So I went in, I introduced myself to the president the bank. I came out with him. He started walking towards the car in excitement to see his new car. And he walked to the black car, not the gray one. So I said no, no, this is your car over here. It's this one. They says no, I ordered a black one. Are you sure? So sure enough, I checked the paperwork. And he had requested a black one. But they sent me over there with a gray one. I didn't know this. I was completely unprepared to deal with this. So anyway, long story short we checked. Turns out the the two cars were similarly priced. The gray car was slightly more expensive because it had metallic paint. So my job was to convince him that Gray was better than black after he had already committed to the deal. The contract We're all written up with the wrong VIN number everything. And that was one of my early baptisms of solving problems. I think I was 20.
Jeff Sterns 15:08
Back then well, you know, you tell it so cool and calm. But I want you to put yourself back into that day and your level of experience and like what was going on in your stomach? Like, while you're on the outside trying to convince the fella that the other paints better?
I kind of just went into sales mode. How do I persuade this gentleman that, that the gray car is the one he really wants. And at the end of the day, I just said, Look, great cars, they are more scarce, they are more expensive. And I made a phone call back to corporate and said look, can we can we do this car for the same price as he had agreed on a certain price for the black car. And they said, of course. So it really wasn't that hard. But it was, it was fun having to think on my feet and having to make sure the customer was happy. In a situation where it could have gone in a very different direction. Thankfully, the banker was very amiable and flexible and ultimately enjoyed his new BMW. The next job I took that's not on my resume was for six weeks. And it was a Toyota dealer, that a friend of mine said, Hey, they need someone, I'm freaked out, my house is being halfway built. I'm
Jeff Sterns 16:17
22 years old, I need a job right now. And he says I don't have any room on the floor. But we were doing a good job leasing at this Ford dealership. That's what's going on. And he said, We need a lease manager. So here's what I want you to do. Anytime one of these guys sells a car, they're going to give them to you. And if you convince the client to lease now for the listening public, why would we care about leasing, over financing, the reason leasing got so important, and it's so important to manufacturers, is it's much more predictable to know when somebody's coming out of a lease, if they'll get that same brand again, and when they'll do it. So it actually helps with the purchasing of commodities like steel and glass, we know that on a two year lease that a certain percentage of people will get the same make on a three year lease and a certain percentage of people will get the same make but on a purchase. It's dramatically lower, as far as them getting the same make. So if you're wondering, Well, why would they care if I lease or buy? That's the reason, okay, just to have you, like I do, you're returning your car, you get another one? It's just easy. So whenever one of these guys sells a car, they'll hand them over to you and you're the lease manager. And if you lease a customer car, you get half their deal.
Yeah, most of the time people came in and would know they want to lease, you know, they felt that there was financial benefits to it. Or they might not have wanted to make the commitment of a purchase and just maybe drive something for three or four years. What year was this? Oh, gosh, this was the it was the mid to late 80s. It was like 8085 86. Okay,
Jeff Sterns 17:45
so this was also the same era, this was probably 87. But at Toyota, we were explaining what Elise was, nobody was coming in and asking for one, it was a little bit of a different client than your BMW, etc. But the salesperson lost half the sale, if they gave him to me, and I convert him in some bonus. Okay, so the setup was, you're getting ready to go talk to a guy, and he's gonna offer you something horrible. So it was just a terrible situation. So
like, like every every customer was sent to you. Like, like the you were the f&i manager basically
Jeff Sterns 18:23
said to me, like I was the f&i manager, and I was to convert them to a lease, but sent to me by the salesperson, he's gonna bring up this thing, whatever you do, don't do it. But I have to let him explain it to him, right. So anyway, in the end of it
very, very different, very different atmosphere in that Toyota store. For that reason, and I totally get it it was it was much less adversarial where I was it was more, what is the customer want to do? And how can we help them and then we worked it out. So
Jeff Sterns 18:52
that was beautiful. So what were your brands at that store?
They're just the German brands, Mercedes, BMW, Porsche. outtie.
Jeff Sterns 18:59
Okay, all of them. Yeah. Any other interesting. Cars falling off lifts customers wanting to return cars pulling guns?
Never had guns? Never had one fall off a lift? Not really nothing. Nothing that exciting. At that dealership? No, we actually went
Jeff Sterns 19:18
pretty smoothly. at the store that you and I met at? Yes. In the used car department for the Cadillac department. A guy actually reached down into his pants during the deal in pulls out a gun and says What do you give me for this and everyone dove on the floor and he really meant that he was really seeing if we give them a trade value on the gun. Oh
Jeff Sterns 19:55
Well, forget the car business you are in event you are a victim in a bank robbery.
I was I was, I was captive in the bank during a bank robbery. I was I was not personally victimized. Like no one, you know, no one pointed a gun at me. But I was in the bank wallet was being robbed. Yes.
Jeff Sterns 20:16
Can you tell that story? I mean, sure want to hear that?
Sure. So I'm in. I'm in North Carolina, I don't remember the bank. Honestly, I can't remember what what branch it was or what, what bank it was. But typical bank, it was a it was the day after a bank holiday. So it was a Tuesday morning. And I went in there to make a deposit. And I'm standing in it's like a serpentine line of like 1012 people waiting to get to the tellers. So there's a guy who is standing directly behind me wearing a trench coat, which he just looked a little out of place. He was kind of a tall guy, he had this trench coat on. And he kind of looked a little, you know, a little rough. I smelled alcohol on his breath. This was at like, nine in the morning. Okay, I knew this guy was a little sketchy, but I didn't pay much attention to him, he was behind me. So every time the line was serpentina, he would sort of get really close to me, like behind me, but almost like he wanted me to shield him, which later I realized it was to shield him from the cameras. Because he was planning on robbing the bank, I didn't realize. So when it was my turn to go up to the teller, I walked up to the teller, I put my deposit up there, and I'm having a conversation with the teller. And I'm very focused on what he's doing. And he's obviously very focused on taking care of me. Meanwhile, the guy behind me the sketchy guy goes up to the window next to me, to my left, and I'm not paying any attention. But I hear lots of people screaming. So I look over and he's brandishing a, what looks to me like probably a 357 Magnum was a pretty large gun, like a four, six inch barrel, something like that. It was nickel plated. And it was it was sizable, and it got the attention of the teller and everybody else in the bank. But I was very focused on my bank transaction. So I wasn't really paying much attention to this. So everybody's screaming, and he grabs the bag of money they gave him and runs out the bank. So within a second or two, the branch manager comes out and locks the door from the inside, so that nobody can get back into the bank. And the guy's literally like, walking, maybe limping even. He didn't have a very, very athletic walk. So he's just kind of like trundling along through the parking lot with this bag of money, no getaway car. I mean, you know, it's like, he's like, the Lone Ranger just kind of walked in, took the money, and he's walking out. So within like two or three minutes, and I'm not exaggerating, a black stationwagon comes flying into the parking lot with federal agents in it, they came into the bank, and they detained all of us for like two hours, and separately interviewed us about the guy. And what we learned was that we all have very, very poor powers of sort of remembering details about people because yeah, I've got the guy in a trench coat, somebody else has got him in khakis, you know. But needless to say, he wasn't a very clever bank robber. And they picked him up within five minutes of this all starting. So during this two hours that were in the bank, they bring the guy in front of the bank sitting in the back of a police car. And each of us took turns going up to the front window to look at him, to identify him to tell the FBI that this guy was in fact the person we saw leaving the bank with the money and no one got hurt, thank god and and it was just a just another footnote, and another exciting year of my life.
Jeff Sterns 24:08
Were you so focused on your transaction that you got all the way through your transaction, or even paying attention to
Jeff Sterns 24:59
You know, but you rally is kind of a tobacco background. I figured that would be that I figure you could still probably smoke in a bank and rally Fraulein
i don't i don't think you could even then. But okay. Needless to say this guy, he was a little nervous because of what he was about to do. And I think he wanted a cigarette to calm his nerves a little bit.
Jeff Sterns 25:15
That is awesome. My dad when he was an independent dealer in Detroit, so this would have been on a street called liver annoy. In Detroit had a little independent lot. This would be mid 60s, late 60s, has a salesman named Joe I remember the guy who takes $100 deposit from a customer on a Friday afternoon on whatever car and then when he's gonna leave for the night he asked my dad if he can keep the $100 like borrow 100 bucks for the weekend. And my dad says yes. Before Joe leaves two robbers come into my dad's office and put a gun in my dad's ear. And I mean when he used to tell the guy dresses so when he used to tell the story, you know, you tell it like it here you know, in his ear. You have a gun on you. They're asking them an empty your pocket, you know, and all and they're complying, complying, complying and of course, Joe's right there and gives the $100 the robbers leave they back out the door. What's the first thing Joe says to my dad when they leave? Whose wondered was that?
This has been Jeff Sterns connected through cars
Luxury sales, Factory Exec, VP
A lifelong car and motorsport enthusiast, Don Heditsian started selling luxury cars while attending college. Since then he's held corporate sales and marketing roles with automotive brands ranging from Volkswagen to Ferrari. Join us for an entertaining discussion as he recounts some his most memorable experiences while working in the Auto Industry.