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Nelson Ford drives boldly into the future
After a year in the background, Russell Stocks is once again at the helm of Nelson Ford.
His role as general manager changed after the dealership became part of the Go Auto Group in late 2009, which now consists of 22 stores across western Canada.
“All the local partners were bought out, including myself,” he says. “It took us some time to figure out who we are and how we make this fit in our community.”
For the last year, he drew on his accounting background to work primarily as controller.
“I looked at the longer-term strategic direction and gave up the day-to-day. It was nice to go home and spend time with my family. But ultimately the fact we weren’t having the success we should made me miss being more hands-on.”
Stocks is now in the process of buying back into the dealership and has returned to his old job. Customers probably won’t notice any difference, he says, but he hopes it instills confidence in the business.
Following the restructuring, 2011 is looking like a banner year for Nelson Ford — sales are up 40 per cent over last year, with all-time sales highs set in April.
“This month is not even close to over and it looks like we’re going to break many of our all-time records in May,” Stocks says. “You have to take a step backwards sometimes to take a step forward.”
Stocks has lived in Nelson for over 16 years, and his wife is third generation born and raised.
He came to town fresh out of accounting school and went to work at the Lord Nelson Hotel, where his father was a partner. He later joined the Prestige Inn when it first opened, and was brought in as controller at Nelson Ford in 2000.
An automotive group bought the dealership three years later, and merged in late 2009 with the Ericksen group of Edmonton to become Go Auto.
“We’re one of the largest privately held auto groups in Canada,” Stocks says. “With the size of the group behind us we have access to an unbelievable amount of inventory. Size does matter. Our large scale purchasing power affords us the opportunity to offer the best selection and best price.”
Nelson Ford employs 23 people, and Stocks says he tries to foster a sense of fun while still getting the job done. For instance, in April he took 22 pies to the face and paraded in front of the dealership in a bunny costume after the staff beat him in a contest.
“We expect our staff to work hard for customers but we have some fun while doing it,” he says. “It rubs off on the customer. They certainly notice when we’re having fun and doing what we love.”
Although for the most part, customers are already in a pretty good mood when they come in.
“There’s nothing more exciting for many people than getting a new car. That’s the satisfying part — to see them happy when they’re leaving.”