Mechanic Apprentice Harrison Whelen (L) learns about the expansion plans from G.M. Jim Tabler
His first full-time job involved stocking auto parts in the small community of Princeton. Even though he feels he ‘stumbled’ into the business his life has been a journey on the automotive road.
Princeton didn’t offer much to a young man full of ambition so he headed to Penticton and an entry-level job at Parker’s Chrysler Dodge Jeep where he’s reached the top spot in this family-owned business. Tabler was tapped by family matriarch Janet Parker to assume the general manager role, replacing a family-member who had stepped aside prior to his untimely passing.
Over the years he had worked in all areas of the business, gaining invaluable experience and demonstrating a strong work ethic and a capacity for implementing improvements in each area he managed. This background, coupled with his steady approach, generated the trust Parker was looking for in a new general manager. He’s not let her down.
True to his roots, he put his stamp on the enterprise by currently expanding the parts and service unit at the dealership which is a stalwart of the Penticton business scene. But his vision for the dealership is to strengthen its community base, by contributing to charities and helping residents of the city he lives in.
“Focusing on the community. I wanted to see our reputation changed, to one more focused on satisfied customers and where we had the respect of the community,” he explains.
“We’ve changed the way we sell vehicles. It’s not so much about profitability but about getting people into vehicles.”
His typical days involves working closely with his five direct reports, interacts with those people when they meet with their departments and feel the pulse of the business or to be available to answer questions only the boss can handle.
“The most rewarding achievement in my new role is to change the way we sell vehicles. I want transparency, which people buy vehicles because of what they see and they’re happy with the way we’ve handled the deal. There’s nothing better than finding the best deal in your own home community.”
This has led to a strategy predicated on lower profitability per transaction but increased volume. The manufacturers are happy with that philosophy. So, not surprisingly, are buyers. It is a winning combination.
The strong relationship between buyer and seller that his vision has generated has led him to invest heavily in the people who are delivering on his promise.
The firm is aggressively pursuing apprentices while pushing his experienced personnel to continually learn – to undertake the latest training available. “We hope we can retain these talented people through this. Fortunately we live in a community where people want to stay.”
While experience and history are critical to anyone in a decision-making role, Tabler is a strong believer in finding an environment to test those ideas or his response to the issue-of-the-day. His go-to venues are peer groups: one sees him sitting across the table from other dealers, the other is a local group of business people who come from varied commercial operations.
“Having both is important,” Tabler says. “One gives me the industry viewpoint, the other provides a broader perspective with people from a wide array of businesses. Sometimes these folks have already dealt with the issue I’m facing or sometimes they can just talk like a customer, providing the insight of those in my marketplace. You better yourself and you better your business.”