Our father has been in auto sales for all of our lives and most of his. Following decades of selling cars in Central County, he purchased the Brentwood Dealership in 1972.
Ten years ago, Dad retired from day-to-day operations but remains connected with the business. We miss having him around all the time, but everyone who knew him continually feels his presence. My brother, Jim, and I are Dealer Principals. Jim works with the Sales end of the business; I work with Maintenance and manage Dealer Operations, but we both share oversight of the facility. We meet on a daily basis to discuss issues, challenges, and strategies. We’ve made some substantial changes in mindset, attitudes, management structure, and processes that served to increase sales from 40 vehicles a month to more than 100. It’s always a challenge, however. Each month, after the previous month’s totals are in, no matter how successful we were, we are right back at the starting gate. Business might have boomed but we maintain a Hero to Zero, got-to-do-it-again attitude.
Our sister, Dianna Griffin, has been on the job for three decades, beginning as file clerk, and working her way up through the ranks to her present position as the company’s CFO and Controller. Dianna’s role, as the only female on the management team, is special. “Working with a bunch of men sometimes makes me feel that I’m the head babysitter,” she said. However, she declares (quoting our father) that she’s “having more fun than a train-wreck.” Dianna has to process a lot of paperwork, but said that she has a great crew, most of whom have been working with her for 15 years or more.
The job keeps Dianna, Jim, and I busy since we are, in fact, running four different businesses — Used Cars, New Cars, Parts, and Service. The four of us work together to keep the business floating on an even keel. Issues and problems constantly arise. Dianna likes to say that we have to wear asbestos shoes so we won’t get burned stomping out fires when they arise.
Bill Brandt Ford is a family business and we’re obligated to care for the dealership just as we would care for our own home, taking care of such things as janitorial cleanup, carrying out trash, plus replacing light-bulbs, sprinkler heads, and doorknobs. We regard this more as way of life than as a job.
Dianna spoke for all three of us when she said that she’s proud to be Bill Brandt’s child and enjoys listening to him because he’s an unfailing source of experience and wisdom; he knows how things should be. “Dad’s a straight shooter,” Dianna says. “His handshake has always been his bond.” She said that if she’s ever feeling down, she can still go to him and sit at his side. He will hold her hand, offer the comfort she needs, and speak words of healing and advice that, she said, always clears her internal weather. Dianna recently repainted our dad’s office, doing almost all the work herself. Even though he doesn’t come here much anymore, she won’t let anyone else take his office over. “It’s his forever,” Dianna said.
Beginning in November and through the end of the year, we will be running a Friends and Neighbors discount program that will include no-haggle pricing, piggy-backing off Ford Motor Corp promotions. The program is advertised to be one of the biggest sales events in Ford’s history. However, the promotion isn’t anything remarkable for Bill Brandt Ford because for years we’ve maintained a policy of treating people as friends and family. During purchase and follow-up, we treat our customers in the same way that we would wish to be treated.
At one time or another four dealerships were selling cars in Brentwood. Our dealership is now the sole survivor. If you want to purchase a new vehicle in Brentwood, Bill Brandt Ford is the only place to go. Attention to service is one of the reasons why we have continued to thrive during both high times and low. Our father instilled in us the principle that companies thrive through satisfied customers and not by trying to turn a buck in the easiest way possible.
We count ourselves fortunate to be a member of the East County community and to do whatever we can to give back for the support that has been given to us. At Dad’s urging, I joined Brentwood Rotary Club in 1997 and served as club president in 1999-2000. I’m a big proponent of Rotary’s Service Before Self philosophy, but also appreciate the opportunity of connecting to various parts of the community through my relationship with other Rotarians.
The next generation of Brandts are beginning to come online. Jim married his high school sweetheart in 1978. Their two grown sons are now involved in the business. Thomas (29), who has a degree in Economics, is the Office Manager. His younger brother, Daniel (26), is the Service Administrator and runs the Quick Lane service department. My daughter, Katelyn works part time in the business when not attending school in Chico. They are destined to become the third generation of Brandts who will keep the business in the family after we finished. That will be good!