It didn’t take Jillian Zellner long to discover where she would build a career, and gain a family.
I was a senior in high school with electives to kill, so I registered for a class that was similar to home economics but without the terrible-tasting cookies or puppet sewing. We learned about opening checking accounts, balancing checkbooks, and preparing our taxes, and explored businesses and career options. There was a two-week period during which we visited several businesses and learned their operations. I honestly don’t remember any of them except one: Earnhardt Dodge in Gilbert, Arizona, which in its heyday was the largest Dodge dealership in the world.
They took us around the store and then ushered us into a conference room. The room was plain, with brown ceramic tile, a couple of fold-out tables, and several rows of plastic chairs. We all took a seat and patiently waited for another boring presentation about the joys of adulting.
A few minutes passed and in walked a middle-aged man. He was dressed in a tan suit with shiny brown shoes and carried a little bit of a pot belly. He introduced himself as some sort of manager and said we would get to be a part of their weekly sales meeting.
One by one, 20 or so young men in slacks and buttoned-up shirts shuffled into the room and took a seat or a lean against the back wall. Mr. Manager shifted some items around the front of the room and then brought out a large, multicolored wheel-of-fortune type wheel. Then he started talking: He was loud and excited and speaking fast, but clear. A woman in a long skirt walked from the back of the room and handed Mr. Manager a bank bag and a single piece of paper. This is when the fun started.
Mr. Manager called a select few up to the front of the room. Starting with what I realized was last place of the winners and proceeding down his list as the cheers and praise got louder. Mark sold 18 units this month—he gets to spin the wheel TWICE! Mark shuffled up to the front with an “I know I’m good” look on his face. He spins the wheel and eagerly collects his bonus. As Mr. Manager is counting crisp bills into Mark’s hand, I remember thinking, “WOW, how fun would it be to work at a place like this?”
That day I got way more than a lesson in home economics; I found my passion, and it’s been paying off ever since. I left there knowing that I was going to work in a dealership. I applied to every store I could think of until I finally landed a job. Years later, I would still be working at that exact store. Fourteen years later, and I still love this industry as much as the day I entered it. I don’t believe there is another industry with more interesting or passionate people. The automotive family was in my wedding, has watched my family grow, and has supported me through the good times and bad. I wouldn’t trade this family for any other.