When most people think of our country’s heartland, they picture open prairies and golden fields of grain, hard work and rustic communities, simplicity and honesty. A bit of a “small town” feel.
Certainly that exists. But it doesn’t mean that many Midwest cities aren’t also growing at a good clip.
Kansas City is one such city. And according to U.S. Census Bureau data, the KC Metro Area’s growth is due to migration, not to more babies being born than people dying (the latter being the main reason why some of America’s biggest cities, including New York and Los Angeles, continue to grow). From 2007 to 2017, the population of Kansas City’s downtown more than quadrupled, making it the sixth-fastest-growing downtown in America.
Bobby Hewlett III and his family have seen a lot of changes to the city and surrounding neighborhoods in the past decades as they’ve served the area’s automotive needs.
Amidst the growing city, one thing that hasn’t changed is the Hewletts’ honest approach to business and dedication to the customer.
The Dealer Makes the Difference
Some of Bobby Hewlett’s fondest childhood memories were made at the dealership. Beginning at the age of 8, he would tag along with his dad to work so that he could help out with maintenance chores like mowing the lawn.
“It was then I think I got the bug,” Hewlett says. “I don’t know if it was watching people drive off the lot in their new cars, the balloons and the popcorn … it was really just the excitement of the overall atmosphere that I was attracted to.”
It didn’t take long for the young Hewlett to notice his father’s strong work ethic. In 1978, his father bought the family’s first dealership. It was then that his father coined and lived out the quote that you’ll still hear him say today: “All Fords are created equal; it’s the dealer who makes a difference, and that’s the truth.”
Today, there are 11 Ford dealerships in the KC Metro Area. Hewlett serves as Vice President and Dealer Principal of Metro Ford in Independence, Mo., KC’s neighbor to the east. His brother, Brad Hewlett, is Dealer Principal of Bob Allen Ford in Overland Park, Kansas, to the south. Bobby Hewlett’s son, Bobby Hewlett IV, is now working as a sales consultant with him at Metro Ford.
All in the family: Hewlett is pictured here with his son, Bobby Hewlett IV, a Sales Consultant on the Metro Ford team.
“Not many people get to go to work and be with their family every day,” Hewlett says. “I had the opportunity to learn firsthand from my father about the ins and outs of the business, and I’m excited to do the same with my son Bobby as he begins his career.”
To the Hewlett family, standing out as a preferred dealership means providing the very best customer experience.
Metro Ford has a popular, engaging Facebook page – something that’s not always easy to establish. Hewlett attributes its success to the dealership’s long-standing focus on the customer.
“Most of our Facebook growth has been organic; our relationships have influenced our likes and reviews,” he says. “People trust their friends and family, so it’s a good medium to grow our business.”
There are posts of cars and trucks that just arrived, of customers who just bought a new car, of goings-on at the dealership and in the community, and of fun trivia, such as this recent post: “The only car that Jim Morrison, legendary Doors singer, ever owned was a 1967 Shelby GT 500!” with a picture of the Lizard King sitting on the hood of his car. Their post for “Love a Tree Day” in May got 58 likes, eight comments, and one share in less than 24 hours.
Service technician George Queener has been an associate with Metro Ford since 1993.
But even with its popularity, Metro Ford’s Facebook isn’t the team’s number-one place for growing relationships, Hewlett says. That would be the service lane.
“Service is everything. That is where we really connect with our customers. A sale can be a one-time deal, but service is how we keep customers coming back and build that relationship,” he says.
Metro Ford highly values its service technicians. In a competitive market where techs can get a job just about anywhere, building and investing in talent is important.
“We recruit and keep our staff by investing in them and growing them from entry-level positions. Most of our employees started out sweeping floors and dumping trash, and through the years we coach and train the ones who embody our principles to excel within the company,” Hewlett says.
The team also invests in data technology to improve the customer’s experience in the service lane. AutoAlert’s Service Lead Management tool allows them to identify the customers who could find a better value by upgrading their vehicle, providing an additional level of service through personalized options.
The Excitement Continues …
It might not be popcorn and balloons that excite Hewlett today, but he still gets immense satisfaction to see happy customers drive off the lot after an excellent service or sales experience. He considers it the most rewarding part of his job.
“All the families that we help provide for – through the purchase of a car, or repairing someone’s car so that they can get to work, or pick their kids up at soccer practice safely … there is so much more that goes into a dealership than just the sale of a car,” Hewlett says. “The ability to do the right thing for our customers, our employees, and the community has always been and will always be our main priority.”
Hewlett also feels lucky to have a brother in town who is also DP of a dealership, so they can bounce ideas off each other and provide other support. The two are very close and talk via mobile a couple of times every day.
Hewlett says that his love of his job is a big reason why he’s found success.
“First thing, you have to love what you are doing, who you’re working with, and the product you’re selling,” he says. “We love it when we see the grandchildren of our customers purchasing or servicing their cars with us – we know we have done a great job.”