Michael and Mark Doyle had no intention of making careers out of car sales, but more than two decades after joining their father in the family business, both say they cannot see themselves doing anything else.
“Did I always want to be a car guy? No,” says Mark Doyle, 42.
“You know what it was? It was, ‘I’ll sell cars until I know what I want to do,’ but then you get in and it’s not bad,” adds Michael Doyle, 44.
Mark says that although the automotive industry has had its ups and down, it is a pretty good career.
“I didn’t think I was going to be in this forever. Then you look at some of these people who are traveling salesmen, and they don’t have it easy,” he explains. “Sometimes they’re spending nights in hotels and traveling and getting bumped off airplanes. To not have that is a nice luxury.”
The brothers co-own Doyle Chevrolet Inc., a 70-year-old Webster dealership that ranked 10th on the Rochester Business Journal’s most recent list of auto dealers, having sold 1,776 vehicles in 2007 and posted more than $39 million in sales.
Last year the company reported revenue of roughly $40 million. It employs more than 50 people, down from a peak of roughly 80 before the recession of the early 1990s.
Doyle Chevrolet was founded in 1939 by the brothers’ grandfather, George Doyle. It began its long history as a Studebaker dealership on East Main Street in Rochester. George Doyle later moved the dealership to South Goodman Street and then settled on Court Street as a Chrysler and Plymouth dealer.
George Doyle’s son, John, joined the business, but in 1975 he left his father’s company to open his own store, having purchased a Chevrolet dealership in Webster. In 1999 the Subaru franchise was added. Today the company operates its two franchises from one location in Webster.
John Doyle did not steer any of his six children into the family business, but Mark and Michael Doyle joined in the late 1980s after both having had summer jobs with other companies in landscaping and other work.
“Like every second- or third-generation (car dealer) kid, I cleaned up the service department. That was my first job,” Michael recalls. “It’s good just to get a sense for what goes on around the dealership.”
Mark also started his career at the dealership in fixed operations, washing cars, cleaning the service department and working as a service writer.
“You’re right on the ground floor, dealing with customers,” he says. “It just gives you a great appreciation of what goes on.”
And while that may not have been the dream job, it was essential to learning the business, the brothers say.
“The other thing is, you hopefully gain the respect of the employees that you’re working alongside of, and they see that we do the same things they do,” Mark says.
The Doyles continue to be active both on the sales floor and in the service department, he adds. “They see us emptying the garbage or sweeping or doing any of the things they would do. I think it makes us more approachable.”
The two bought into the company roughly five years ago. In their jobs as co-owners Michael focuses more on sales and advertising, while Mark’s responsibilities lie primarily on the back end in service, parts and operations.
John Doyle continues to be involved in the dealership and during the summer goes into the office every Monday.
“He’s always going to be involved with the business,” Michael Doyle says. “His office will always be his office.”
Given the current economic climate and the state of the automotive industry, the Doyles say their short-term goals include keeping their heads above water and focusing on their customers and their employees.
“I don’t think we’re looking more than a month out, not today,” Mark says of the dealership’s sales predictions and goals. “You just don’t know.”
When GMAC Financial Services LLC stopped offering leasing last year, many dealerships were affected. More than a quarter of Doyle’s Chevrolet business was leasing. While the dealership still can offer leases through some local banks, many financial institutions are insisting on better credit ratings than in the past.
“That really hurt, and we’re definitely still having problems getting people financed,” Mark Doyle says. “You do see 10 or 15 percent still not being able to purchase a vehicle. So that has definitely affected us a little bit, no doubt.”
Some customers are reluctant because of what is going on at the country’s Big Three auto manufacturers. And many customers are unaware that they still can lease vehicles or seek financing on their own.
The current recession and the recession of the early 1990s have been the biggest challenges the Doyles have faced at the dealership. During the 1990s, John Doyle also had gotten into the boat business.
“As soon as they got into the boat business, the boat business tanked,” Mark recalls. “That was probably 18 months of difficult times and probably close to going out of business.”
But the company persevered and the Doyles learned from the experience, including the important lesson of how to operate lean.
“You just learn to make better use of your people and find out you don’t need as many people as you thought you did,” Michael Doyle says. “To have our dad around as a mentor or adviser kind of helps with that. He’s done this all his life.”
Long-term goals for the dealership include possible expansion through acquisition of another franchise. The company has 15 acres, and the Doyles say they have no plans to leave Webster.
“We’re very fortunate because Webster has grown a lot, so we’ve been lucky that way,” Mark says.
Michael adds: “We’re here for the long haul. In the short term it’s going to be tough, but we can survive.”
The dealership’s location is an advantage, they say, because of the abundance of nearby residential areas, proximity to major employers such as Xerox Corp. and the construction of several stores that have brought more people into the area.
The Doyles tend not to worry too much about the competition because of the company’s reputation and name, Mark says. They want to avoid overzealous or in-your-face advertising.
“If you need us, we’re here,” Michael says of their preferred style, and they would rather cultivate relationships with clients. “We don’t want to sell you one car; we want to sell you lots of cars.”
The customer’s view of the dealership is more important to them than what the manufacturer thinks, he adds. “We run with customer money; that’s how we operate,” he says. “We don’t run with manufacturers’ money.”
Owners and operators
Mark Doyle says what sets the dealership apart from competitors is Doyle Chevrolet’s involved owners.
“(We) are here every day, so you have a hands-on ownership,” he says. “Typically with meetings or different training events, if one is away the other one is here.”
But even when they cannot be in the office, the dealership runs smoothly, Michael Doyle adds.
“If we’re not here, our employees know how we want the customer to be treated,” he says.
Teamwork is emphasized, Mark Doyle says, because without it the company will not function successfully.
“I still believe you’re only as good as your people,” he says. “Those are who the people see every day and work for you every day. So without them you don’t have anything.”
Office manager Paula Coe has been with the company 17 years and says she sees some of the same customers on the showroom floor now that she saw when she was hired.
“I think we all want to make the customers happy and everybody wants to do well at their own individual job,” Coe says.
The company prides itself on the longevity of its employees, as well as its loyal, repeat customers, the Doyles say.
“Some of (our customers) come in just to talk,” Michael Doyle says. “They’re not here to buy a car. They’re not here to get their car fixed. But they feel like they can just come in and shoot the breeze with whomever. We’re pretty laid back here.”
As for their leadership style, the brothers say they do not believe in micromanaging.
“We let our managers pretty much run their own departments, so we’re hands-off in that aspect,” Mark Doyle says. “I always say to my managers, ‘I want you to run that department.’ Otherwise I would be doing the job.”
The Doyles encourage an open-door policy, dispatcher Richard Moscato says.
“If you have any questions about anything, you can always go talk to them,” says the 25-year veteran of the dealership. “Or if you have comments or suggestions. It’s a friendly atmosphere.”
Patrick Pacitti has worked in commercial sales at the dealership since 2000 and has known the Doyle family for four decades. He calls the brothers sincere, compassionate and understanding.
Coe adds that the brothers’ personalities play well off each other and both are easy to talk to.
“I think we’re likeable guys,” Michael Doyle says of the duo’s strengths. “We don’t put ourselves way up above anybody else. Some owners maybe aren’t approachable and they want it that way.”
Mark says his weakness is that sometimes he shoots from the hip.
“I don’t hold back. I say things that I should think about more,” he acknowledges.
“Mine is probably the opposite,” Michael says. “I don’t do enough of that.”
But that’s how they complement each other, Mark says.
What makes the job interesting and exciting is that each day is different, the brothers say.
“You come in here and it’s not scripted. You come in and you don’t know what’s going to happen next,” Mark Doyle says. “There’s always a different scenario.”
Another interesting benefit of being in the car business, he says, is the Doyles’ ability to talk to anyone, anywhere.
“Whether it’s a holiday party or wherever you’re at socially, you have a common bond with people because they can talk to you about cars and you’re never at a loss for words,” he says.
One of the more trying aspects of being a business owner is the inability to satisfy a customer, no matter how hard you try, Michael Doyle says. Slow periods can be equally frustrating.
“When it’s quiet, when it’s slow, you can’t make sales happen,” he says. “You can’t force the market.”
Some customers have the misperception that dealerships are a direct line to a manufacturer, Mark says.
“Unfortunately a lot of our business is out of our control,” he says. “We are not owned by the manufacturers, and that’s the perception people have, that we’re Chevrolet or we’re Subaru. And we’re not. We’re just an independent broker. If we could wave a magic wand and get your problems fixed, we would.”
Off the job
The brothers were born and raised in the Rochester area.
Mark Doyle lives with his wife, Amy, and two daughters, Jenna, 10, and Meghan, 8, in Pittsford. Michael Doyle also lives in Pittsford with his wife, Julie, and their four sons, Mac, 20, Hunter, 12, Gunnar, 11, and Quinn, 9.
Both brothers describe their favorite memories as spending summers at the family’s property in the Adirondack Mountains when they were young. Though Pontiac Lodge burned down some time ago, the Doyles continue to take their own families camping on the property.
John Doyle was athletic in his youth, his sons say, and it is a trait that has been handed down to Michael, Mark and their sisters, as well as their children. Mark Doyle recently was inducted into McQuaid Jesuit High School’s Athletic Hall of Fame for hockey, and he also is an avid golfer.
“Mark has a lot of humility,” longtime friend Jeffry Amoroso says. “He’s a very humble guy who has been successful throughout his life, through athletics and business, and with that he maintains a tremendous level of humility.”
Michael Doyle is involved in coaching his sons’ athletic teams and enjoys traveling with his family.
Jed Hanna has known the Doyles for three decades and has purchased several vehicles from the dealership. He calls Michael low-key, calm and centered.
“Whatever personality you glean from the commercials on TV, that’s who he is,” Hanna says. “He’s just a nice guy.”
Amoroso notes the strong family ties among the Doyles.
“(Mark) is a big family guy,” he says. “That comes from his parents. It was a lot of fun to grow up and be around the Doyles.”
Michael’s family is what keeps him going each day, he says.
“They’re the ones that I get up every day to go to work and try to provide for,” he says. “I’ve got a great wife, great kids. Other than that, what else do you need?”
Mark Doyle adds: “Family is very important. And obviously all our values have come from my mom and my dad and what they believe in. Now we see what they’ve done and what they provided. I think we’re just trying to do that and keep the values: be honest and treat everybody with respect.”
“Life would be pretty simple if everybody treated each other how they wanted to be treated-employees, customers, family, friends,” Michael Doyle says.
firstname.lastname@example.org / 585-546-8303
Title: Co-owner, Doyle Chevrolet Inc.
Family: Wife Julie; sons Mac, 20, Hunter, 12, Gunnar, 11, and Quinn, 9
Interests: Family, coaching youth athletics, travel
Quote: “Life would be pretty simple if everybody treated each other how they wanted to be treated-employees, customers, family, friends.”
Title: Co-owner, Doyle Chevrolet Inc.
Education: Rochester Institute of Technology, B.S., business, 1991
Family: Wife Amy; daughters Jenna, 10, and Meghan, 8
Interests: Family, golf, camping
Quote: “I still believe you’re only as good as your people. Those are who the people see every day and work for you every day. So without them you don’t have anything.”
02/27/2009 (C) Rochester Business Journal