As I was turning 16 and preparing to get my driver’s license, I had to get a job to cover gas and car insurance. My parents didn’t care what I did, but I had to cover those two things before getting the keys to my 1992 blue Chevy Corsica.
I knew I didn’t want to work retail, so my mom drove me around to different businesses and I asked if they needed any clerical help. She stayed in the car while I went in to ask.
One of the places I went to was a Buick dealership on the east side of Indianapolis. I remember walking in to what I would later learn was called “The Tower.”
Anyway, I walked up, mind you I’m not even 5’3″ and I’m sure I looked like an infant. I eagerly approach a man named Tim, that to me seemed like he was 7′ tall with white hair and a stern voice and asked them if they were hiring. I don’t remember how the conversation went, but it lead to me filling out a job application. He’d see what he could do.
I’m not sure how much longer it was after filling out an application, but they had something for me a couple doors down at their “buy here, pay here” store called “Best Car.”
I met with my first manager there, Demond, who needed help making calls. I’d realize later those calls were all on old leads.
I sat in a small office with windows on both sides of me, facing the showroom. He gave me a stack of papers and it was my goal to set appointments for people to look at cars. For anyone that came in I’d get I think $15 and anyone that bought I car, I would get an additional $25–on top of whatever I was making per hour.
Pretty sweet first gig, right?
Well…. it turned out to be quite interesting.
I had a lot of people hang up on me, yell at me, weren’t interested, let me know the person was dead… but I did get some people in the door.
After a few months, a new manager came in. Kevin.
While I kept calling leads, he brought me up front with him at the front desk. He was quiet and very intelligent. I wasn’t sure what to think of him at first, but shortly after he came in, he started to teach me about finance. During down time, he taught me how to pull and read credit reports.
From learning about what the credit score ranges meant, to actually delving into the details of credit reports from the three different places (Equifax, Trans Union and Experian), Kevin spent a lot of time teaching me what he looked for and what banks to send customers to based on their credit.
It wasn’t like “here’s what I do,” and that was it.
Kevin was incredibly patient and went over things with me in full detail. He’d even quiz me here and there, but I’d never feel intimidated. I quickly realized how important this was for my future to know about credit. I’m incredibly fortunate.
But Kevin wasn’t just patient and caring with me, he was with everyone. We were at the “buy here, pay here” lot, so a majority of our customers had credit issues.
If a customer came in with terrible credit, instead of turning them away, he’d help give them goals to work towards. They’d have a game plan to get a car. It might have seemed like a lot, but they knew how much they needed down and anything else they needed to do.
As time went on, not only did Kevin care about me constantly learning at work, but made sure I kept up on my homework too. If we were having a slow night and were all caught up on work, he’d tell me to work on homework. Or he’d just have me study if he could handle things on his own.
School always came first.
And as most people know, car dealerships can be intimidating places. Sales people work on commission so they are generally aggressive people. And dealerships are full of men.
I was fortunate that Kevin and many of my other coworkers in the family of dealerships (which was actually called “Family Auto”) watched out for me. It was clear that I was a very young girl and people needed to be respectful.
Kevin could have kept me in an office calling old leads, but instead, took a chance on me. But he would have on anyone. That’s just who he was. He was thoughtful and thorough with everyone he worked with.
I had another coworker there, just a year older than me that came on after I’d been there for awhile and he taught her the ropes of the industry. He also took the time with all of our sales people too so they knew what he looked for, what to bring him, etc. It was team effort. We didn’t work for him, we worked with him.
I remember a lot of the time on Saturdays to keep momentum going, we’d blow up balloons and he’d blast the radio. Which you wouldn’t expect out of a short, man in his 50s with glasses.
And he loved Pink. Loved Pink. He’d turn it up even more when Pink came on.
All this time over a couple years, Kevin always made sure I kept learning. Once I knew I had a grasp on one thing, it was on to the next.
After working there a few years, not only was I submitting applications to the appropriate banks, but I was working with him and customers to let them know what they qualified for. Then, I even started to print out paper work once they bought a car and went through the signature process.
Kevin taught me what every form meant, and how to answer any questions I might be approached with about them.
I spent some time sitting with him and customers to go through paperwork, and then eventually he turned me on my own. He was always nearby, but he trusted me, a 17/18-year-old, to work with people, often people much, much older than me.
And I’m fortunate that the customers were always great, because I know it had to have been strange having a kid walk you through your paperwork with you.
But Kevin didn’t see me, or my other young coworker at the time, as “some young kid.”
I was no different than the millennials we complain about today. I was a millennial then, but we weren’t called millennials. Instead of being annoyed to have to teach a teenager in the office, he embraced it. While I had to put in the work, he had respect for me.
Today, the older generations, and even mine (myself included), easily assume the cons of the millennials and Gen-Zers when having to work with them. It’s easy to just assume they’re all stubborn and expect the world to be handed to them because of the bad apples. While it’s true for some, it’s not for all.
Kevin saw the potential in me, and to this day now that I’m working with people that are 10-15 years younger than me, I try to do the same.
It didn’t really occur to me until now that maybe that’s where that comes from.
I’m fortunate to have had several great managers along the way, and I truly have Kevin to thank for that start. He taught me about professionalism, life, patience and so much more… all at a buy here, pay here car dealership on the east side of Indianapolis.
The summer that I graduated high school and was going on to college, and Kevin and I worked together for a couple years, he moved to another dealership on the north side of the city.
I followed him there.
The drive and traffic ended up being horrendous, and the hours were much longer. It would literally take 30 minutes to get across the street. As a new freshman in college, excited about school, I thought it would be easier to work on campus and decided to leave.
It was sad for us both.
At that point he wasn’t just a boss, but he was family. I was walking away from a very comfortable job and role… but he was 100 percent supportive of my decision and even kept teaching and quizzing me in my last couple weeks.
After that, Kevin and I somewhat kept in touch. Not a ton, though. And a few years ago we friended each other on Facebook, but still didn’t talk much. Life happens and the next thing you know, years have gone by. It’s never intentional, it’s just… life.
I found out this morning that Kevin passed away.
Instinctively, I went through all the things I wished I probably should have said over the last 10 or so years we haven’t worked together.
He was a smart man, so I’m sure he knows what he meant to me and other people.
But he probably didn’t know that several of the things he taught me, and his incredible level of patience, has stayed with me to this day.
When I work with interns or even older people that are learning new things for the first time, I channel what he saw in me and try to do the same.
I realize not everyone is fortunate to have a Kevin in their life to mentor them and get them off to a great start working. I’m forever thankful for that.
While our career aspirations were completely different, he taught me that in any work place, you need to work hard, be respectful and to always keep learning.
All of these things I try to do, and encourage you too as well.
So here’s to you KP. Thank you for everything.