Many businesses experienced the nightmare of furloughing
their employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Garvey
Hyundai was no exception. Marc Garvey, co-owner of
Hyundai dealerships throughout Upstate New York, described
the day he had to lay off 112 employees as, “One of the worst
days of my life.”
To Garvey, his employees are like family so giving them the devastating news was not something he took lightly. But he always views the glass as half full and believes that it takes no more energy to be positive then it does to be negative. That mentality shaped his response to the pandemic. Instead of focusing on the negative, he looked to the future when he could open the dealerships’ doors again.
Garvey’s familial attitude towards his employees might be because the Garvey Auto Group is a business he started with his brothers. He opened his first dealership with his brother Peter in 1978. At the time Marc was a college student but he decided to take a break to see if he might have a future selling cars. After getting a loan from their grandfather — their parents declined — and applying for credit cards to help pay for expenses, the brothers opened a Volkswagen dealership in Glens Falls. Brother Sean joined the business six months later and Marc never returned to his studies.
Since then, Marc and Sean bought Peter’s share of the business so he could retire. Forty-two years later you can still find members of the Garvey family working at their various locations.
Perhaps one of the reasons Marc could stay positive during the recent shutdown was because Garvey Hyundai has been so successful. Its location, on Tom Miller Road in Plattsburgh, is the second largest dealership in the area in volume and in used cars. Since Hyundais are not ranked in the top two best-sellers nationally, it is remarkable that the dealership ranks so high locally. “We have double the market share we should have,” Marc noted. Although the future was uncertain, Marc knew his business was resilient and he was used to adapting to the automobile industry that is constantly changing.
Despite the pandemic, business has been good which Marc attributed to three factors. First, there were people who were already planning to buy a car. Garvey Hyundai also aggressively conquested sales from competitors which helped its numbers. Additionally, people were able to rebound from unemployment and the economic shutdown because of the strong economy leading up to the pandemic. “There was more money in the economy than we were led to believe,” Marc claimed.
It was also a great time to buy a car. Manufacturers offered cheap leases and low APR financing as incentives. But part of the Garvey’s success was also due to his willingness to adapt and the decision to acquire a large inventory of used cars early on in the pandemic. Sixty days after COVID-19 hit New York State there was a shortage of used cars but Garvey Hyundai was able to increase its stock from 40 to 125. In September the dealership experienced its best month in used car sales proving the decision was paying off.
At the beginning of the pandemic, manufacturers were pushing automobile dealers to sell cars online but, according to Marc, that approach just doesn’t work. After exchanging over 30 emails and phone calls with a sales representative that required hours of work, a customer decided he wanted a completely different car once he arrived to pick up his new vehicle. Most customers need to touch and test drive vehicles before they purchase them because of the multiple options available.
While an experience like that would leave most people frustrated, Marc continued to focus on the positive and put his energy into going above and beyond to create a safe environment for his customers and employees. Besides following state guidelines, all facilities are cleaned daily and masks are required for both customers and employees even when outdoors. Instead of resisting the new normal, Marc used that energy to prepare to reopen. “Give me my parameters and I’ll make it safe and I’ll make it work,” he explained.
One more reason why Garvey Hyundai has done so well the past few months could be attributed to how Marc treats his employees, showing his gratitude by immediately rehiring everyone once he received a Paycheck Protection Program loan from the federal government under the CARES Act. As a cancer survivor, he is also understanding of his employees who were scared to come back to work and if anyone asked for time off or for help, he gave it to them.
Marc also takes employees’ mental health seriously. Everybody was on edge and nervous about the uncertain future so he asked his daughter Shannon, who has a Master’s degree in Psychology for advice. “An employee needs to feel comfortable, safe and secure,” he emphasized. That’s also why Marc’s office is always open and employees can text him with concerns. “You have to be available to your employees if you want your business to work,” he emphasized. Weekly meetings give staff the opportunity to voice their concerns. “People need a leader to assure them it will be okay.”
While it was difficult getting some of Garvey Hyundai employees to return to work because of extra unemployment benefits, Marc was amazed by the number who were willing to return. “They showed loyalty beyond belief,” he recalled with pride. To show his appreciation for that loyalty Marc gave bonuses several times during the pandemic to all employees and catered lunches occasionally. He was also willing to accommodate employees who needed to work remotely because he understands that family comes first. By creating a safe environment for his employees, being available to them and showing his appreciation, Marc is doing something right because he has more employees now than before the pandemic and currently has 15 job openings.
Although Marc Garvey is a social person and misses the congratulatory handshakes and hugs we all used to take for granted, he still views the glass as half full and is ready to accept the new normal. “If anyone tells you it’s easy, they’re lying to you,” he explained. “But you have to adapt. You have to work with change and accept it and do the best you can.”
Tom Miller Road
Plattsburgh, NY 12901