Nice Guy Finishes First: The Back Story – The Car Years

Joseph Levy, Jr., Chairman of Levy Venture Management

Joe went on to run dealerships from coast to coast and is still involved in dealership real estate today.  About 30 years ago Joe’s plan to build a new dealership in Burnsville, Minnesota met with some resistance from the Burnsville mayor who did not want another dealership in town.  Not to be daunted, Joe sponsored a $1000 prize for local architecture students to design a compelling, cutting-edge building that would inspire the mayor to approve it.  A painting of the solar panel, wind turbine, earth berm building that won mayoral approval still hangs in the halls of Joe’s offices.  There was such interest and excitement in the building that Joe sold it for three times his investment even before the building was finished.

Joe had winning strategies to keep customers happy.  If a customer ever had a problem or issue with a car they bought from Joe, Joe would offer to lend them his car or his wife’s car until the problem could be resolved – a genuine gesture that won him staunch loyalty.  When Buick came out with the Wildcat model in 1963, Joe loaned some to Northwestern University Wildcat coaches and faculty and was rewarded with nationwide record sales of the model.

A young Michael Krasny met with Joe some 29 years ago with hopes to buy a dealership that Joe had for sale.  Joe explained that he already sold the dealership, but spent some time discussing Krasny’s dreams. Krasny says he was afraid that Joe would encourage him to rejoin his family business but was pleasantly surprised when Joe offered his support and encouragement to making his own path. Joe analogized his leaving his father’s dealership to Krasny leaving his father’s business. This encouragement became the needed stimulus for Krasny to continue to pursue his own success. Ten years later Krasny asked Joe to be a founding board member of Krasny’s newly public CDW, previously known as Computer Discount Warehouse. Today CDW is an $8 billion dollar operation.

Have you had an experience with Joe?  Tell us about it in the comments section below.  Or, if someone has mentored you or given you advice that has made you a success, let us know that as well.

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