A Special Invite From Owner, Michael Martin – Podcast Ep. 1

August 30th, 2018 by


JC 00:01 All right, so JC here, happy afternoon on a beautiful Wednesday in beautiful Flagstaff, Arizona. I’m sitting here with Mr. Michael Martin, owner of Mercedes-Benz of Flagstaff. So he was kind enough to give me a little bit of his time and we’re going to be talking today about something that I think is uber exciting. I happen to be looking out at the most beautiful Mercedes-Benz dealership in Flagstaff, I mean this place is just an absolute gorgeous mausoleum. So, say hello Mr. Martin.
Michael Martin 00:36 Hello, everyone. Michael Martin, Mercedes-Benz of Flagstaff, Martin Automotive Group.
JC 00:40 So what I want to talk about today is, we got some pretty exciting stuff coming, right?
Michael Martin 00:46 Yep.
JC 00:45 So you have a ribbon cutting coming, right? Ceremony, right?
Michael Martin 00:48 We do. Absolutely.
JC 00:49 So talk to me a little bit about that.
Michael Martin 00:50 So we have our grand opening which is September 21, 2018, a few weeks away. 5:00 to 8:00. We’re looking to really have a grand opening celebration. We’re the only luxury brand in Flagstaff, Arizona which we’re excited about.
JC 01:05 Very cool.
Michael Martin 01:07 And we built a brand new dealership, brand new store, service, everything ground up. It’s just been quite the undertaking. So we’re excited about letting everybody know, bringing everybody out here, inviting everyone, and just getting it going.
Michaael Martin and company building Mercedes-Benz of Flagstaff from the ground up
JC 01:19 Awesome, man. So who’s invited? Who’s coming? All the bigwigs, man? All the big guys in the city?
Michael Martin 01:23 All the bigwigs in town, we’ve got–
JC 01:27 We’re going to be rubbing elbows?
Michael Martin 01:28 –dignitaries coming in.
JC 01:30 Dignitaries?
Michael Martin 01:31 We’ve got the mayor coming in, we’ve got– I’ll tell you one thing that’s really special about that, is that it is the national POW/MIA recognition day is September 21st, so our goal is to be able to recognize some POWs that are local on that particular day as well. So, I mean, that surpasses any and everything that we can do, and any and everything that’s going to be invited, I mean, those are going to be the real special people that have come, that have sacrificed for this country and for our ability to even be here. So that’s a big deal for us.
JC 01:58 So safe to say that– I don’t even have to ask this question but safe to say, definitely a military friendly establishment, your group as a whole–
Michael Martin 02:08 Absolutely.
JC 02:09 –definitely supports the entire military space, right?
Michael Martin 02:12 Absolutely, my father-in-law was a military veteran for years, served in a couple different world wars. And so our family is well behind that and it means everything that we’re– it’s given us our opportunity to be here, at the end of the day. Like they always say, freedom isn’t free. Someone had to fight for it. So we’re glad to be here [crosstalk] sacrifice.
JC 02:30 That is fantastic, man. So I’ve got to tell you, Think Creative is also obviously very military influential and we’re very much respectful of that and it’s nice to know when we align, right? That’s obviously important to you, right? All right, so we’re going to be rubbing elbows with some pretty important people. So I’ll make sure that I bring my pocket square and my nice tie.
Michael Martin 02:49 Sounds good, sounds good.
JC 02:50 So that’d be good? So I think that I’ll be in a suit that day, guys.
Michael Martin 02:51 All right. We’re looking forward to it.
JC 02:51 In a suit. I haven’t worn a suit in about 13 years, we’ll see how that goes. Not sure I can fit in any of them by the way, but we’ll give it a shot.
Michael Martin 02:57 Well, we can get you a tailor in, get you–
JC 02:59 Is that what it is?
Michael Martin 02:59 it’s weight and everything, [we’ll] get you a smaller suit.
JC 03:00 All right. Fair enough. All right, yeah. Fair enough.
Michael Martin 03:02 They still make them in boys 8-20.
JC 03:04 I get it. I’m good, I’m good. I’m good. I’m going to look straight. All right. So beyond that right, so talk to me a little bit about– so we talk about MAG right, and I think sometimes individual dealerships get lost in the overall scheme of things, right? So the value of MAG, first and foremost, and then obviously how does that kind of crossover to Mercedes-Benz, right? Because a lot of people out there don’t know or haven’t got to know your auto group yet, right? You own multiple dealerships, I mean, ultimately, right? So obviously, this is a Flagstaff for Mercedes here, this is a big point for Mercedes here, but you own multiple dealerships. Talk to me a little bit about the value of MAG as a whole, and then how that transcends over to Mercedes-Benz specifically here in Arizona, in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Michael Martin 03:50 Well, I think the value of MAG as a whole is that I feel like we’re just– I’m just a guy. I’m just a guy, started in this business years ago, at 28– 28 years ago. I’ve been doing it 28 years. Only 28 years, and what I found then was how important customer service was, and just sitting down and having a conversation with people. But I never felt like I was selling cars. I got to a point where I was just giving good advice, and giving them good financial information, helping them make a good decision, and obviously picking the right product for them. But that’s how I went about– that’s how I was successful in this business. So it’s important to me that we do the same thing in all our dealerships now. Is that we make friends, we make long-lasting customers, we take care of people. If there’s an issue we want to address it head-on. And at the end of the day, the customer can go anywhere. They don’t have to be in our home. And so if I have guests come into my home, whether it’s my personal home, one of my dealerships, I want to make sure they’re treated the right way. And I personally walk out there, greet customers if I see they’re not being waited on. Whatever it takes, I appreciate them being here, because they can actually go anywhere they want to go. I’m blessed and I’m fortunate that they’re here with us. So we want to offer them an exceptional experience when they’re visiting one of our dealerships. It’s important to me.
JC 05:05 So it’s safe to say that unlike most– unfortunately, right, because we’ll get into later podcasts about the stigma of the auto industry, which I think a lot of it’s been eradicated. Unfortunately, it’s been 50 years of stigma that we have to obviously erase, but it’s safe to say that at MAG, you provide value to that consumer without expecting anything in return.
Michael Martin 05:29 Absolutely. I think the value has to be there for them to want to come in. But then the service has to be there on top of it. And our goal is just to offer automotive excellence. Whether it’s buying a new car, a used car, part, service, any facet of our business, we want to make sure we accommodate you, all the way down to the registering of your vehicle process, and getting you your license plate in a timely fashion. All those things mean something.
JC 05:50 Yeah. That’s fantastic, man. We don’t run into– unfortunately, sometimes, run into a lot of auto groups that operate that way. So it’s really refreshing when you walk into an auto group that actually not only talks it but actually does it on a day-to-day basis, right? That’s always a very refreshing conversation that we have. All right, so moving forward, right? So I walked into this store, right? And first of all, it’s gorgeous. If you haven’t been here–
Michael Martin 06:14 Thank you.
JC 06:15 –Mercedes-Benz of Flagstaff, guys, this store is an absolute gem, man. I got to tell you. So It felt different to me personally. I walked in, and I got greeted the minute I walked in. And they didn’t know who I was, by the way. They thought I was a consumer, and I drove up in a van that looked like a Sprinter, so I’m sure they thought I was looking at a Sprinter. And I walked up and got greeted the minute I walked in the door.
Michael Martin 06:37 Excellent.
JC 06:38 The manager came out and shook my hand. This was before anyone knew who I was. So to me, the energy was great, right? So it’s reflecting in the staff, that culture, right? So talk to me about how is Mercedes-Benz of Flagstaff different than, say, going to Arizona and one of those Mercedes stores, right?
Michael Martin 06:58 Like to Phoenix possibly, or Vegas, or something like that.
JC 07:00 Yeah. Or Vegas, right? Because people have to drive to that, right? I mean, at the end of the day, why go to Phoenix and drive an hour and a half, when you can go to Flagstaff in 35, 40 minutes?
Michael Martin 07:08 Well, I think the difference is that you’re going to get the personal touch. And I think that you’re not just a number, you matter, your name matters. You’re going to run into me, the dealer. I’m going to come out, shake your hand. I’m going to say hello. And I think it’s just going to resonate through the whole process and your experience, whether you’re buying– like I said, whether you’re buying a pre-owned car, or whether you’re here for service to get an oil change. I sit on that service [inaudible] in a lot of mornings just greeting people walking in the front door. And the other part of it is that the dealership itself, it’s really our– it’s my crown jewel. It’s my only luxury brand that I have, as far as my stores go. There’s only about 374 Mercedes-Benz dealers in the US. Of that, there’s only a handful that are minority-owned. Of that, there’s only about six that are African-American-owned, and to me, that’s a big deal. So from my standpoint, I’m not just doing it for myself. It’s for all people, all generations, all diversities, and making sure that we’re successful in what we do. And it means a lot because that’s just the reality of the situation.
JC 08:07 Yeah. That’s fantastic, man. And if I haven’t said it before, congratulations.
Michael Martin 08:13 Thank you.
JC 08:13 All right. That is something to not only be proud of, that is an inspirational story that we’ll get into at a later podcast. You got to hear this man’s story, by the way, it’s absolutely fantastic. We’re going to write a book at someday. He’s going to write a book at someday, I’m sure, right? So I’m going to get his autograph now, by the way, because I’m sure it’s going to be worth some money. All right. So, what does this store mean? So I’ve taken some time to talk to your employees a little bit, right? Just got the gist and the energy, and energy, to me, at a dealership is a big deal, right? So what does this store mean to some of the employees, man? Because I’ve heard some fantastic– I mean some of thee guys, man, so excited.
Michael Martin 08:47 Well, the thing about it is with the staff – and I’m excited to see too – is that they’re prideful in the store. I see people out there mopping, cleaning up. I’ve been out there vacuuming and I think– I didn’t realize how it resonated with the staff, but when we first got in the building, we needed to vacuum. And there was some carpet, and there was being put in, and it was kind of a mess. And we had a lot of animals, a lot of dogs come in, which is good. We’re glad about that because we want you to bring your pets in here. But we had to vacuum. So I had to– went down to Home Depot down the street, bought a vacuum, came back and really started vacuuming all the carpeted areas in the store. And one of the staffers came up to me later and said, “You know, you have no idea how that impacted us as a staff. When we see the owner out there vacuuming the carpet of the new store, we realize we all got to step up our game.” And I didn’t do it to set an example, I did it because it had to be done. And the carpet looked kind of like crap, so I wanted to fix it. So having done that, people said, “I see now”– we had a meeting right after that, I talked to people about what we got to do to maintain the store. I’m watching people mop, I’m watching people vacuum. I mean, they’re taking pride in it. At the end of the day, we came from a temporary facility, and it was a decent facility, but it was nothing like this. And so we kind of came from the ghetto to “Moving On Up” like the Jeffersons, we were living in the high-rise [in the sky].
JC 10:00 And this is the one next to the Buick-GMC store, right?
Michael Martin 10:02 Exactly.
JC 10:02 Because you also own a Buick-GMC dealership, right? Also in Flagstaff, Arizona, correct?
Michael Martin 10:05 Correct.
JC 10:06 Okay, so right next to that. Saw that one.
Michael Martin 10:08 So we really stepped our game up when we made the transition. And I think for the customers, it was huge because the process took longer than we planned. Just kind of getting through the city process and getting approvals and permits, that’s taxing in itself. It took some time to get that done. So I think the customers were on the fence about, is this really going to happen? Are they really going to be a full-fledged Mercedes-Benz dealer or is this just a bunch of BS? What’s going on here? And so having brought it all the way from the dirt to the facility now, it’s the only store I’ve built from the ground up and designed and everything, it was huge for us. So I think there’s just a lot of pride in all of us that have moved from where we were at to this new location. And I think that we just see it in everything that they’re doing every single day. And I’m very proud of that.
JC 10:50 So this store has your footprint on it.
Michael Martin 10:53 It does.
JC 10:54 You know what I mean?
Michael Martin 10:55 It has my blood, sweat, and tears and my heart in it.
JC 10:55 It has your blood, sweat, and tears on it, man.
Michael Martin 10:58 Yeah. Absolutely. Because like I said, you think about– I’ve been in the business, I’m proud of all my dealerships, I really am. And proud of all my brands, because they’re all great brands. But then there is Mercedes-Benz.
JC 11:11 Sure. No doubt.
Michael Martin 11:11 And that’s just the reality of what it is.
JC 11:12 Nothing against Buick-GMC people. But listen, this is gorgeous.
Michael Martin 11:16 There’s Mercedes-Benz and there’s a standard that comes with that.
JC 11:19 Yeah. No doubt.
Michael Martin 11:19 And there’s a stigma that comes with that. So having been one of very few that has one, as well as one of very few minorities that has one, and having built it from the ground up, it means an awful lot to me. It’s definitely one of my biggest goals that I’ve done in the business that I’ve reached. And so it was a very proud moment for me.
JC 11:37 Yeah. And it also resonates– and thanks for sharing that by the way, but it also resonates, right? Really, at the end of the day, never ask someone to do something that you yourself are not willing to do.
Michael Martin 11:46 Oh, no question. No question.
JC 11:46 You know what I mean? We run our business in the same fashion, and it’s amazing to see that carry through to your dealership. And again, you didn’t do that specifically. You weren’t cleaning the carpet – in probably the nicest suit I’ve ever seen, by the way – just to set an example. You were doing it plain and simply because you’re a working guy. You’re just a guy that just works, man. And you just needed it done, right?
Michael Martin 12:10 You’re exactly right. And people have this stigma of what a dealer is or what a guy does or a business owner does, and for the most part, at least in my case, I’m a regular guy. I go home on the weekends. I cut my grass. I like cutting my grass, I can weed-eat better than anybody I know on the planet. I fold laundry, I do laundry, I do my own stuff. I mean, that’s just what I do. I’m just that kind of guy that just gets down and does the work. And that’s how I’ve gotten to where I’m at. I don’t plan on changing, I enjoy it. I love.
JC 12:34 Yeah. Well, you need to come to my house and cut my grass, man. Because you saw my yard? Good God almighty, I don’t cut any grass, man.
Michael Martin 12:40 I tell my wife all the time. I said when I retire, I’m either going to do two things. I’m either going to be to be a bartender in Maui or I’m going to do landscaping. And I’m going to work about three or four days a week and I’ll cut somebody’s grass and edge it up, and I enjoy doing it.
JC 12:51 So if I can have a vote in that, I’m just steering towards a bartender in Maui thing. I’m just saying.
Michael Martin 12:58 Right? I kind of like that myself.
JC 12:58 I’m just saying, I’m going to steer that way. I’m just saying. All right, so talk to me about what this dealer means to the community. And here’s why I’m asking that question. So we arrived here on Sunday, right? Sunday night. And we’ve been in town until now, Wednesday. We’re obviously going to go to Lake Powell to your Ford dealership there, which I heard was a beautiful town. But I’ve had some time, the team’s had some time to spend here in Flagstaff. I never realized– shame on me, I’ve never realized how beautiful this town is, right/
JC 13:33 Yeah, Flagstaff is a beautiful.. It is a beautiful place.
JC 13:34 It’s gorgeous, man. So the backdrops around here are like– man, it’s a postcard, right? It’s a postcard, right? So talk to me about what this dealership means, not only to the town, the community, to you, for you to be able to open up a Mercedes store like this one– because let’s face it, major difference between this facility and the temporary facility, right? To be able to get to this in the community, what it means to the community to open up a beacon like this, a Mercedes dealership in Flagstaff. What does that mean to the community or what should it mean to the community?
Michael Martin 14:06 Well, I think it means to the community is that the community is growing and that it’s being acknowledged and recognized for what it’s done and what everyone’s done and to put into the community thus far. Job creation is critical, it’s important. That’s the stabilization of any community and any local economy is creating jobs and tax revenue, which is what we’ve been able to do as we’ve been here, and we’ll continue to grow that side of the business. So I think it just helps the community thrive and continue to grow and get recognized and acknowledged for having grown so much in such a short amount of time. I’ve had people walk up to me and tell me this is the nicest building – not dealership – but building in Flagstaff. Now, I haven’t been in all of them, but I enjoyed the compliment. But I think it means a lot to the community. There’s a lot happening in this auto mall. I think it adds strength to the auto mall. And the goal here is to keep the locals local, and buying in the local economy, and not having to leave town.
JC 14:56 Yeah, for sure. And I’m just going to throw this out there. This building is so nice, people, that if Mr. Martin decided to put a Starbucks station in here, I think people would come here instead of the Starbucks to come read their books and listen to [laughter]–
Michael Martin 15:08 You’re probably right. That’s not a half bad idea.
JC 15:10 You know what I mean? I think people would come here, by the way. So with that being said, I just wanted to get your take. Like I said, I think your story is magnificent. We’ll save that for a later podcast. But for now, I wanted to share, not only with the community and the world, what resonates with you, your auto group, and what that means to this dealership and the community. I appreciate your time, by the way. I know you’re–
Michael Martin 15:36 Thanks for being here. I appreciate it.
JC 15:36 –super busy, and the fact that you took 15, 16 minutes of your time to share that information really does mean a lot to us and also to the community, obviously.
Michael Martin 15:47 Well, I appreciate it. It’s a pleasure to do so, and I think sometimes a story has to be told on reaching goals and attaining your dreams when you don’t think it’s always going to happen. And I think that’s just a perfect example of how things went for us in building this store, where there were some challenges we faced, we overcame the obstacles, and we made it happen, and we’re here. We’re here to stay. We’re glad to be part of the community. We hope the community is glad to have us part of what the community is, and we’re going to grow our business, and take care of all of our customers, and give them fantastic service along the way.
JC 16:15 That’s fantastic, man. Well, we appreciate your time. We look forward to future conversations, by the way. This is Mr. Michael Martin, Think Creative JC signing out of Mercedes-Benz of Flagstaff. If you haven’t had a chance to be here, do you guys a favor, you got to come see this building. It is absolutely gorgeous. And [with] that, we say be blessed, stay blessed. We appreciate your time and signing out guys. Thank you very much for your time.
Michael Martin 16:41 Thank you, Jimmy.
JC 16:42 Thanks.
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