How It’s Done: John Patterson

How It’s Done is an inside look at the people in Orange County that are making things happen. From small businesses to the big guys, I’ll write a little about how they go about their business.

Meet John Patterson, president of the OC Auto Team. Founded in 2004, Patterson’s OC Auto Team, which includes Huntington Beach Mazda in Huntington Beach, Tustin Hyundai in Tustin, and Tustin Mazda in Tustin, has earned its reputation as an award-winning, customer service focused company. In addition, the OC Auto Team was named as a Top Work Place by the Orange County Register in 2008, 2009, and 2010. While meeting the customer’s needs remains a top priority, supporting the community goes hand-in-hand with that goal. A charitable donation is made for every car sold at all OC Auto Team locations. To date, over $600,000 has been donated to local schools, churches and charities. Patterson’s long range vision is to have donated $1 million by the time he and his employees celebrate their 10-year anniversary in 2014. Full disclosure: OC Auto Team has been a sponsor of my events via Linked Orange County, but don’t let sway you. We do business with people we know, like and trust. John Patterson is the real deal. Here are some highlights from my interview with JP:

Q. (Bryan) Who’s at the helm?

A. (JP) The “Helm” sounds like someone on high dictating direction. While I am in charge and take responsibility for the problems that occur, I like to think that we are a cooperative organization with several leaders providing strong direction for our team. Each dealership has an excellent leadership team.

Q. (Bryan) Who makes the decisions?

A. (JP) Everyone makes decisions. I lead the big picture decision making process, but each of our managers, as well as all of our team members, have the ability to make decisions that affect the customer experience. Our goal is to make certain the experience at our dealerships is equal to the Ritz Carlton.

Q. (Bryan) Who’s the glue in your company?

A. (JP) The “glue” in our organization is not a “who” but and “it.” We are all brought together by our core philosophy - the Patterson Team Promise: “Engaged Employees, Customer Loyalty, Community Involvement and Long Term Vision.” Everyone in our organization understands that we have a four legged table where each of these principals defines who we are and how we effect our community. By working together, we have achieved tremendous growth and we look forward to continuous growth by serving these philosophies.

Q. (Bryan) Who is your customer?

A. (JP) Our New Car customer is the person that loves to drive a safe and stylish vehicle, but is budget minded - focusing on both fuel economy and an excellent value. Our pre-owned customer is anyone in the Western United states seeking an excellent value on a pre-owned vehicle from $3,000 to $40,000. Whether new or used, however, our customer is someone that values an outstanding experience.

Q. (Bryan) If you could only choose one person-for fun or business-who would you most like to have lunch with?

A. (JP) I would choose my mother. She passed away 3 1/2 years ago and I think of her often. She and my father have been wonderful parents and have shaped me into who I am today. My mother has missed the opening of two of my three dealerships and I would love to have her step foot in my stores one last time.

Q. (Bryan) What’s the secret sauce?

A. (JP) Treat every customer like they are a guest in your
home and make certain your home is a place people want to be.

Q. (Bryan) What mistakes have you made?

A. (JP) Over the past 7 years I have made several mistakes, some big and some small - but each has been a learning experience.

Q. (Bryan) What inspires you?

A. (JP) Seeing success in my organization. Success is an intangible, but you know it when you see it. Whether a sales professional or sales manager having a great sales day, or someone in my service department beaming with pride over a job well done - either way - I love seeing success and sharing it with my team.

Q. (Bryan) What frustrates you?

A. (JP) People working against each other. I liken our business to a big boat and everyone has an oar. Unless we are all rowing in the same direction, the boat will stagnate - and that frustrates me.

Q. (Bryan) If you weren’t doing what you do, what would you be doing?

A. (JP) I would be a teacher/professor - no doubt about it. In fact, 15 years from now, that might be my 3rd career. When: I opened my first dealership, Tustin Mazda, in the beginning of 2004, over 7 years ago. I worked for corporate Toyota for over 10 years prior to making the transition to becoming an automotive retailer.

Q. (Bryan) Where are your customers?

A. (JP) 80% of the customers we service are in Orange County proper. But the remaining 20% of our customers are from all over California and the Western United States. We have customers regularly fly to John Wayne Airport to take delivery of used cars.

Q. (Bryan) Why do you do what you do?

A. (JP) I am a people person that is good with numbers and in this business, these two attributes are essential. My wife says I can speak to anyone about anything … while she is exaggerating, she is not too far off.

Q. (Bryan) Why are you successful?

A. (JP) To say that I am successful is pre-mature. We have grown a ton over the past 7 years, but we have a long way to go. I think the appropriate word is to say that I am grateful for the opportunity. This is God’s business and I am simply the captain of his ship.

Q. (Bryan) Why should people care about you?

A. (JP) Because we are much more than a car dealer. We are a fun group of people that happen to sell cars. We are
community servants that happen to sell cars. We are your neighbors…and we happen to sell cars. We are focused much more on providing an excellent experience, than just moving cars, and I think this has served us very well.

Q. (Bryan) How do you plan to improve, evolve, survive?

A. (JP) Improvement, evolving and survival all run hand in hand. I was speaking to a good friend of mine
earlier today and I summed it up like this “I continue to have a healthy fear of failure.” I think this gives me an edge to keep progressing and growing … and never remaining complacent.

Q. (Bryan) How are you different from competitors?

A. (JP) One visit to any of our three dealerships will show you the difference - we are not an “old school” cheesy car dealership. We are a fun organization that thrives on making our customers raving fans. We understand that our guests are the reason we are in business and we are grateful to be providing them a helpful service.

Business and marketing are rarely ever about the features and benefits of a product or service-it’s about telling a story. I’m @BryanElliott and this another example of How it’s Done.

Want to contact me directly? You can find me here, here, or I respond immediately to questions or comments on Twitter here.


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