From the time Eric Gentry left Northwest Missouri State with a degree in public relations and immediately started selling cars in the Lake of the Ozarks area, he dreamed about owning a car dealership one day.
As Gentry, 44, sat in his office Monday afternoon at Victory Ford in Bonner Springs, it was evident he felt blessed to be in the position he is in today.
After 13 years working at Randy Reed Buick GMC in Kansas City, Gentry received the opportunity of a lifetime last spring that led to not one, but two car dealerships in Wyandotte County.
Gentry, who was the general manager at Randy Reed Buick GMC the last 11 years, left on March 31. On April 1, Gentry, along with his partner, Troy Duhon, of Premier Automotive Group in New Orleans, bought Bob Hoss Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram at 6640 State Ave., in Kansas City, Kan.
A little over two months later, they purchased Bonner Springs Ford, 715 South 130th St., on June 11.
“I am all in,” Gentry said. “Everything I have is invested in these two dealerships.”
But Gentry is not done investing in his dream. He received approval to begin construction on a new facility for Victory Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in April 2015 in the Legends area, just south of Legends Toyota and Legends Honda.
“It is another major investment, yes,” Gentry said. “There were a lot sleepless nights thinking about what is the best thing for me to do. Honestly, I prayed about it and felt this was the right thing for me to do.”
A strong faith in God has guided Gentry to his current position. He says it is prayers answered.
“I had wanted the opportunity to do my own dealership for as long as I have been in the car business,” he said.
Gentry enjoyed his time at Randy Reed, in part, because Reed shared similar values.
One day, though, Gentry received a call from Duhon.
“I didn’t know him,” Gentry said. “Somebody had given him my name and phone number. He asked me if I would be interested coming to New Orleans and talking to him about partnering together to buy a couple of dealerships in Kansas City. Next thing I knew, a week later, I was on a plane headed to New Orleans.”
Gentry liked what he heard from Duhon. One story stays with him.
“When his father was passing away, he said to his son, ‘Son you think you need to die with $50 million dollars in the bank, but what you really need to do is find 50 people and make their dream come true.’”
He said when his dad said that to him, it hit him like a ton of bricks.
“That is why he has gone around the country and found guys like me who didn’t have that opportunity to do it on their own or didn’t have enough money to do it on their own,” he said. “He helps them get into business and sets up things in different communities to help people.”
Gentry said Duhon has 21 stores around the country, and in those stores there are 12 partners like him.
In the last eight months, Gentry said he has never worked harder and has never been happier.
Now it is about building the right team.
“I have been very blessed and fortunate to hire some really good people to help along this process,” Gentry said. “We have great staffs in both stores. They come to work every day with a passion and energy to do things right and take care of people. They have bought into our values.”
Those values are framed on his office wall: Honesty, teamwork, work ethic, humility and living by the Golden Rule.
During this year of transition for Gentry, he is learning about new brands of cars.
“It has been a learning curve because I spent 20 years not selling Ford and Dodges,” Gentry said. “I try to drive something different home all the time so I can learn more about the products.
“The great thing about it is they both build great products. All of the manufacturers today build great products. It is not like there is somebody out there selling junky cars.”
One difference maker is how the dealership treats customers and the role it plays in its community. Gentry plans to win in that area.
“It is something we talk about all the time to make sure we are doing things according to those values,” Gentry said.
“We are a faith-based company and we believe very strongly in giving back to the community we are in. In fact, every month we set aside some money from every car we sell and go out and find a cause in the community and donate money back to the community.”
If you have a story you would like to see in On the Move, email David Boyce at Drive@kcstar.com