Jackson вЂ” Automobile dealer Paul Moak believes in diversity. He says offering more brands gives more diversity in a very competitive market. The dealerships he heads sell Hondas, Volvos, Subarus, Pontiacs, Buicks and GMC trucks.
вЂњThat gives us a wider breadth and depth. Each one appeals to a different set,вЂќ he said. вЂњWe donвЂ™t put all our eggs in one basket, and we have a lot of baskets.вЂќ
ThereвЂ™s been a Moak in the automobile business in Jackson since MoakвЂ™s dad started working with a Pontiac dealership on State Street in 1951. As a youngster, Moak worked other places because his dad wouldnвЂ™t let him work in the dealership. вЂњHe didnвЂ™t want to place pressure on me to join the business,вЂќ he says. вЂњHe believed if youвЂ™re not happy in what youвЂ™re doing, it will show up sooner or later.вЂќ
But in 1971, after graduation from the University of Mississippi, Moak joined the business and worked with his dad for a number of years. He started in the accounting department, then moved to the sales force and later to management. вЂњIt was a wonderful experience,вЂќ he said. вЂњMy dad stepped away from making day-to-day decisions, and we worked side by side. He let me fall on my face many times.вЂќ
The dealerships have 130 employees. Through the years the businesses have grown and acquired additional property on State Street, at the I-55 High Street exit, at the corner of I-55 and Steed Road in Ridgeland, and in Canton. вЂњIt was more than a little leap when we located on the Ridgeland property,вЂќ he recalls. вЂњAt that time there were a lot of rooftops there and not much development.вЂќ
Splitting (and sharing) his time
The 56-year-old multi-dealership president tries to be in every location most every day. He spends time working with managers solving problems and pondering how the business can improve. вЂњI enjoy that interaction,вЂќ he said. вЂњWe have folks whoвЂ™ve worked for us a long time, and I like to think IвЂ™m a consensus builder. ItвЂ™s a slower way of making decisions but IвЂ™m not dictatorial. ThatвЂ™s not me. I think of myself as a coach.вЂќ
He also likes the business part of selling automobiles, not necessarily the numbers, but all the aspects of running several businesses. If he could change something it would be to sell a lot more cars. вЂњIвЂ™d like to have people lined up,вЂќ he says with a laugh, вЂњbut itвЂ™s a very competitive industry. ThereвЂ™s a greater capacity to produce cars than the demand for them. Every dealer tries to increase his piece of the pie.вЂќ
Moak is the current president of the Mississippi Automobile Dealers Association, an organization heвЂ™s also served as secretary and twice as a director. HeвЂ™s seen cars become better built, requiring fewer repairs under warranty and taking less service to maintain.
вЂњWeвЂ™ve seen a steady decline of repairs under warranty with General Motors products. ThatвЂ™s one indicator. Also, we used to do more frequent tune-ups. Now cars run 40,000 to 50,000 miles before tune-ups,вЂќ he said. вЂњEvery component has benefited. The safety aspect is very good among all the improvements too. IвЂ™m really referring to the industry and not any particular brand.вЂќ
Tires are better made, too. In some cases the dealerships take cars back on trade-ins that still have the original tires.
He says he hasnвЂ™t seen any lemons lately either. вЂњThatвЂ™s rare,вЂќ he said. вЂњThereвЂ™s so much technology on cars that problems can be resolved.вЂќ
Long involved in a multitude of community projects, Moak has diversity there, too. вЂњIn all honesty, every dollar this business takes in comes out of someoneвЂ™s pocket in this community,вЂќ he said. вЂњIf youвЂ™re going to take from the community, you should be a part of making that community better.вЂќ
HeвЂ™s hesitant to choose favorites, but says as a group those organizations that work with kids and with curing diseases are the ones that give him a lot of satisfaction. вЂњI have comfort from being involved with those and like seeing them influence kids,вЂќ he said.
His hometown matters to him. He was born in Jackson and graduated from Murrah High School in 1967. He and his wife, Jeanne, live there, as do his mother and her parents. HeвЂ™s known his wife, the former Jeanne Howie, since second grade and delivered her parentsвЂ™ newspaper.
вЂњWe will see some positive things for Jackson in the future. There are brighter days ahead,вЂќ he said. вЂњThere are challenges but the question is how weвЂ™ll deal with them. We donвЂ™t need to look back and throw rocks.вЂќ
An Eagle Scout, Moak is involved with Boy Scouts, the Northside YMCA, Junior Achievement, Willowood Developmental Center and Jackson Academy.
He has also given much of his time to Mississippi College, presently serving on the board of trustees, as well as Mississippi Baptist Medical Center, the Salvation Army, United Way and First Baptist Church.
Moak has received numerous automobile dealership awards including the Time Magazine Quality Dealer AwardвЂ™s top five finalists in the nation in 2000.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at “.