Todd and Ryan Crossley Build on Their Father’s Legacy: Fueling Growth at Gary Crossley Ford
Home in the Northland, February/March 2012
Words: Pete Dulin | Photos: Brad Austin
Brothers Todd, 38, and Ryan, 34, have similar facial features and eyes. Physically, they maintain a muscular build from their days as athletes at Liberty High School. The brothers settled in Liberty, married their sweetheart, and are each raising a young family. As gear heads, Todd and Ryan both enjoy working on cars. The Crossley brothers share another important characteristic. They manage one of the most successful Ford dealerships in the country founded by their father Gary Crossley.
On December 23, 2011, Todd bought Gary Crossley Ford and became the dealership’s president and principal. He sold his software company to AutoTrader.com and generated the capital to buy the dealership as part of the succession plan. With Ryan serving as vice-president, the duo are poised to continue developing business growth for the 21st century and building on a rich heritage.
Plan for Succession
Originally, Gary Crossley and a business partner started the dealership in 1977 and Crossley took over operations two years later. By 1980, the patriarch became sole owner of the business formerly located in Liberty’s triangle at the intersection of Highways 152 and 291.
Moving forward, Gary Crossley Ford celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2007 and is still going strong. Six years ago, the dealership moved to its current location on North Church Road in Liberty. The dealers expanded their property from 38,000 to 70,000 square feet. The relocation and subsequent growth also led to two additions to their sprawling campus.
Gary has been semi-retired for six months, but has acted in the role of consultant to his sons during the transition. “Dad has seen everything that could go right and wrong in the business,” says Todd. “He sees the big picture.”
Growing up in the business has given the brothers a strong foundation for running the dealership. Todd and Ryan have worked in every facet from sales to service.
“I knew what I wanted to do since elementary school,” says Todd of his commitment to working at the dealership. “I worked in the shop when I was young.”
Education has complemented the Crossleys’ firsthand exposure to the business. Ryan graduated from Northwood University in Michigan with a focus on automotive marketing. Todd graduated from Missouri State University in Springfield. They later attended the National Auto Dealer Association Dealer Academy in McClain, Virginia.
“It is a big advantage to study at the Dealer Academy,” says Ryan. The Crossleys valued the practical experience of their teachers. “The instructors are successful millionaires. They had been there and done that.”
Observing how their father conducted business also delivered new insights. “Watching Dad and his circle of friends was beneficial,” says Todd. “We learned there was no ceiling and no floor to how much you can succeed or fail. There’s so much potential, but you can also make mistakes and crash and burn.”
Earlier in his career, Todd worked in sales at a dealership in Omaha, Nebraska for a year to gain experience outside of the family business. He returned to Liberty and worked as a sales manager at Gary Crossley Ford. At one point, Todd’s father made him an offer to run the service department as part of a long-range vision for his eldest son to lead the entire operation.
“I knew the business, but I was scared about the long-term decision to run the company,” says Todd, who drives a black Ford Expedition.
Knowing how to sell cars and trucks was only part of the business. Today, successful dealerships focus on a balance of customer service, servicing vehicles, and sales. Ultimately, Todd made a commitment. He says, “I slept on the decision, woke up, and never looked back.”
Todd worked for a year as service manager and two years as service director before assuming the role of general manager at the dealership. In their current executive roles the brothers shoulder major responsibilities, but are prepared to shift into the next gear.
Ready, Set, Grow
The dealership has retained a strong customer base during the recession. “We have a lot of repeat and referral business. We have Dad to thank for that,” says Todd.
However, the brothers have not waited for new business to come in the door. They have reduced advertising and marketing costs by targeted online and direct mail campaigns, attracted a wide range of customers, an improved their profitability by operating more efficiently in sales, service, financing, and administration.
The improvements have been measurable both to the bottom line and in terms of recognition. Gary Crossley Ford was ranked as a Top 1000 Ford dealer nationally at its former location. After the move to their current address, the dealership has ranked in the Top 100. In 2012, the brothers anticipate that the dealership to be ranked in the Top 50 based on car sales.
“We have been the number one dealer for new car sales among Ford stores for five years running,” touts Ryan.
Gary Crossley Ford won the prestigious Triple Crown Award from Ford Motor Company in 2010, accelerating them into the upper echelon of dealerships. Only 60 dealerships have won the award – based on units sold, customer satisfaction index, and service – over a hundred year period.
“In 2011, only 18 Ford dealers out of 3,400 won a Triple Crown Award,” says Todd, who successfully vowed to win the award at Gary Crossley Ford before his father retired. “Doing so also put us on Ford’s radar.”
Refining their service has been a boon for growth. “We want to be a one-stop shop and take care of people,” says Todd.
Ryan concurs that there’s more to the business than selling automobiles. “We’re in the people business,” he says. “You have to treat people right.”
They put this service philosophy into practice with Quick Lane, a service department where general maintenance and repairs take three hours or less. The object is to maximize the customer experience, extend the relationship after the auto sale, and reduce operating costs.
A single representative greets the customer in a covered auto bay, registers the check-in, handles the repair, coordinates parts procurement, updates the customer, processes payment, and facilitates departure. This A-Z approach to service saves time and money for the customer and dealer and increases customer satisfaction. Quick Lane has proven so popular that the dealership has added multiple shifts to meet demand.
For more extensive repairs, the union-based service department has numerous Master Certified Technicians on staff. This level of certification is the degree equivalent of a PhD. “Eighty percent of our techs are Master Certified,” says Todd.
The dealership is also one of six Ford Reacquired Vehicle (RAV) dealers out of 3,384 Ford dealerships in the country. When Ford Motor Company reacquires a vehicle from any dealer trade, and the vehicle needs extensive work, Gary Crossley Ford is the only RAV dealer in a sixteen-state territory for those repairs.
“We can fix problems that others can’t,” says Todd. “It’s a huge pat on the back for our service guys. We’ve been a RAV dealer for three years and see up to fifteen cars per month. We have a 98% repair rate.”
That distinctive level of expertise service makes the Crossley team proud. Ford Motor Company has taken notice and used GCF as a training center. “My fix-up guys are rock stars,” says Todd.
“The service we offer to customers all goes back to the facility, training, and operations,” says Ryan, who drives a black Ford F-150 with a custom lift kit and tires.
The dealership’s body work shop houses two full-bake paint booths that can reproduce a factory-quality paint job. Servicing commercial trucks from companies such as Dean has also fueled Gary Crossley Ford’s growth and expanded their customer base. An in-store custom department caters to gear heads that want to trick out their car or truck. Whether customers want parts for their drag car, a lift kit, or a little something extra under the hood to improve speed and performance, the custom guys speak the language.
“We want to make doing business with us convenient,” says Ryan of the dealership’s well-rounded offerings. Even the little touches are important. He adds, “Buy a car from us and you get free car washes for life.”
Relating to Customers
Developing customer relations goes beyond the sale and ongoing service. Communication with customers is a central tenet of the Crossley strategy. The dealership features a dedicated custom relations center where representatives track and respond to all emails and phone calls. “Traditionally, the number one complaint about car dealerships is that no one listened to want the customer wants,” says Ryan.
For example, a potential customer wants a model in blue. The sales agent show them a car in black because it is available. The Crossleys were determined to change that approach by listening and finding solutions to meet the customer’s need.
All customer interactions are monitored to maintain quality and find room for improvement. Ryan says, “We measure our responses and follow up with customers.”
The Crossley family believes strongly in supporting the community in Liberty. Over the years, they have sponsored numerous football, wrestling, and soccer teams at the high school. Ryan and Todd go beyond athletics to support lesser known scholastic endeavors such as the Liberty High School robotics team. With the dealership’s financial support, the team competed successfully and advanced to national competition.
They have hosted charity events such as Jerry’s Kids and donated money to Children’s Mercy Hospital and The Dream Factory. The dealership donated $10,000 in 2011 to the latter organization.
“We like to spread out our money among different charitable organizations and causes,” says Ryan, “but the local high school and The Dream Factory is our core.”
“Dad helped out a lot of charities over the years,” says Todd. “Doing so takes time and money. You want it to benefit people. We »» donate to The Dream Factory because 100 percent of the money goes to the kids. It’s an all-volunteer organization.”
Managing one of the top dealerships in the nation is no small feat. Todd and Ryan have taken steps to best serve customers through improved service, sales, and customer relations. Building on their father’s legacy, they have shifted Gary Crossley Ford from a top sales organization to a truly full-service operation. Together, the Crossley brothers have proven to be skilled businessmen and dedicated community leaders determined to drive forward for years to come.