MDA dealer of excellence 2016 - 2 inches

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Perry Itzcovitch and Davis Auto Group Named 2016 MDA Alberta Dealers of Excellence

The Motor Dealers Association of Alberta (MDA) announced the recipients of the 2016 Alberta Dealer of Excellence awards: Perry Itzcovitch (Mercedes-Benz Downtown, Calgary) and Mike, Luke and Tim Davis (Davis Auto Group, Lethbridge) in the metro and non-metro categories respectively.

Though the genesis of their automotive careers was different—the Davis brothers were born into the business while Itzcovitch started selling and repairing cars to pay his way through university—both winners share a passion for the business and its people and built successful multi-dealership operations. “Perry, Mike, Luke and Tim have achieved success while demonstrating exceptional commitment to their customers, staff, industry and communities in which they do business. They are fine examples of the many excellent auto dealers we are fortunate to have as members,” says Denis Ducharme, MDA president.

Along with his brother and partner Steven, Itzcovitch started a used vehicle business over thirty years ago, eventually developing the Hyatt Automotive Group, which swelled to ten new vehicle dealerships. In 2014, the brothers sold seven dealerships to the publicly-traded Auto Canada—at the time, the largest deal in the industry. Today, they continue to operate their Mercedes-Benz dealership as well as Northwest Acura in Calgary and have expanded their business interests into commercial real estate. Perry Itzcovitch became the face of the operation, dealing with front-end staff and serving on a plethora of factory, community and auto industry committees and boards. He is currently the secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Auto Dealers Association, the first of a five-year commitment as a member of its executive committee. “I have always felt we need to be involved and make a difference,” says Itzcovitch.

Mike, Tim and Luke Davis all started in different departments of Davis GMC Buick in Lethbridge—accounting, sales and service respectively. Each sibling eventually went on to become general manager of one of the other dealerships owned by their father, John Davis. They continue to hold those positions today in addition to their responsibilities of overseeing the now 10-dealership strong Davis Auto Group. Since taking the reins, the Davis brothers have added two new dealerships and established a 30-person head office that provides centralized human resources, digital marketing, customer care, safety and IT services for each of the group’s locations. Though Davis Auto Group has evolved into a sophisticated operation, the Davis brothers have not strayed from the root of their father’s Golden Rule philosophy. “Treating employees and customers the way we were taught to treat other people—with respect, compassion and understanding,” explains Mike Davis.

The MDA awards the Dealer of Excellence annually to one metro dealer from Calgary or Edmonton and one non-metro winner from the rest of the province. The award criteria are business acumen, community involvement and association/industry involvement. The award candidates are nominated by their peers and the applications are examined by a panel of past award recipients, who select the winners.

“I was proud and honored to have been chosen. I have a lot of respect for the MDA and the important things the executive members and staff have done, and continue to do, on a daily basis,” says Itzcovitch. “It is great to be recognized together and a great honour to join the company of dealers who are on the list of past winners—people we look up to, like our dad,” says Mike Davis. John Davis was the 2010 MDA dealer of excellence. “It took all three of us to add up to him.”

The MDA strives to serve the collective interest of its members and promote positive relationships with government, industry, suppliers, consumers and media. Members include over 90% of Alberta’s franchised new vehicle and heavy truck dealerships.

For presentation photos and comment:
Denis Ducharme, MDA President: 780-465-8850

For more information and comment:
Mike Davis: 403-942-8090
Perry Itzcovitch: 403-232-6400

Profiles of individual award winners follow.

2016 Alberta Dealer of Excellence

(Metro): Perry Itzcovitch, Mercedes-Benz Downtown Calgary


Perry

Born in Montreal, Itzcovitch moved to Calgary as a teenager and went on to earn a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Calgary. To pay his way through school, he made money buying and selling cars. After graduation, he recognized the opportunity to make a career in the automotive business. Much to his mother’s chagrin, he abandoned plans to pursue a law degree and began selling preowned vehicles with his brother Steven. “Together we saw the big picture and the future, which involved dealerships,” says Itzcovitch. Over the next two decades, the brothers established and built the Hyatt Group to ten stores representing several brands.

Their mother had one rule: if there was a dispute between the brothers, no one was going to bed until they worked it out. “There were some late nights,” recalls Itzcovitch with a laugh. Working with his brother on a daily basis has made achieving success all the sweeter, he says. “We are best buds as well as business partners.”

To achieve success, Itzcovitch contends it takes three things: “Passion for the business, passion for the people and the determination to do what needs to be done.” It must also take a lot of energy as Itzcovitch was a proponent of the “managing by walking around” principle espoused by auto business icons like Lee Iacocca. Every day, Itzcovitch would visit six to eight of the group’s locations, meeting with key managers to stay in tune, provide training and help solve problems if needed. In addition, he served multi-year terms on dealer advisory councils with Mercedes, Volkswagen and Infiniti. He also chaired the Calgary Auto Show, was dealer association chairman at the Calgary and Alberta levels and worked with the SAIT dean of transportation to an automotive management program.

One of the terms of the 2014 sale of seven of their dealerships to Auto Canada was that the Itzcovitch brothers continue to manage the operations for 18-months, a term that has recently completed. And although he’s been enjoying more time to travel with his wife of 26 years Lisa, Itzcovitch shows no real signs of slowing down much. Currently, he serves on the SAIT automotive management program’s advisory committee and on the Canadian Auto Dealers Association executive. He is also a guest lecturer on supply chain management to University of Calgary business students.

Of his willingness to invest so much time outside of his own business, Itzcovitch explains, “I have always felt we need to be involved and make a difference. It is our responsibility to pay back when we can and being a part of these associations makes a difference. If we do not take care of our industry, who will?”

 

2016 Alberta Dealer of Excellence (Non-Metro):  Mike, Luke and Tim Davis, Davis Auto Group

 

Davis

Tim and Luke Davis knew early on that they wanted to join the successful automotive dealership business that their father John had built. Luke began in the service department at Davis GMC Buick in Lethbridge and today is the dealer principal of Subaru Lethbridge. On the advice of his father, Tim began his career in sales with the Wood Automotive Group, “so I could see and learn from how others did things.” He is currently the dealer principal of Davis GMC Buick in Medicine Hat. Both Tim and Luke earned automotive marketing degrees at Northwood University.

On the other hand, Mike Davis had no intention of joining the family operation. He moved across the country to enroll in administrative and commercial studies at the University of Western Ontario. After earning his degree, he took a “temporary” accounting position at Davis GMC Buick in Lethbridge. He never left, and today is the store’s dealer principal.

In 2009, the three-brother partnership succeeded their father at the helm of the Davis Auto Group, a seven-dealership operation. Since that time, they’ve added three more dealerships and established a head office in Lethbridge where 30 staff provide core services to all the group’s stores. The brothers enjoy spending a lot of time together inside and outside the office. The key, they say, is to remember their father’s advice to keep work and family relationships separate, “… to be focused on what you’re doing at the time,” says Mike.

As for being a good dealer, the senior Davis’s advice was simple, “People come first, whether it’s customers or employees.” The younger Davises also inherited their father’s belief in the duty to give back to their community and their industry, both financially and personally. The dealerships support many charitable and non-profit organizations, with a particular emphasis on sports. “We support what’s important to our employees and minor sports are where many of them focus their time,” says Mike. All three brothers have served on the MDA board of directors and have been active in organizing their local association’s charity golf tournaments.

Over the years, dealerships in the group have been bestowed honours by their manufacturers, communities and the media; but, the Davises’ greatest source of pride is being recognized as a “Top 50 Employer in Canada” for the last four years in a row. The program is operated by Queen’s University and Aon Hewitt and is based on responses to an anonymous employee survey (in the most recent round, over 90% of Davis Auto Group employees participated.) In 2015, the group was ranked platinum, placing it in the top 4% of employers in the country. “The recognition of being a top employer is very important to us, but the most important part of our participation in the program is to identify where we have opportunities to improve the employee experience and create action items that we can execute in order to get better and better,” says Mike Davis. “We believe that the happier and more engaged our employees are, the happier and more engaged our customers will be.”