“I have so many great relationships with my guests and my employees. I live in a little town where everyone knows my name and feels comfortable to ask me for help when the need arises.”
Preston took a different road on his way to the retail automotive industry. After earning an A.S. from Penn State Berks in Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1976, and a B.S. from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in 1978, he spent 15 years in hospitality for the Marriott Corporation.
“I started in the automobile business in 1993 with absolutely no dealership experience. In my job at Marriott, over time, I managed thousands of employees. When I bought the dealership, I applied the same process management techniques I learned at Marriott to increase efficiencies, encourage employee empowerment and reduce bottlenecks.”
And to make up for his lack of experience in the industry, Preston surrounded himself with exceptional people and considered frontline employees his greatest asset. “We focused on empowerment and development. When employees are allowed to wow the guest, they just build on those successes.”
Preston also works closely with auto manufacturers to be their best partner in the marketplace. To that end, he has served as vice president of the Chevy LMA (Local Marketing Association) since 2008, and he lends his time and talent to the Cleveland Auto Show, an annual showcase of the latest vehicles and concept cars, organized by the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers’ Association.
“I like to see each of my manufacturers excel. And I like to help other dealerships as well, because when there is excitement around a new car model, everyone wins.”
His dealership is also a partner in the community. Recently, during the COVID-19 shutdown in May and June, Preston offered free service to first responders, grocery store employees, veterans, essential workers and the recently unemployed. “We spent more than $250,000 helping people under this program, and we still offered the service through September for those who need help."
He has also donated monies to three area schools to help them in their back-to-school preparations due to COVID-19, as well as supporting area Catholic schools. Other groups Preston supports include: Geauga Park District (current vice president); Great Geauga County Fair (volunteer); Paralyzed Veterans of America, Buckeye Chapter; Lake-Geauga Habitat for Humanity; University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center in Chardon, Ohio; plus local chambers of commerce, youth sports and many other organizations.
“There are so many aspects of owning a dealership that feel rewarding to me. Having my children following in my footsteps and watching their dedication to our family business is one of the greatest.”
Preston was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Lou Vitantonio, president of the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers’ Association. He and his wife, Diane, have three children.