Photos by Christopher Tierney Photography
As H&H transitions its new premier brands, a customer-focused philosophy comes forward
Perspective is an interesting concept. The same view can look completely different depending on where you stand. H&H President Steve Hinchcliff learned this at an early age when his mother told him to compare their lawn to the neighbor’s. One looked greener than the other depending on which side of the street he was on. With the recent addition of BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, and Mini Cooper to the H&H brands, Steve and his team are working hard to create an experience for customers that looks inviting no matter where you stand, and it’s one that puts people first.
Steve’s grandfather started their first dealership in South Omaha during the Depression, and his father and uncle moved it to 84th & L Streets in 1968. Over the next 30 years Steve and his family built it into one of the largest dealerships in Omaha. In 2007 Steve became sole owner, and then added H&H Kia in 2010 with a second Kia dealership planned for West Omaha next year. He also recently purchased GMC-Buick from Rhoden Auto Center in Council Bluffs. Steve attributes much of their success to what he calls a strong line of honesty and respect. “My grandfather and father were emphatic about integrity; more so than anyone I’ve ever known,” he said.
The addition of the new H&H Premier Automotive brands was the result of opportune timing that would also enable Steve and his son, Jeff Hinchcliff who co-owns the new dealership, to continue the family legacy. Admittedly, Steve is also a bigger risk taker than his grandfather and father were, and said he enjoys that aspect of the business. “Risk management is a big part of being an entrepreneur. Too many people take big risks too soon, or they don’t take a risk when the time is right for success.”
Steve clearly has a sense of knowing when that time is right to take risk. The purchase of the new dealership located near Westroads Mall and formerly owned by Markel Auto Group, has already proven successful. This past August they sold as many Jaguars in the one month as were sold in the previous year. The service business has also increased by 58% simply from implementing the same policies that have made their other dealerships successful—valuing customers’ time and money. These include cutting many popular service prices nearly in half and increasing the number of low-mileage loaner cars from 25 to 75, which are available to anyone who brings their car in for service, regardless of whether or not they purchased their car from H&H.
Steve brought in their Director of Service, Don Korner, from H&H Chevrolet, to run the new department, which retained all of its technical staff. “These are complicated cars to work on, but the technicians in place were very knowledgeable,” Steve explained. “At the same time we’re bringing in additional highly trained people who are used to working in a quickened cadence, which is one dictated by the customer, and it’s a culture change for this dealership.”
Another culture change evident is on the sales side. Although up 24% through August of this year, Steve said their focus is on customer satisfaction and retention, which is the core of his entire business philosophy. “From day one it was clear there was an opportunity for greater potential with these dealerships,” he said. The most obvious area to him was the way cars were being sold. He brought in Tony Holechek, who had been the vice president and general manager of sales at H&H Kia, which is the largest Kia dealership in Nebraska and Iowa. Tony implemented a sales approach that is flexible, friendly, and full of customer amenities. Customer satisfaction is so critical, four weeks after a purchase, they take the time to go over options on the car again with the customer to make sure they know how everything works.
“We value a customer’s time and money equally,” Steve said. “We believe in earning loyalty, which can be difficult to do.” He’s so passionate about making sure his customers are happy, Steve makes his personal cell phone number available to everyone and takes customer feedback to heart. “Even if we have 100 satisfied customers and one who’s not, I’m unhappy about the one who’s not and want to address it.”
Despite being a fourth generation owner of H&H, Steve doesn’t consider himself a car man. Rather, he considers himself “a business person in the car business.” He likes the challenge of making a dealership successful, especially these new brands, which are essentially three dealerships in one. His father liked to use the phrase “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” And Steve is delighted that in the case of the Premier dealership, that held true, and he has the opportunity to apply his team’s expertise to these luxury brands. “Just like in any business, hopefully you have some acumen and knowledge of what it takes, as well as a great team of people, and we do have an awesome team,” he added.
Not only does Steve bring a unique perspective to the operations side of the business, but he does with his team as well. He explained that in a culture focused on winning, he’s less of a “winning guy” and more of a “do it really well every day guy.” He said even if a dealership is making sales 40% of the time, it means they’re losing sales 60% of the time. “You don’t create a culture based on something that’s unsuccessful. You have a culture based on doing—doing something really well, every day, and exceeding expectations, and that is the key to making a business into an awesome business!”