Bob Giles, owner of Giles Automotive in Lafayette, Louisiana, remembers attending his first NationalAutomobile Dealers Association (NADA) Show as a teen and watching a dealer receive the TIME Dealer of the Year award, one of the auto industry’s most prestigious and highly coveted honors.
He remembers the big thick curtain, the stage, and the picture the dealer received with his image gracing the cover of TIME magazine.
“I was so enamored and wondered what he had done in his local community to receive that honor,” he says.“I thought how amazing it must be to receive that award. But I never thought I’d get nominated, let alone be named TIME Dealer of the Year.”
Yet on March 11, Giles stood on a stage, receiving the honor he’d never imagined he’d get from TIME magazine and Ally Financial at the 105th NADA Show.
He had no idea he’d already won when he stepped on stage. He had missed the award rehearsal and hisstaff hadn’t shared that magazines with his picture on the cover had arrived. And, he was convinced the other 47 nominees were more deserving of the award than he.
“In my mind, there was no way I was going to win,” he says.
But win he did, in a very emotional ceremony with his father—also a long-time industry veteran—sitting proudly in the audience. A committee selected Giles for his steadfast commitment to community service. Astandout of his many contributions, TIME and Ally Financial said, was the Giles Essential Errand Running Service, which offers grocery and essential item deliveries by dealership staff to senior citizens and immunocompromised community members.
Even with his impressive efforts to serve, Giles remains humble about the award. “To be selected out of such an incredible group of men and women, who have done so much for their communities, is an honor I will never forget,” he says.
Giles’ Journey to TIME Dealer of the Year
Giles cut his teeth in the automotive industry, beginning his training in retail automotive at age 11, when hisfather paid him 25 cents an hour to wash vehicles on the lot of his Ford dealership in Denison, Texas.
“My father built that dealership right next to a peanut factory, so by the time I got through washing every car, I had to do it again,” he laughs.
Eventually, Giles started performing other jobs within the dealership. He spent time in every department, learning to operate a dealership from the ground up. He worked summers and evenings, as he earned adegree in accounting from Texas A&M University in College Station in 1976.
He confesses he originally sought an engineering degree, thinking he’d work for an auto manufacturer, buthe quickly realized his heart lay in retail. “I asked my father if he could do it all over again what would he major in, and he said accounting, so that’s what I did,” he says.
Accounting degree in hand, Giles started selling cars at his father’s dealership, which landed him a salesmanager position at age 24. A few years later, he approached Volkswagen about getting a dealership of hisown. “They had a dealer in Lafayette, Louisiana, who had filed bankruptcy, and offered me the opportunity,” he says.
Giles’ father Bob and uncle Perry Giles partnered with him in the dealership and on “my 28th birthday in February 1982, I move to Louisiana, and opened a Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi dealership on April 1,” he says.
And Giles Automotive Inc. was born. Today the auto group includes three stores in Lafayette, one inOpelousas, Louisiana, and one in El Paso, Texas, representing Nissan, Subaru, and Volvo brands.
The experiences gained as a child aided Giles in growing his business. Having done every job in a dealership quickly earned him employee respect at his first dealership. “My experiences afforded me the ability to work with them and help them resolve issues,” he says.
And that accounting degree? “That was probably the best advice I ever got from my father,” he says.
Active in Associations
A notable characteristic of Giles’ efforts to give back is his work in both state and local dealer associations. Hehas chaired the board of the Lafayette Auto Dealers Association four times and helped launch the group’s annual car show and sale in 1984.
He has advocated for fellow dealers as a member of the Louisiana Automobile Dealers Association. Heexplains, “I worked with the state association to put forth initiatives that benefit all dealers in the state, and focused on warranty reimbursement rates, technician training, purchasing groups and beneficial legislation impacting auto dealers.”
But it is in community contributions that Giles really shines. He says he’s proud of his efforts to better the community and boost the auto industry’s image overall.
“Growing up in the car business, I always felt like people looked down on auto dealers and saw them as dishonest,” he says. “But they are among the best businessmen in the country and are incredibly involved in their communities. I committed to being involved in every community where I had dealerships.”
He explains, “I wanted to set an example for other dealers and businesses to give back to the communities that keep them in business.”
Giles’ efforts include providing needed support in the hurricane-prone area. When Hurricane Andrewmade landfall in Louisiana on August 26, 1992, it led to incredible
destruction and a major power outage. Vendors started taking advantage of people who needed ice to keep things cool.
“A $10 bag of ice was going for $50,” he says. “So, I purchased a trailer full of dry ice and gave it away. We had cars lined up for miles because 10 pounds of dry ice in a refrigerator can keep things cold for many days. Since then, I’ve done this a couple of times.”
Giles also supports Hunters for the Hungry, which asks sportsmen to donate game meat in their freezerbefore a hunt. “Every fall, we ask sportsmen to donate game fish in their freezers before the hunting season starts again,” he says. “We typically collect about 10,000 pounds of fish and donate it to a men’s shelter.One pound of meat can make four or five meals. That is significant. Protein is the hardest thing to get donated.”
In Texas, Giles helps local reserves stationed at Fort Hood before being deployed. When he learned the military would not send soldiers home before being deployed to Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, Gilescommissioned 30+ buses to pick up soldiers, take them home to their families and return them to base for deployment.
Giles also partnered with a local TV station to create the Acadiana Heroes campaign, which recognizeddeserving individuals in nonprofit community organizations. The recipients received a monetary prize and exposure for their cause.
“Each month we would select finalists nominated by the community and the TV station would do a story on them, then viewers would vote. Whoever received the most votes would receive
$5,000 to go toward their endeavors,” he says. “I thought we’d run out of local heroes after six months, but it took three or four years to reach that point.”
He’s also active in Outreach Center, which provides shelter and services to the homeless in the Acadia region, and his efforts helped the organization increase its annual fundraiser from
$100,000 annually to over $500,000.
Other organizations he supports include Dreams Come True of Louisiana, which grants dreams to children with life-threatening illnesses; Acadiana Animal Aid, a no-kill animal shelter in Carencro, Louisiana; and Love Our Schools.
Employees Give Back Too
It’s not required, but Giles encourages his employees to give back to the community and even gives them time off for their endeavors.
“Our organization stands for giving back. I could not do the work I do without my employees’ hard work,”he says. “I’m the lucky guy who gets to present the checks, but if it wasn’t for the work they do, I would not be in a financial position to do it.”
But he stresses, it’s not just about money. “Everybody has a talent, and everybody has time. There are manyorganizations that need all three, money, talent and time,” he says. “No matter who you are and what you do, you can give back.”