Phil Nightingale traded stints at dealerships in Salina and Hutchinson for a service director's job at Mel Hambelton Ford on west Kellogg.
And a little more than a year later, the 46-year-old Halstead native became its general manager.
As general manager, Nightingale oversees the dealership's sales and service, and 125 full-time and 25 part-time employees, who he says are crucial to the dealership's success.
Nightingale, who has worked around cars since he was 8, said most of his sales and service career has been spent with other manufacturers such as General Motors.
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"I never thought I'd say I'm glad to work for a Ford store, but I am," he said.
Nightingale and his wife, Mary, have two children, Jake, 12, and Ellie, 11.
How did you end up coming to Mel Hambelton Ford?
"Lisa Hambelton kept begging me and begging me to come over here, and I kept saying no. I wished I had listened to her a long time ago."
How did you get interested in the car business?
"In Halstead, working with my dad. He had the service station there at Second and Main, and I've been in the car business ever since. I've never done anything else.
"I've always loved cars. My mom used to beg me to stay at home on Saturdays during the summer, but not me. I was always down (at the service station) working."
What about the car business do you enjoy?
"The best thing right now with the position I've got is helping people when they have needs with their service, to be able to take care of them and make them happy. It's just fun to see that people get taken care of and not misled and not cheated on (but) taken care of the right way. I have a following from Hutch that I still bring in their cars for service. There's times when we'll make four trips a day to Hutch just delivering customers' cars."
What keeps you up at night?
"Just making sure I'm taking care of the employees I've got, making sure they've got a job and are making the income they need to make. They are my backbone. If I didn't have those great employees, I'd be in trouble."
How is 2010 shaping up at your dealership?
"A huge increase. We've put a lot of emphasis on service, getting our quick lane doing what it needs to do. And the overall service business is up dramatically. We're helping customers in a different way. We're wanting them to feel comfortable when they bring in their cars for service. (And) our sales have increased dramatically. I've got to give some credit to Ford. The product and the way that (Ford CEO) Alan Mulally has went after this business and really changed the world for Ford. We've had some record months. As far as '10 versus '09, there's no comparison."