Mario Murgado serves as owner, president & CEO of Miami Automotive, Inc. d/b/a Brickell Motors. The company operates automotive dealerships throughout Florida including Brickell Buick & GMC, Brickell Honda, Brickell Luxury Motors, and Brickell Mazda near downtown Miami. Luxury brands Audi and Infiniti are featured at the company’s campus in Stuart, FL, and Ocean Cadillac serves customers in Miami Beach.
Murgado was formally senior managing partner and active executive officer of the Braman organization in both Miami and Palm Beach. In 2001, he purchased an almost barren Brickell Honda and Brickell Pontiac GMC dealership and turned it into a successful and profitable venture. After substantial investments in the facility and the implementation of various strategies, Brickell Honda now sells more than 3,600 Hondas each year and Brickell Buick & GMC has been one of the top dealers in the Southeast for more than 15 years. Brickell Buick was one of eight dealerships in the U.S. recognized for the prestigious Dealership of the Year award!
In 2011, the company opened Brickell Luxury Motors with an inventory housing more than 50 of Miami’s finest luxury vehicles. In 2013, Brickell Motors added Audi and Infiniti dealerships in Stuart. Both are flagship stores that have exceeded both company and manufacturer expectations. In addition, Audi Stuart earned Audi’s Elite Magna Society award, the highest honor bestowed upon an Audi dealership, a feat not accomplished before by another dealer in its first year of operations.
In 2014, Brickell Motors added its Mazda franchise, and acquired Ocean Cadillac, a well-regarded family-owned dealership, which will be completely re-engineered and re-imagined in the coming months.
Murgado’s organization focuses on a core belief and mission statement:
“Our organization must have an unwavering commitment to the delivery of quality new and pre-owned vehicles by providing extraordinary service to the people we proudly and humbly call our clients.”
Mr. Murgado strongly believes, “To whom much is given, much is expected” and therefore feels it is his duty to give back to the community through various organizations including the Beacon Council, Camillus House, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, Jack Nicklaus Children’s Hospital & Foundation, St. Thomas University, Florida International University, and many more.
He is the recipient of several prestigious awards including:
· Recipient of the 2017 Michael Shores Citizen of the Year Award
· Ernst & Young Florida Finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year
· South Florida Business Journal “Business of the Year”
· South Florida Business Journal “Entrepreneur of the Year”
· American International Automobile Dealers Association Impact Award Winner
· Top Hispanic Business Award
· Father of the Year Nominee, South Florida Chapter of American Diabetes Association
Murgado has served as chairman of the Florida Automobile Dealers Association and the American Honda National Dealer advisory board, and as a member of the General Motors advisory boards for marketing and fixed-operations dealers, and is a member of the South Florida Dealers Association and AIADA board.
Outside of his business and industry, Murgado is active in numerous civic and community organizations. He currently serves on a number of boards; as a member of the board of trustees for St. Thomas University in Miami, chairman of the board of Miami Children’s Health System (the parent organization of Nicklaus Children’s Hospital). Former director and finance chair of Miami Children’s Hospital and Foundation. Member of FIU board of trustees, board member of the Orange Bowl Committee, board member of History Miami, and past chair for Miami International Auto Show. He is also the former chair for Mothers Against Drunk Driving Florida Council, and has served as chair for the Young Presidents’ Organization Executive Board-Miami Chapter.
Tell me about your early career.
My career started in sales at a very young age, and I was fortunate to get my first job in the car business with the Braman organization in 1981. I began on the sales floor and eventually worked my way up to chief operating officer and active CEO/president at Braman Imports Inc.
How did the concept for Brickell Motors come about?
In 2000, I resigned from the Braman organization to pursue my dream of owning my own dealer group. I purchased an almost barren Brickell Honda and Brickell Pontiac/GMC dealership (May 21, 2001 at 8:08 PM, a monumental moment in my life), believing in our community and knowing we could turn it into a success. After substantial investments in the facility and the implementation and follow-through of various strategies, Brickell Honda now sells more than 3,600 Hondas per year, and Brickell Buick GMC has been one of the top dealers in the area since 2001.
Brickell Motors has transformed in recent years from a neighborhood seller of new and used vehicles to a regional power-house, representing the finest automobile brands in the world. Every day, Brickell customers throughout the state drive away from our dealerships in the safest, most dependable, and luxurious new vehicles available from manufacturers including Audi, Buick, Cadillac, GMC, Honda, Infiniti and Mazda. And just down the street from our headquarters, clients can visit Brickell Luxury Motors (BLM) and stargaze at high-performance, pre-owned vehicles — from Bentley, BMW, Ferrari, Maserati and Porsche, among others.
How was the first year in business?
We wanted to remain in Miami and stay part of this community because we love it so much. We purchased the worst store in the market. It was selling only 16 Hondas, 6 Pontiacs and GMCs and 22 used cars per month. The store was neglected, deprived, and really in shambles and was run by an inactive owner, and we believed we could turn it around.
The store that I came from was a direct competitor immediately west of our location. When I was there, we owned 98% of the Brickell store’s market. We therefore knew the area well and what we had to do. We were committed to building the company as quickly as possible and bringing people with the right attitude, can do spirit, and who wanted to work. Immediately after we purchased it, we started remodeling the Pontiac/GMC store, and then, later on, worked our way to do the Honda store.
The prior ownership was selling an average of 57 cars per month when we purchased it. By the end of year, we had increased sales substantially, selling more than 200 cars per month.
What was your marketing strategy?
Our first major strategy was to focus on a competitive advantage we knew we possessed. We made it known that at Brickell Motors, the owners are always in. When you visited our dealerships, you could always speak to one of the owners of the store. Seven days a week, one of us was here and available for our customers. Fast-forward sixteen years later, we still cover our downtown Miami location in nearly the same way. There are only two days out of the month when one of us is not here. We keep that commitment to our customer and the community.
Our second strategy was to brand our location and not focus on the name of the owners. We chose Brickell Motors because our customers are familiar with the Brickell area near downtown Miami. With our location in name, when we advertise, potential customers know where to find us.
A third strategy involved targeting. We focused heavily on the Hispanic market, which is a large part of the demographics near our downtown location. We made it known that we will cater to all categories, but we developed specific advertising and marketing programs for the Hispanic market – and we made sure our employees welcomed this clientele. We also targeted the general market but we bypassed the dominant media at that time, newspaper, because we found it to be declining in value and less effective than television and radio advertising. At that time, it was unheard of for a car dealer to abandon newspaper advertising.
How do you define success?
I think that’s a very abstract and intangible question. Personally, I never view myself as successful. I view myself as grateful for the opportunities that this country has afforded me. I am grateful that I have been able to build a business in a dynamic city, surrounded by wonderful partners and associates who believe in our mission and seek to learn and win every day. I seek perpetual improvement and learning, especially when it comes to our loyal customers. We are always asking these types of questions: “Are our customers happy? Are we doing a good job for them? Are we fulfilling their needs and their wants?” Then, we seek ways to continuously earn their trust and loyalty.
Also, “Are we building relationships?” When they aren’t customers anymore and they become clients, that’s success. A customer buys from you once, while a client buys from you multiple times.
We also measure success through our staff and associates. Again, we ask questions: “Are we growing? Are we a place that people want to work? Are we a place that people want to be a part of? Is it a place that I can do a better job and can I help humanity and can I help our community?”
There’s nothing more fulfilling than seeing someone who worked for us and got married, moved to his first apartment, or later on bought his or her first house, or later on, had his or her first child. Eventually, we watch the child graduate from high school and then go on to college. To me, that’s success.
I’ve been blessed in 36 years to have experienced all those things and had all those experiences. It’s been a wonderful, rewarding, and very special experience. We always want to celebrate people – their wins and successes.
Part of my job has always been to teach, to help, and to foster the opportunity with a servant’s heart. If I am doing those things, then I’m successful.
Lastly, we want to be successful for our partners, the automobile manufacturers that we represent. They have been great partners for us and we are proud of the trust and confidence that they show in us and that we have developed over many years.
What is the key to success?
The biggest key is loving what I do and have enduring passion for the business. In the retail world, it is being fanatical about your customers. We must meet their needs and address their needs, sometimes before they even know they have them. To do this, we have to embrace change and always learn and adapt. The business world changes at a rate incomparable to when I first started. Therefore, in that change, you can be part of that change by embracing it, or you can be left behind. We have to always look to learn. We can never stop learning, and never stop adapting.
I enjoy mentoring people, but love mentoring young people, because I always ask them to help me in return. Reverse mentoring teaches me about how the world is changing and how we need to adapt. I have become a better learner, a better listener, but most importantly, it rejuvenates me. It makes me feel younger when I’m thinking like they’re thinking because of what they share with me.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
We learn our greatest lessons from our biggest challenges and we have faced many. The 9/11 attacks showed me how American leadership could overcome tremendous obstacles. Despite what happened that day and how it impacted our business, we had faith in this country, our leaders, our abilities, our people, and our manufacturers. We knew intrinsically that we would overcome it. As a nation, through the hard work of our people and the leader of our country, we were able to be successful.
Another very daunting time was the economic crisis of 2008. We were a successful dealership, but manufacturers were facing incredible pressure to close stores. Urban locations like ours were high on the list. Imagine everything you’ve worked for being on the cusp of termination? Fortunately, we had done all the right things, made the right relationships, and built a solid business. We survived and our location was not terminated. That was the good news. The bad news was that General Motors closed Pontiac, so we lost a franchise overnight. Fortunately for us, we added our Buick franchise. It was largely a non-entity in our market, and we were able to focus our energy and efforts to grow that brand and became the leading Buick dealership in the country.
What are some quotes that you live by?
“To much is given, much is expected.”
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
How we react to adversity is really important. If you have a solid foundation, if you have a solid footing on your business and you have good systems, good process, and good people, it’s much easier to take on. When you don’t have that, then bad things can happen.
The best advice I can give is to never panic. Take a deep breath. Analyze every aspect of it. As an entrepreneur and as a leader in the business, seek to understand each of the things that are challenging you. Then, determine what you have to apply to overcome and win.
When you do that and you do it in a thoughtful and patient manner, you’ll find that the answers will come to you, and you’ll find you’ll be able to achieve that much easier. Our biggest problem is that we don’t want to give ourselves time to think about what the situation is, and we don’t give ourselves the time to think about what’s the best approach that will handle it.
And then we fall into a situation where we do knee-jerk reactions or we think short-term, and when you think short-term or knee-jerk, chances are it’s never really what you wanted. So, you’re certainly not going to achieve the outcome that you deserve.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
1) God gave you two ears and one mouth: learn to listen. You’d be surprised how many great answers are out there and how many people are willing to support you in your quest if you’re thoughtful and you want to listen.
2) Keep your ego in check. One of the greatest virtues a man can have is humility. Be a student of the business, and be the very best one. Know your business better than anybody else could.
3) Look at your competitors, understand their business, and try to know it better than they know it. This gives you the opportunity to lead with your strategy and your tactics, and it puts them in a position of reaction. So in essence, while you’re on the offensive, they have to be defensive.
4) Never worry about how big you are or how small you are. If you’re big, use it for the betterment of the organization, and if you’re small, think about being David taking on Goliath. Be persistent and relentless in pursuit of your goals.
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This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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