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The town I lived in and did business in built a new county government center and high school within a few years of each other. Of course property taxes on commercial property went up dramatically. At the time I was leasing out a small plain Jane industrial building next to our clothing store. When I got over the sticker shock of my tax increase on this small building I wasn’t making enough on the lease to even cover the property taxes. I had a great tenant in there and when the lease was expiring I talked to him and showed him my property tax bill and explained I would at least like to cover the cost of the taxes on the new lease. I would have to raise his lease payment to do so. Regretfully for me he decided to purchase a property right across the street, it was a good deal for him and I would have done the same.
Try as I might for three months to lease out this property I had no takers with good credit. My wife and I discussed that we would have to probably put another business in there that we owned. When we narrowed down the options a used car lot seemed like the best choice. The building could have the front remodeled for an office and it already had a service bay in the back, we just had to change the garage door. Next to this building was a paved vacant lot that we owned so it was perfect. We also thought that selling cars might even out our cash flow because the clothing store we owned next door generated most of it’s sales in the third and fourth quarter. With the car lot we were hoping for adequate sales in second and third quarter.
I had started new businesses before but the car lot was the first new business I started that showed a profit it’s very first year. As it turned out sales were steady most of the year except for December and the first two weeks of January. We were happy but it was a lot of work, a lot of work!
The best decision I made starting this business was joining the regional trade organization the Northland Independent Auto Dealers Association. They had resources galore to help start and run the car lot from paper supplies and contracts to legal advice. Right away I became very active with the organization, the members were very welcoming to new dealers and most open to giving assistance.
I have been a member of many trade organizations over the years and always the benefits have been an enhancement to running the business. The education and support I got from the Northland Independent Auto Dealers Association was tremendous. Join your trade group and take advantage of what they have to offer. Other great resources are the Small Business Administration’s website and the National Federation of Independent Businesses: