After spending almost 34 years in the retail car business, all of it with the same dealership, Wes Jones is easing into retirement, taking the knowledge he has touched the lives of countless employees and customers.
Jones worked in various capacities for Forbes Motors Inc. in Waterloo, starting out as a salesperson and most recently as the General Manager. He officially left the job on Wednesday and is about to embark on a month’s holiday. He still has 35 cars on order and will follow up with his clients upon his return.
He has been moved by the gracious comments from employees and customers posted on his Facebook page,
“Forget the money side of it and the cars and the business and the title and all of that, it’s the fact I leave there and people felt they were valued and they had a better life because of it,” said Jones.
Though his father worked in England as a GM for a couple dealerships, Jones never aspired to follow that career path. But needing a job, he saw a Forbes Motors ad looking for a salesperson and applied for it. Even after he was hired, he and his wife, Heidi, planned to return to the U.S. where they met, and establish careers there.
He trained for two weeks and was then told to observe, but on his first Saturday he was pressed into service because of a heavy flow of traffic. He spent four hours with one customer and sold him a brand new 1988 Buick Regal.
In January 1989, his first full month on the job, he sold 13 cars.
“In January in Canada for a guy who’s never sold before it’s not normal, but I just assumed everyone coming in was going to buy a car, and I would spend all day with the customer if I had to,” said Jones. “I was fresh in the business and I was so excited. I thought, ‘this is the coolest thing in the world. You just be nice to people and listen to them and spend time with them and then they buy a car from you’.”
In short time, he decided to make the job a full-time career. “It became clear to me fairly early that if you treat people right and are conscientious and sincere, you could make a good living in the car business,” said Jones, who is 55. “Also, the Forbes family were super nice people and there was a very good atmosphere.”
He worked for almost 11 years in sales before being promoted to New Vehicle Manager and then General Sales Manager, which totalled more than 18 years.
“I spent a lot of time with my salespeople and I would go on deals all the time if they were struggling with the client,” said Jones. “A lot of Sales Managers back then didn’t do that. I was always very comfortable talking with people and dealing with clients, so I think that’s what made me successful as a Sales Manager.”
He moved up to become Director of Sales and then General Manager in 2019, which he said was a massive shift. “You’re dealing with the livelihoods of all these people and the entire dealership,” said Jones. “The buck stops with you. My huge advantage was I had been there a long time and I knew everybody so well.”
His managerial skills were tested, though, because it coincided with COVID. “It certainly was not fun being the General Manager and running a large retail facility during that whole mess,” said Jones.
Jones accepted the GM position from Dealer Principal Russ Forbes with the proviso of retiring within five years, something he and his wife had discussed.
“I’m going to miss the people the most,” said Jones. “When you work at a place for almost 35 years, that’s my family. All those people are my family. That’s going to be the hardest part, along with some of my clients that I got really close to. I’m not going to miss having the weight of the entire company on my shoulders, to be honest with you. That’s a lot, but already I feel a little lost and a little bit emotional if I’m honest.”