This is the real me, the real Jill Merriam, co-owner with my brother Jeff of Key Hyundai of Manchester and Key Hyundai of Milford, CT’s Hyundai dealers.
You see me on tv, hear me on the radio, but in real life? I’m mom to Brady and Carly. Wife to best-friend Rob Dulitsky. And the only female franchised car dealer in Connecticut, a rarity in a male-dominated industry.
Know this: I love my job.
I’m not acting on tv, I’m that pumped to breaking down the stereotypes of car buying and remake the industry.
I’m trying to bust the negative image of car dealerships by infusing honesty and transparency into everything we do. And I’ve got a great product to work with: Hyundai.
I know what people think about car dealers, heck, I know what I think about most car dealers! But the Jill Merriam you see on tv is the real deal. I’m taking my business smarts, my finance background, and my mom-perspective to this business of car selling, and I aim to eliminate the “ew” car dealer reputation that plagues my industry.
Here’s my story. Why should you read this? Because the more you know about me, the more likely you are to reach out let me to help you get you in the car you want. There’s no smoke and mirrors here: we’re a Connecticut business aiming to provide quality, high value, affordable Hyundais to our Connecticut community.
No tricks. No skeevy bait and tricks. We’ve got a great product at a great price and I’m a car dealer you can believe in. I put my name on it.
So, here’s my story:
The Early Years – social justice and empathy
I’m a product of two homes, as are 50% of families in the US. Growing up, my life was a tale of two cities with parents who divorced when I was young. Dad was a second generation car dealer, and Mom a customer service rep and struggling single mom. I learned at an early age what life was like on both sides of the fence. It was a crazy upbringing but one that taught endless compassion and strong survival skills.
Mom always instilled in a strong sense of social justice and impenetrable ethical nature. My mom, Judy, remains my greatest hero – and is now a second grade teacher in New Haven saving the world one kid at a time.
Life B.C. (before car dealership):
I graduated from college and took that killer corporate finance job, working around the country and around the world – with stints in London, New York, Boston and Seattle. It was the corporate American dream job for over 10 years – big career, big office, big money and big respect! My last corporate job was at Microsoft; even sat in corporate review meetings with Bill Gates! Yeah, that Bill Gates!
So, why give all that up for the car business?
Believe it or not, the switch had much to do with Gates and Microsoft. In a meeting one day, I was pondering Gates’ success, like most people in the room, I’m sure. Bill Gates revolutionized the software business, and I was then one of 35,000 employees on site. What if I applied that same approach to revolutionize my family’s business?
Why not the car business from the start?
I grew up around the dinner table hearing about the daily grind of the car business. That’s why I ran as far away as possible upon graduation. When car dealers are considered shadesters, who wants to be in a business where customers dread walking in the door and feel like they are always being lied to?
I wanted to change this.
What would happen if the car business eliminated the stereotype? How would the industry change if customers were treated with respect, with their questions answered timely and honestly? What would happen if the ethics I hold close in my personal life were carried over to business?
And what if I hired like-minded automotive and finance experts, who met people’s needs, treated them honestly and there was no b.s.?
What if I was a car dealer “for the people”? Sure sounds hokey, but seriously, a real person selling real cars to real people? Experts told me to forget it; I was crazy – don’t try to change the status quo; it’ll never work.
But I kept at it, talking to sales managers and owners, and hearing the same story over and over: “I’ve been doing this for 26 years, and I started washing cars in high school. What do you know about selling cars?”
Wow. The undertones of anti-change, anti-woman, anti-customer were loud and clear. This was not going to be easy, but I kept at it, knowing this would be an ideal opportunity to give back to the Connecticut community. And change the car industry, one customer at a time.
The Grand Experiment:
In 2002, I opened a Hyundai dealership in Connecticut. She chose Hyundai because it was an up and coming brand and the cars offered real value to the consumer. No fluff – just real value.
And, the grand experiment of treating people honestly and putting no sales pressure on them commenced on day one. Don’t misunderstand: I want to make money. But not at the expense of my reputation. Fair and honest car dealers shouldn’t be an oxymoron, and I was committed to changing that. Plus, wouldn’t customers be more likely to buy cars from an automotive and finance expert who met their needs, answered their questions, rather than a pushing a product at all costs?
Seems logical, doesn’t it?
And it’s working.
It’s been 9 years and the experiment is no longer an experiment; it’s a successful modus operandi for the people.
Today I remain the only female car dealer in the State of Connecticut. And maybe it’s a woman thing, I don’t know. But by instilling compassion and ethics into everything we do, we experience repeat and referral business with customers buying their first, and second, and third Hyundais from us. Sending families and friends: “Yes, Hyundai,” they say. “Ask for Jill. She’ll take care of you.”
And that’s my story. How I became Jill Merriam, the dealer for the people!
The secret to my success is quite simple: when you apply a moral, ethical stand to whatever you do – even a car dealership! – and fulfill your customer’s specific needs with one-on-one attention, success is imminent!