For Donna Coryell, the path to becoming a Dealernews Top 100 dealer was fraught with loss and hardship. She weathered the storms through hard work and resiliency — all leading up to a brand-new building for her New Jersey store, Deptford Honda Yamaha, in the same spot it had been for 20-plus years.
“My goal with our new building was always to be a Top 100 dealer,” Coryell says. “I didn’t feel worthy in the old building, so I didn’t even enter. “We’ve been in the new building for four and a half years now, and we’ve been a Top 100 dealer for every year we’ve entered,” she notes. That’s strong testimony to her success. But Coryell didn’t enter this industry with such confidence — not by a long shot.
FROM TRAGEDY TO …
Like many dealerships, DHY started as a small family affair. “Back in the ’70s, my parents had a lumberyard where we sold Arctic Cat snowmobiles,” Coryell says. “In 1980, my father went to purchase for me a CT70 from a local dealer, and ended up buying the dealership.”
She would work at the dealership part-time after school. Tragedy struck when her father, Frank Coryell Jr., died in an accident while she and her brother were still living at home. “It was basically my mom [raising] two teenagers,” she says. “We were lost. It was time to run a dealership. But we knew nothing.”
Despite her father’s expressed assumption that his wife and children would sell the business if anything were to happen to him, they decided to keep their burgeoning dealership — this despite the fact that neither Coryell nor her mother, Gloria, had any formal management or powersports business training.
“At first, our employees were basically helping us run our business,” Coryell says. “We made lots of mistakes. It was trial and error, you might say. Mistakes got made, but failure simply wasn’t an option for us. So we’d go to high school and then leave early to go to work.”
With the help of mentors and friends, Coryell and family kept at it. One person in particular, Irv Solarski of Romaha Distributors, was a great help. “He’s passed away now, but he was my go-to guy for advice when I was having troubles,” Coryell recalls. “He always had my back, and he was a big part of my succeeding. It was a miracle we made it this far, considering how little we started with in terms of business and motorcycle knowledge.”
DHY did survive, and despite the steep learning curve, it thrived. “We were a small but very profitable store, with lots of support from family and staff,” Coryell says. “We had to deal with all the usual troubles: safety issues, insurance — you name it.”
At one point, Coryell says, the family owned two separate dealerships, one of which was robbed every single Saturday night. That’s when DHY decided to build, from the ground up, its current state-of-the-art facility — almost on top of the old building.
“The expansion had to happen because the old building was literally falling down around us,” Coryell says. “Leaving the old building was very emotional. That old location was ‘us.’ But we poured our heart and soul into the new building and dedicated it to my father once it was finished.”
‘CAN’T BE A QUITTER’
There’s no denying that the power- sports industry is a male-dominated field. Coryell understands this all too well. “I’m strong-willed, but I have to work harder to earn respect in this environment,” she says. “It was a struggle. Even though I’d been running the dealership since I was 16, OEMs had trouble accepting me as the dealer principal.”
Setbacks, she claims, just made her work harder, and she considers herself a survivor as a result. “I’m stronger than most men I know,” Coryell says. “I’ve seen a lot of dealerships close their doors — there’s just less room for error these days. You have to get out there and market yourself, and you can’t be a quitter.”
DHY sees more female customers on a daily basis than her competitors — twice as many, Coryell claims. “I feel we’re pretty high in actual women customers as part of our customer base. One-third of my staff is female, and we understand what these customers want. We are very women-oriented because we live this life. People are surprised that my store is so comfortable and welcoming.”
And because Coryell worked so hard to build her store, she’s strict about cleanliness and orderliness. “I wanted this building for so long that I want it to be perfect for a long as possible, just like the day it was built,” Coryell says. “Just like our social media marketing, you can’t just sit there. You have to put the time in, but I’ve seen it pay off tenfold.”
Coryell’s values and tenacity are the driving forces behind DHY’s reported success. “My dad instilled the values that I’ve based my whole business and whole way of life,” Coryell says. “Treat people the way you want to be treated, because it comes back tenfold.” The numbers speak for themselves: DHY’s customer satisfaction rating is in the 90th percentile.
Not content to operate a well-run brick-and-mortar store, Donna Coryell also has an established web presence (www.dhy.com).
The store’s website is constantly updated with the latest deals, promotions, events, and tons of photos from dealership events. A metal diamond-plate background and metallic callouts reflects the store’s stainless steel interior and exterior. This online activity earned Deptford Honda Yamaha a 2011 Top 100 Special Merit Award for Best Website.
In addition to keeping an active website, Deptford Honda Yamaha maintains a Facebook Fan page (www.facebook.com/dhynj), a Twitter account (http://twitter.com/DHYNJ) and a customized YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/dhynj).
This story originally appeared in the Dealernews May 2011 issue.