Carter takes helm of Great River family of products

Published 3:37 pm Sunday, November 5, 2017


NATCHEZ — When David Carter joked with the Great River Honda business owners that he could run the shop, he never pictured within a year he would be running the entire operation, including three car and truck franchises and a new tractor line.

Carter was named the general manager of Great River Honda on Oct 27, 2016. Not long into the operation, Carter said the performance numbers started improving.

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For the last eight months, Great River Honda has experienced triple-digit percent growth each month, he said. And when comparing October 2016 to October 2017, sales were 287 percent higher.

“When we got here a year ago, we were at the bottom of the region,” Carter said. “Now by a landslide we have the highest growth rate. I am proud of this.”

Due to his success at Great River Honda, owners, Randy and Ann Tillman, asked Carter what he might do differently at the Great River automotive shops — GMC, Chevrolet and Nissan.

Carter said the Nissan shop has since had its best September ever and Great River is now also selling Mahindra tractors.

Randy Tillman said in the decade he has known Carter, Tillman has learned Carter goes into every situation with a blueprint of how he will succeed.

“I have seen him take horses that have never been ridden, never even been domesticated in any way, and by the end of the day, he will be riding the horse,” Tillman said. “He is a people person. He is a kind, ethical and brilliant man.”

Tillman said he and Carter have a cattle operation together, and one day, they were out feeding the bulls when Carter told Tillman he would run the Honda shop.

“He has taken Honda, which in our dealership group last year ranked near the bottom, and we are now No. 3 out of 30. It is unbelievable, the growth we have seen in a year.”

Tillman said he knew Carter would be successful because of how good he is with people.

“He is an incredible judge of people and is great at motivating the employees,” Tillman said. “He builds a family and a team out of a group of people who may not have known each other.

“To have him as part of our Great River Automotive and Outdoors family, it is just outstanding. He is the home run we have always hoped to one day have associated with us.”

Carter said he could not take all the accolades for the success.

“I get a lot of credit for the success, but really I have been blessed to find the right people,” Carter said.

The biggest things are focusing on product selection, lowering the prices and having the No. 1 customer service, he said.

On selection, Carter said it was important to make sure they had every model they could get on the lot.

“If you look at brands, Mahindra is the No. 1 selling tractor in the world and Honda is the No. 1 selling ATV in the world,” Carter said. “Chevrolet, GMC and Nissan are all recognized as well.”

Carter said giving customers the best price they can give is important.

“We are putting on incentives, rebates and often selling well below the invoice level,” Carter said. “You are paying what employees would pay for vehicles.”

Carter said the business has also changed its marketing strategy to try to bring in a wider area to Natchez.

“We do a lot more digital advertising,” Carter said. “In the old days, people started on the sales floor. Now that is the finish line.

“People are doing all sort of research online before they ever make it to the sales floor. We are making sales in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and as far away as Minnesota.”

Customer service is all about having the right people in place. Carter said the employees are all from the region.

“You hear a lot of negatives about the quality of the work force in the area,” Carter said. “But we have gone from the bottom to the top of the industry, and all with local people.”

For his staff, Carter said he has three factors he looks for — honesty, reliability and can they complete the job. Carter said through this philosophy, a lot of women have wound up in leadership positions.

“When I hire someone, yes you need knowledge and education, but most of the things we do can be taught,” Carter said. “If people do those three things, they will find a way to a leadership role.”

Carter said he also needed to thank those who paved the way for the Great River brand to be successful.

“All of our locations have good name recognition, and that’s because our predecessors did a good job,” Carter said. “We are grateful.”

Sometime down the road, Carter said he hopes to build a new facility for the Great River family of products.

“It’s all about local, home grown people, global brands and reaching a large market,” Carter said.