Boris Lopez believes success is “being happy at the place you go to every day.” For Lopez, that place is at one of the three auto-retail-related businesses he calls home.
The 41-year-old is vice president of operations for the Toy Tech Motors Corporation, a company that focuses on managing talent for car dealerships in South Florida. In addition, he is a founding partner of South Dade Kia in Miami. Plus, he still serves as a director at South Dade Toyota in Homestead, the dealership where Lopez’s partner, Mario JT Benedetti, helped the young Venezuelan get his start when he first moved to the United States. “I feel that it is hard to be successful if you don’t work hard,” Lopez said.
Read on to find out how Lopez got involved in the auto retail industry, his thoughts on mentors and success, barriers facing Hispanic men and how to get more representation in the dealership.
Q: How did you get started in the automotive retail industry?
A: I was going to school with a friend that used to be the body shop manager of a Toyota dealer in a small Venezuelan town. They were having issues with the installation of a new DMS, and he recommended me as the person that could solve the problem (my background is IT). I went by the dealer in my cap and jeans and he introduced me to the store owner, Mario Benedetti (my partner today). That day I fixed a couple of problems on his personal computer and he offered me a job as an IT assistant. I was 20 years old and less than a month later, I got an offer to sell cars. Since then, I have never stopped growing in the company.
Q: What is your definition of success? To what or who do you attribute to that success?
A: For me, success is to be happy at the place you go every day with a reason to wake up every day. I feel that it is hard to be successful if you don’t work hard.
As to “what I attribute my success to,” the big one is never limit yourself to your job duties. Always understand why the duties are there and how to do more to scale higher, even if you don’t get paid for the extra work. Never stop studying and never stop chasing perfection. It will never be perfect, but every time you try harder, you become better at what you do.
And for the “who,” I believe it is impossible to grow and be successful if you don’t have the right mentors. I was lucky enough to have two from the same family, Mario and Lucy Benedetti. They taught me and guided me through a lot, both at work and as an individual. Without that initial and constant push, I’m not sure if I would be where I am today.
Q: As a Hispanic male in an industry historically dominated by white men, have you experienced any barriers? If so, how did you overcome those barriers?
A: Barriers are everywhere. I come from a country with different obstacles that are not based on ethnicity or skin color. But here in the United States, I understand through others why there is so much of it.
As I said, you probably need to work harder if you are not white. But if you work hard enough, at some point, the excellence of your work and the way you create teams will shine brighter than your ethnicity or skin color. That doesn’t mean you don’t cross ignorant people on your way, but it will become irrelevant as you become better.
Q: What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into the industry?
A: This is a beautiful industry. There’s a piece for every interest, you learn about five different businesses under the same rooftop. If you are successful in one area, you can take it as part of a learning process to move to a different one with all the knowledge you acquired. I believe there is a path for every person to have a successful career and a successful life in the car industry.
Q: What are your thoughts on how to increase the number of Hispanic owners in the automotive retail space?
A: I have heard that different manufacturers have special programs for minorities, which is a great way to increase it. Also, I believe another way to grow is for other dealers to propose candidates to the manufacturers and show them how they can become financially prepared for it. That will increase the number of Hispanic dealers. Sometimes I feel it is hard for candidates to learn about these programs and it could be more challenging for them to picture themself in those roles.
Q: What advice would you give to a 10-year-old Boris?
A: Great question. First, start from that age to practice patience. He will need it in the future. Rome was not built in one day. I would also encourage him to learn more than two languages to make his life easy and to help him learn from different sources. The third would be to become financially educated early in life. The world moves on finances and if you can understand it as early as possible, it will help to build a successful business faster.
In conjunction with Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15), this article is part of a series celebrating the Hispanic voices working in the auto retail industry.
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