Home / News outtakes / Dealing with success | Setbacks fail to stymie drive of local car dealer
Chris George
Chris George, general manager of Team Kia in El Cajon, enjoys a break from his busy schedule. In addition to his duties at the dealership, George is involved in the community and at his church. Photo by Sarah Tolson Photography.

Dealing with success | Setbacks fail to stymie drive of local car dealer

Chris and Debbie George were listening intently to the guest preacher at their new church in Eugene, Oregon, where they had just moved with their three boys. They relocated to the Pacific Northwest from their native San Diego County so that their sons would enjoy the benefits of being raised in a small town. It was a risky move—literally—because although they had saved money to relocate, Chris George still did not have a job.

While uncertain about his work future, the couple remained steadfast in their faith and had already found a church home. It was there that a traveling preacher delivered a sermon on first fruits, of giving the best we have to offer.

“God spoke to Debbie and myself that we needed to give out of our need and give we did,” he said.

Even with no job prospects, the couple gave one third of their seed money for the move.

“A week later I got the best job I ever had in the auto business,” he said.

In 2007, more than a decade after arriving in Oregon, George sold his business and brought the family back to El Cajon, where they longed to reconnect with family and friends.

“I knew we were dying a slow spiritual death,” he said.

Just like when he left, George was returning without a job.

This time he opened his own dealership, Jack Murphy Auto Group.

“(It was) in the middle of a recession and under-capitalized,” he said. “I say in my carnal mind we committed financial suicide. Twelve months later, 20 years of savings gone, and about $70,000 in debt, we closed the doors. Debbie and I were sitting in our garage selling off all our toys, office supplies and anything that we didn’t need.”

George took a sales job with BMW of El Cajon and worked his way into management with its parent company, Sunroad Automotive Group.

“God trimmed, pruned, and cut back my desires, plans and goals,” he said. “What we did have was incredible growth in every area money couldn’t buy. Personally, with my children and my marriage, we were all growing. Financially I lost everything we had and was in debt. A failure! Knowing God had a plan didn’t make it any easier, but kept me going. In every box He was faithful.”

Two years later, when the pruning ended, there was new fruit.

“I was heading home and came around the bend at Highway 8 and Johnson Avenue,” he said. “I was looking at a dying Kia store. And I knew it was for sale.”

The dealership, George said, was selling just 10 to 15 cars a month.

He reached out to John Kiefer, an out-of-town business associate.

“John, I think there may be an opportunity to acquire a Kia dealership in San Diego. Would you be interested?” George asked.

“If I was, would you run it for me?” Kiefer responded. Team Kia was born in 2009 and now sells 350-plus cars a month.

As the new general manager, George began the process of resurrecting the dealership by putting his personal motto of adding value into action.

“How else can we change the world unless we add something?” George, 51, asked. “Plus, minus, or neutral. In life, I hate the second two more than I’m passionate about the first one.”

 

Greater goals

Nearly simultaneously, George also set his sights beyond the boundaries of the car lot, reaching into the community and developing relationships with other business, church and city leaders.

“God put that in me,” George said of community building. “Somewhere I realized I knew I wanted to make things better. First it was my bicycle, next it was my car I had to fix up because it wouldn’t run. Next it was our home, and then our community.”

He now serves as president of the Valley of Cars Dealers Association and was recently a guest speaker at the East County Mayor’s Luncheon. He also makes a monthly radio appearance on KPRZ 1210 AM.

“I love people working together to improve a situation, to make a difference, to support a cause, to clean up a town, to help another person because they think they are stuck and you know you see potential in them, you see what God sees in them, what they can be, not the lie of what they are,” he said.

In George’s case, that improvement mostly came by way of life experience and not through formal training. Although he attended Grossmont College for two years, he describes himself as being “allergic to school.” Yet, he lists three of his main hobbies as growth, reading and learning.

He also loves baseball, which as a child he hoped to play professionally. It’s not surprising, then, that analogies from the diamond and from other sports often end up in his conversations.

“I love the movie or story that has the coach that demonstrates tough love, accepts but doesn’t tolerate,” he said. “There is greatness to be discovered by those who believe in us. I want to be that guy to my boys, to the employees, to our friends.”

 

Facing fear

George is quick to remind people that networking should not necessarily be confined to the work environment, but that network contacts should be people with shared values.

“One piece that sticks would be to find someone ahead of you in life and plug into them. Ideally it would be our parents, but if not, find someone you respect, and submit. Everyone in life needs to be accountable. It’s simple—but not easy.”

George admits that he still wrestles with a fear of succeeding.

“I’m not sure I have overcome it,” he offered. “I am determined to walk in my God-given destiny, regardless of my fears.”

One of the ways he accomplishes that is by pedaling downhill.

“That keeps you working when things are going well, which keeps you humble,” George said. “It also prepares you for the season when we must plant, water, and tend.

“There are only two motivators in life: Fear of loss, and hope for gain. In my lifetime I want to see Christians walk in the second motivator. The first one is created by the enemy, to kill, steal, and destroy.

“If we as Christians operated from hope, we would vote, we would contribute, our kids would be the ones all the businesses wanted to hire because they had such good work ethic. We would add value, not move, not run, not quit, but press through with the hope and knowledge that our God is an unshakable God that knows our future and our past, that directs our steps and wants to bless His kids; that we as Christians would walk as King’s Kids; that our descendants would know their inheritance because of our willingness to pedal downhill.

— by Lori Arnold

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