pioneer … a person who is among the first to explore or settle a new country or area
Matt Cook feels like he’s a pioneer having opened America’s Car-Mart of Columbus in 2011, the company’s first foray into Mississippi.
“It felt like moving out west back in the 1800’s,” says Matt, the store’s General Manager. “We had to figure it all out. Being the only Car-Mart dealership in the state, we didn’t know the rules and regulations. I remember getting a thick book on the laws and learning those.”
He’s figured it out all right as he recently relocated his store to a larger location – from 2325 Highway 45 North to 3933 Highway 45 North – that is better than ever. “Our new facility is three times bigger, so we can feature more vehicles for our customers,” says Matt. “And, our associates are excited about our new location, as well.”
Matt remembers the store’s opening day. “We weren’t ready for the influx of customers. It was a late night, a big learning curve, but it was exhilarating,” says Matt. “The first month we sold 25 cars. That was a big task for three people. I remember the hard work, the late nights and just working to make it happen. We’ve come a long way since then.”
Thousands of vehicles and customers later, the store earned a spot on the company’s prestigious Top Ten Lots in 2017 with Matt’s leadership. The store has grown from three to 14 associates. And, Matt’s goal for his Columbus store is to win Lot of the Year.
“This new location is a great opportunity for us to better serve Columbus,” says Matt. “And, I, along with my team, are excited to welcome our customers to our new facility.”
Pioneering a new journey
After working in the banking industry, Matt was looking for a career change. He saw the opportunity offered by Car-Mart to participate in the company’s management program. “It piqued my interest. I applied and I received a call back 45 minutes later. I was still sitting at my computer,” smiles Matt, who joined Car-Mart as a future manager in Little Rock, Ark. in 2010. After three months, he was promoted to Assistant Manager and then to Satellite Manager in Jacksonville, Ark.
“I was really itching, though, to get my own location. I probably bugged everyone for a month or two. I was ready and then I was promoted to be the General Manager in Columbus and opening Car-Mart’s first store in Mississippi,” says Matt, a native of Cabot, Ark.
“As soon as I saw the promotions, I knew this was the place for me. My hard work was paying off,” Matt continues. “I was, also, proud that I was picked to be the first manager to open a store in Mississippi. I felt like they saw enough in me.”
Pioneering for opportunity
When Matt joined the company, he quickly learned Car-Mart is a company that values hard work and offers opportunities and advancement. “At other companies, you have to be somewhere for many years before being promoted upwards. At Car-Mart, hard work and proving yourself can lead to quick promotions – and that’s what initially drew me to Car-Mart,” says Matt, who participated in the company’s Future Manager training program.
“The training was really the opportunity to learn the business, open a store, and get promoted to your own store. I had to learn everything. They set me up to be better,” continues Matt, who worked his way through college and graduated with a finance degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Matt credits Car-Mart for providing him with opportunities that he probably wouldn’t have had anywhere else. “It’s developed me into the person I am today – not just as a GM, but outside of Car-Mart as well. For one thing, I listen to others more. Overall, Car-Mart has helped me grow up as a person,” says Matt.
He, also, acknowledges the company’s willingness to help and support its associates. “There’s a lot of support. You can always pick up the phone and talk to somebody. Someone is always willing to help. We’re a large company, but we still have that small company feel.”
And, now, Matt epitomizes the company values and is there for his own associates, training them and building a strong, cohesive team.
Pioneering for customers
Through the years, Matt has seen a lot of happy customers. He’s helped customers improve their credit, manage their budgets, or just help them be successful.
“All their hard work can pay off when they get the title to their car. Daily, we help dozens of people at Car-Mart. They don’t think we can really help them, and we can. That’s how Car-Mart is different,” says Matt. “When someone walks through the door, we’re here for them. We’re here to help them through any difficult time. We’re going to be here for them through the future.
“Some customers are shocked that we’re able to get them into a car when they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity,” Matt continues.
Pioneering for Car-Mart
After opening the first Car-Mart in Mississippi, Matt still has that pioneering ambition. And despite being an Arkansas Razorback in Crimson Tide and Bulldog territory, Matt has found his home in Columbus. In fact, he met his wife, Kenya in Columbus. He embraces the pioneering spirit to make a difference for his associates, customers, and company.
“There’s always something new with Car-Mart. I can work in all areas of the business and make an impact on our associates and customers. That’s what I like the most,” Matt says.
At the end of every day, Matt reflects on his day and the accomplishments of his team. “I like to leave the store on a good note,” concludes Matt. And, then he heads home to Kenya and their two dogs, Sadie and Stella, where they enjoy hanging out on their back porch – much like the pioneers did after a long, productive day.
Matt invites everyone to come see him and his team at his new store in Columbus. If you live in or near Columbus, let Matt welcome you to Car-Mart.
Learn more about Car-Mart’s Future Manager training program: Unlocking Potential, Car-Mart’s Future Manager training develops leaders.