From Russellville, places in between, and back again – a 25-year journey at America’s Car-Mart spanning five locations in Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Dustin Southard, Sales Assistant Manager in Russellville, Ark., has immeasurable Car-Mart experience and knows his way around the company having experience in all facets of the business – collections, sales, operations, and management.
Additionally, Dustin attributes the shaping of his personal values to Car-Mart. “The company has helped shape the person I have become and how I treat people, how I raise my kids, how I treat my wife,” says Dustin. “I have learned more about how to have good integrity and how to respect and treat people. I’ve worked for some great role models and they have rubbed off on me. I’m a much better person learning all I have learned at Car-Mart.”
Indeed, it’s been quite the ride for Dustin at Car-Mart. Recently, he celebrated his 25th service anniversary and reflected on his Car-Mart career.
It’s been a whirlwind of stuff!
I started in the MIT program in Russellville in 1995. I got my first real promotion after six months to Account Manager in Benton. In October 1996, I was promoted to Assistant Manager.
In 1996, I did a working interview at the Sapulpa, Okla. store for a week. When I returned to Russellville, I learned my mom had contracted breast cancer. Therefore a month as Account Manager, I was asked to be Assistant Manager in Little Rock, so I drove back and forth six days a week.
In October 1997, I was offered the Assistant Manager position in Russellville. My mom passed away in July 1998 and I decided I wasn’t moving.
In November 2001, Nan Smith [former Car-Mart CEO] called me. I had just gotten married and I had sold my house. She offered me a new position as Regional Accounts Director in Rogers. In May 2002, I won the company’s first President’s Award and was promoted to Accounts Director. In June 2003, I became Area Operations Manager over the Russellville/Conway area. In April 2004, I was offered the Vice President – Collections position and stayed in Russellville, and traveled the entire company.
I took over as General Manager in Siloam Springs in 2004 for five years. In 2009, I moved back to Russellville as Collection Assistant Manager. In July 2010, I became GM of Discount Auto until July 2017.
I then became Co-Manager and Sales Assistant Manager. It’s good to be in Russellville. It’s my home. I know everyone. Plus, my kids and grandkids are in Russellville.
Winning the President’s award early in my career. I was still really young and proud of that accomplishment. I was also in the top ten for Manager of the Year as GM of Discount Auto. This was both a shocking and exciting achievement.
Best day at work:
Well, there have been 700,082 days so it’s hard to pin down just one day. Let’s see, I had a ten-car sale day on a Friday at Discount Auto. That was the most tiring, exhausting, and fulfilling day. Plus, when I was GM in Siloam Springs, over three days, between that lot and my lot in Stilwell, we sold 14, 9, and 13 cars in three days. That’s 36 cars – the biggest three-day sales ever.
A customer brought a car to trade in and I drove the vehicle to Discount Auto for their inspection. I showed the car to the manager and the passenger door fell off. They put the door back on, but driving back to Car-Mart, I had to drive while holding on to the door.
The moment he knew he made the right decision to work at Car-Mart:
When I was promoted to Assistant Manager in October 1996. I had been with the company for a year and had moved once. It was my third promotion with the company at age 24. My career was going exactly how they explained it to me. And it was that first year that solidified me in making a career at Car-Mart.
Car-Mart is a great company and a wonderful place to work. I work for a company that cares about me and takes care of me.
The best thing about working at Car-Mart:
The best thing is our company’s morals and values. And I trust the people I work for. They’ll be there for me. The company has my back, so I’ll have their back. I’ve had periods of excelling and struggling, and Car-Mart is always there for me.
Dustin’s approach to his workday:
Now, overseeing Sales, I can’t sell cars in a bad mood. So, I start my days in a positive mood. You must put on your happy face every morning no matter your struggles.
Besides, in Sales, I’m able to use my one talent, which is talking. I talk all the time. I have a lot of customers come to Car-Mart specifically for me. They feel like part of my family.
They know I’m a 49ers fan, an Atlanta Braves fan. They feel comfortable with me.
Inspired by his customers:
I care about my customers. They’re making a big financial decision on a used car. To them, it’s a new car. I just want to sell them the best vehicle possible and to help take care of them when they have problems. They’re credit-challenged and have many other challenges.
I want to try to make them feel as comfortable with their vehicle and experience with Car-Mart. I feel their pain. I know the situation they’re in. It hurts my heart if their car breaks down. Any time our customers go through hardship, I feel it with them, and it inspires me to help them.
Fast forward to today – Dustin is still at Car-Mart and loving it!
I’m big on loyalty. If you are loyal to anyone or anything that’s worthwhile, they will be loyal in return. I feel lucky to still be here after all these years. Especially as I get older. I guess I’m just thankful to still be here after all these years. What a ride!
If you’re looking for a new ride, check out America’s Car-Mart of Russellville. Dustin and the Russellville team are ready to help get you into a quality, used vehicle.