John Billard started his career in the United Kingdom at the age of 15 working as a car wash attendant while training to be a salesperson at a local Datsun dealership. He migrated to the United States in 1979 and began selling Jaguars in Long Island, NY. Billard later moved to his current dealership, which was originally founded in 1929, and became a top Saab salesperson.
“I have the belief that I could succeed in anything I want to do,” he said. “I listened to wiser individuals and learned as much as I could from some fantastic mentors. Hard work often leads to good luck, and I’ve enjoyed a lot of that.”
In 2004, Billard bought into the dealership and continues to partner with Jeffrey Soukup, whose family owned the store. He also became a partner in Island Acura in Wantagh, New York, 10 years ago.
“I’ve surrounded myself with professional people and together we make team decisions that affect the overall success and future of the company,” Billard said. “I’m proud of everything I’ve accomplished so far and look forward to whatever lies ahead.”
Billard currently serves on the board of the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association as vice chair, previously as secretary. “I have been instrumental in helping to set policies and oversee the financial stability of the association,” he said.
In the area of community service, Billard knows that his dealership’s reputation in the Hempstead market transcends the bill of sale. “I am a big believer in sharing the dealership's success with the community that helped us get here,” he said. “We are as much a part of the community as our customers, and we have a moral obligation to assist where we can. Most importantly, we’re happy to do it.”
To that end, his dealerships annually support Toys for Tots and the New York Cares Coat Drive. “Through the years, we have collected and donated thousands of toys and coats for local families in need,” he said. “The idea that we helped people stay warm during the winter, or gave a child a good Christmas, is a feeling words can't even describe.”
In addition, Billard has hosted a food drive for the Nassau County Veterans Service Agency V.A. Clinic and is a benefactor of Nassau Community College. "Veterans allow us the freedom to pursue the American Dream. Were it not for them, I might never have been able to see mine fulfilled.”
Being a parent, one of his most gratifying contributions has been the support given to a cause very dear to his heart, the Pablove Foundation, a California-based charity that helps fight childhood cancer. "The children Pablove strives to help could’ve been anyone's," says Billard. "With that in mind, any parent would give as much as they could to make the lives of these children easier and help in their fight against this horrible disease. Fortunately, Hempstead Ford Lincoln is in a position where we can make a difference."
Billard was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Mark Schienberg, president of the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association. Billard and his wife, Trisha, have two children.