Hill attended the University of Missouri in Columbia. Despite being told by a family friend that he was “too nice” to be in the car business, in 1984 he applied for a job at what he thought was the Ford Motor Company’s corporate office. It turned out to be a sales position at Metro Ford in Independence, Missouri.
“My first day on the sales floor after training, I sold three vehicles. At first, I thought the job would be temporary, but I fell in love with the adrenalin of selling cars. I loved the energy and the competitiveness, but I especially loved the customers’ happy faces.”
Hill decided he wanted to be a general manager, so he worked toward that goal at several different dealerships in Kansas and Missouri. He also believed he could change the traditional sales business model from high pressure to non-confrontational, and in the end, sell more cars by building loyalty and retaining customers.
That formula worked and today, his Tri-State Auto Group, which he owns with his brother, Russell, is comprised of two new-car dealerships in Maryville, representing brands Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, Jeep, Lincoln and Ram. Plus, Hilltop Motors a stand alone preowned dealership in St. Joseph, Missouri.
“I love competing and I love training people and helping them grow and achieve their own goals. I have past employees now running dealerships all over the Midwest, providing me the reassurance that integrity, honesty and hard work is still the recipe for success.”
Hill’s work for the Missouri Automobile Dealers Association, where he has served as vice chair and treasurer, is also about building relationships. Through his work on the executive committee, legislative committee and Workers’ Compensation Fund, he has connected with fellow dealers and state legislators to better the industry as a whole.
“Our association is really strong and it makes me proud to know I helped remove regulations and improve a Missouri dealer's ability to continue doing business in our everchanging world."
Having worked as a car dealer in both large and small metro areas, Hill has discovered there is more of a connection with his employees and the community in a smaller market. “How well your community does may equate to how well your dealership does, so I invest in growing and bettering my community and keeping young people and their families employed and local."
Hill estimates he has helped raise over $120,000 for his local schools and community through Ford Drive 4 UR School and Ford Drive 4 UR Community test-drive events. He also shows a strong commitment to the future of farming through donating roughly seven acres of land to Northwest Technical School’s FFA Chapter (Future Farmers of America) for hands-on, real-world farming experiences. In addition, he has funded 66 Built Ford Tough FFA scholarships, which are awarded to local students who are furthering their education in agriculture.
“We sponsor tractor pulls, county fairs and golf tournaments, and I personally deliver Meals on Wheels to senior citizens through the Maryville Host Lions Club. I am very proud to have received the Melvin Jones Fellowship Award from the Lions Club for my community contributions.”
Hill was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Doug Smith, president and CEO of the Missouri Automobile Dealers Association. He and his wife, Surah, have two children, Daniel and Anna.