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Brent Brown Toyota
“I had no family members in the car business, so I had to start as an entry level salesperson and then go for it.”
“I had no family members in the car business, so I had to start as an entry level salesperson and then go for it,” nominee Brown said. “I risked everything so many times I've lost count and tried as hard as I could to do business in a way that would reward my employees and customers for doing business with me.”
After graduating from Brighton High School in what is now Cottonwood Heights, Utah, in 1977, Brown spent two years in England as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He started his automotive career selling Volkswagens in Austin, Texas, in 1984. “I had only intended to do the job for two months before becoming the dealership's top salesperson in my first month and then breaking the dealership's all-time sales record in the second month, so I decided to stick with it,” he said.
Brown returned to Utah in 1986, working at several car dealerships throughout the state, and by 1992, he was named general manager of a Toyota store in Orem. “When I started, it was one of the 20 worst Toyota dealerships in the United States in CSI [Customer Satisfaction Index],” he said. “More than half of the residents of my county were buying Toyotas outside of the area. But 18 months after I took over as general manager, the dealership received the Toyota President's Award and now, that same dealership is Utah's single largest volume new-car dealership.” Brown purchased a portion of the business in 1995 and became the sole owner in 1999.
“I honestly tried to treat both my customers and my employees the way I wish I had been treated when I was a customer buying my first car or when I was working up the ranks in the car business,” Brown said.
And for his hard work and dedication, Brown was named the 2004 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in retail for the Utah region, an award that makes him most proud. “It’s a distinction that only two other auto dealers in my state had ever received, so it meant a lot to me,” he said. “I had risked everything and given it my best and my all and it was very rewarding to be recognized for doing so in such a large way.”
He is also committed to raising money for the Provo (Utah) City School District, his most important civic achievement. When Brown was asked to make a single donation in 2002, he came up with a long-term idea that would generate millions for the schools. “I got all my friends and business associates to donate Easter baskets with nice items inside for an annual auction,” he said. “In 14 years, we've raised well over $2 million and I am the emcee at the event. I feel like I made a difference in a lot of children's lives by offering my time and my money, not just a quick donation.” He currently chairs the board of the Provo School District Foundation and serves on the national advisory board for Utah Valley University’s Woodbury School of Business in Orem.
Brown has made huge contributions to Utah Valley University and as a tribute, the school named its baseball stadium, Brent Brown Ballpark. “I have contributed more than $1 million to the school,” he said. “A large portion of that provided scholarships for minority students.”
Receiving two government appointments, Brown currently serves on the board of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development and was named to the Utah State Board of Regents from 2009 to 2011.
Brown was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Craig A. Bickmore, executive director of the New Car Dealers of Utah. He and his wife, Mona, have four children and four grandchildren.