CHICAGO — When retail veteran Tammy Darvish took over AutoCanada's U.S. operations in the first quarter, she knew the stores were in trouble.
The publicly traded company's financial statements showed the U.S. division was hemorrhaging cash. What the reports didn't indicate was where the money was being mismanaged. Too much allocated to employee payroll? Over budget on advertising?
Darvish rolled up her sleeves to try to stop the losses at the nine stores AutoCanada bought in 2018.
"Everything was bleeding," said Darvish, who spoke last week at the Automotive News Retail Forum: Chicago and Hireology's Elevate 2019 event.
She fired business partners, renegotiated contracts and shifted employee compensation from fixed to performance-based.
In the second quarter, she slashed the operating loss to C$1.8 million ($1.36 million), after adjusting for restructuring costs, from C$6.9 million a year earlier.
Darvish, 55, is used to the spotlight. The daughter of John Darvish Sr., founder of DARCARS Automotive Group in Bethesda, Md., entered the dealership sector at an entry level and worked her way up to executive vice president. She was the face of the company.
During the Great Recession, Darvish used her status as a voice for dealers, working with auto retail leaders to lobby for legislation to protect dealerships. DARCARS was one of many groups that had franchises terminated when General Motors and Chrysler Group restructured in bankruptcy court.
"We weren't just fighting for the couple thousand dealers that lost those dealerships, right?" Darvish said. "We were fighting for our future."
Fast forward to 2014: Darvish described her shock when she learned her family's business succession plan didn't include her.
"A little over five years ago, in the blink of an eye, in a random e-mail from a third party, I was notified there was going to be a leadership change," Darvish said at Hireology's Elevate 2019. "And I have to tell you that my whole world that I was sitting on top [of] really came down with no notice."
Darvish in 2015 filed a lawsuit against her father and DARCARS Automotive Group alleging her father had reneged on a promise to make her part of the dealership group's ownership team. A Maryland judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2016.