Business Person of the Month: His cars are a vehicle for greater good
At age 12, Andy Jones was destined to serve and plan his life’s work in the car business.
In the 1970s, his father, Gerald Jones, owned a Volkswagen car dealership on Milledgeville Road in south Augusta.
“I’d work there after school, we’d go home for supper and my dad, mom, sister and I would come back and clean the building after dinner,” said Jones.
He learned all aspects of the business from his father and attended the University of Georgia in the early 1980s, with the understanding that he would join the family business.
At age 20, in his junior year, Gerald Jones’ partner left and Andy became a minority shareholder with his dad.
“I wanted to quit school before graduation, but Daddy wouldn’t let me,” said Andy.
Father knows best.
Andy graduated one weekend in Athens in 1985, and the next Monday he learned about his future during a rare staff meeting led by his father.
“He told everyone I was in charge.”
Over the next several years, Andy Jones would pick his father’s brain as the senior Jones became less and less involved in the day-to-day operation of the business.
Gerald Jones taught Andy to be transparent, to be good to people and to serve the community. Andy honored his father by keeping the Gerald Jones name on the growing list of brands.
The Subaru line was added to the VW brand in 1986, then Mazda and Audi in 1992. Honda is a big part of the footprint at Washington and Flowing Wells Roads, as is Volvo. His cousin, David Jones, is partner in those six dealerships.
In 2016, Andy Jones bought 70 percent of the Bobby Jones Ford and Lincoln dealerships from the Lawrence family.
“The one area in all of our other dealerships we couldn’t compete with is the Ford truck. Everyone needs a truck for hauling, hunting, tailgating and more,” said Jones.
In his first year, Gerald Jones Ford beat the two other competitors in the market by about 20 percent in average monthly vehicles sold.
Jones invested $3.5 million in renovations and expanding the showroom, and he stocked the Ford and Lincoln lots with $15 million in inventory.
He also invested in people, adding nine more salespeople and more support staff. Between the eight dealerships, Jones employs nearly 350 people.
In late 2016, Jones sold his old Mazda dealership property on the Gordon Highway to Sizemore Security and Staffing.
“Our Mazda buyers were still largely from West Augusta and Columbia County. We’ve seen a huge increase in service repairs due to the convenience of our new location on Washington Road,” he said.
Subaru’s footprint has been renovated, and all dealerships are greener with the installation of LED lighting and a mechanized car wash that uses just a few gallons of water to wash each car.
Although it is not something he talks a lot about, Jones’ faith in God is deeply woven into both his business and personal life. It’s hard to keep up with the Joneses these days in terms of charity endeavors.
Their largest sponsored event is “Thunder Over Evans,” which is set for May 20 this year. Last year, an estimated 35,000 people attended the free patriotic event.
Jones also is a board member of the Children’s Hospital of Georgia and is touched each time he tours the unit of sick infants. “I love babies. It breaks my heart,” said the father of two.
In 2016, Jones became incoming Chairperson of the Salvation Army and initiated a challenge among fellow dealers to donate a portion of each sale to the cause. Approximately $80,000 was raised. Gerald Jones employees spent 64 hours this holiday season ringing the bell for the Salvation Army on Jones’ dime.
“We spend more time here than with families. Happy co-workers make happy customers. We live in a great area and we are all proud to give back to the community,” said a humble Jones.
His focus for the Salvation Army will be fundraising and awareness of the differences between the Kroc Center’s fitness and education initiative and the army’s “Center of Hope” theme of helping feed folks suffering from addiction and serving abused women and children.
“No money raised at the Kroc Center can go to help Center of Hope,” he said.
Connie, his wife of 27 years, also has charitable endeavors, including her washcloth project to help women be self-sufficient in Haiti.
She knows where to reach him six days a week, and so do the customers who bought about 7,000 vehicles last year – on his cellphone or a special red phone in each dealership! His cellphone and home phone number are on his business cards, and there is a “bat phone” in each dealership to encourage customer compliments and complaints.
“I should be accountable. Saturdays are my favorite day at the office as I get to relax and talk with customers. There are not as many emails from the factories to respond to,” he added.
Jones likes to unwind by hunting, playing golf (last year he was able to play once) and reading. The book he is reading now is It’s Your Ship, by Dr. Michael Abrashoff, which has helped Jones lead an empowering Monday morning staff meeting in which ideas are encouraged and no cellphones are allowed.
Just as his father paid things forward to Andy, he’s now doing the same. His 25-year-old son Drew is the service manager for the Mazda dealership, and his 22-year-old daughter Kelly Anne will use her UGA diploma to go into health care management.
Andy Jones is interested in diversifying one day and opening some health care facilities and perhaps partnering with his daughter – after he feels comfortable that she has established her career and is settled in her family life.
Father knows best.
Complete list of Gerald Jones Auto Group’s charities:
|2nd Annual Eagle Sports Scramble|
|Aiken Concert Band|
|Alex’s Lemonade Stand|
|American Heart Association|
|American Legion Post 192|
|American Red Cross | Boot Scoot Boogie|
|Assocaition of the United States Army|
|Augusta Bulldog Club|
|Augusta Canal National Heritage Area | Find Your Park|
|Augusta Christian School|
|Augusta Exchange Club|
|Augusta Friends of NRA|
|Augusta Lions Club|
|Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce|
|Augusta Outdoor Expo|
|Augusta Shrine Club Golf Unit|
|Augusta Sports Council|
|Augusta University – SROTC|
|Augusta Warrior Project|
|Baker Place Elementary Book Donation|
|Blanchard Woods BMX/USABMX|
|Builders Asscociation of Metro Augusta, Inc.|
|Cecil Herrin’s Men’s Breast & Prostate Cancer Walk|
|Central Savannah River Land Trust|
|Charlie Norwood Classic|
|Children’s Miracle Network|
|Coffee and Cars Augusta – Auto Meet Up|
|Colton Ballet Company|
|Columbia County Arts|
|Columbia County Cares|
|Columbia County Chamber of Commerce|
|Columbia County Charity Gala|
|Columbia County Forward Foundation|
|Columbia County Game Day @ Lady A|
|Columbia County Humane Society|
|Columbia County Library | Butterfly Habitat|
|Columbia County Sheriff’s Office|
|Columbia County SnowFest|
|Columbia County Special Response Team|
|Compass Christian Church|
|CSRA Alumni Chapter of Claflin University|
|CSRA Parkinson’s Walk|
|Drive Out Hunger|
|Augusta Chapter of Ducks Unlimited|
|Evans High School|
|Fire K Five K | Firefighter Run|
|Ford Warriors in Pink|
|Garden City Rescue Mission|
|Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art | Oysters on Telfair|
|Greenbrier High School|
|Heart & Sole 5K | Children’s Hospital of Georgia|
|Hephzibah Lions Club|
|Larry Bray Memorial Fund|
|McCormick Lions Club|
|Mercy Ministries, Inc.|
|Midland Valley High School|
|National Wild Turkey Federation|
|NAU Black Jackets Baseball|
|North Augusta Lions Club|
|North Augusta Police Department|
|North Augusta Renegades|
|Our Lady of Peace School|
|Parker’s Walk – National Kidney Foundation|
|Press On Fund|
|Providence Baptist Church|
|Psi Omega Foundation, Inc.|
|Richmond County Sheriff’s Department|
|Riverside Middle School|
|Ronald McDonald House Charities of Augusta|
|Savannah Riverkeeper’s Paddlefest|
|Shepeard Community Blood Center|
|South Columbia Elementary|
|Southeastern Firefighter Burn Foundation|
|Southeastern Outdoors Expo|
|St. John’s United Methodist Church|
|Stallings Island Middle School|
|Supreme MCs Rule|
|Team StinkyKiss Rescue Donation|
|The American Legion Post 192|
|The American Legion Post 71|
|The Augusta Ballet|
|The Bridge Ministry of the CSRA|
|The Community Foundation for the CSRA | The Military Spouse Fund|
|The Foundation for Therapeutic Options|
|The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society | Georgia Cancer Center|
|The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society | Light the Night Walk|
|The Lucy Craft Laney Museum|
|The Lydia Project|
|The Salvation Army Augusta|
|Thunder Over Evans|
|Toys for Tots|
|Victory Baptist Church|
|Walton Rehabilitation Hospital|
|Women’s Southern Golf Association|