Bob Giles, owner of Giles Automotive with locations in Lafayette, Alexandria, Opelousas, and El Paso TX, joins Discover Lafayette to discuss the journey that led him to focus on philanthropy and giving back to the community.
Bob grew up in the car business, learning from both his grandfathers and his father who owned car dealerships in Texas. After graduating from Texas A & M in accounting, Bob worked for his dad’s VW dealership. Wanting his own dealership led Bob to move to Lafayette and on his birthday in February 1982, he opened his own shop offering VW, Audi, and Porsche vehicles.
Quick to acknowledge the help of his father and uncle, Bob recounted with gratitude how he got his start in business with a total of $120,000 in costs. First National Bank was his lender and a new facility was built by JB Mouton. At that time in 1982, the oil and gas industry was still in its heyday and property prices in Lafayette were steep; Bob found an affordable site “way down on Johnston” that fit the bill for his dealership.
While the first year in business was a huge success, shortly thereafter the oil and gas industry tanked. Porches’ prices went up dramatically and the Audi company experienced problems with their vehicles. It was a tough time to be in business but Bob kept his focus and made it through Lafayette’s lean times. His initial automotive lines were dropped and his business evolved to fit the market.
Bob says of his lifelong work ethic, “The greatest motivation for me is fear of failure. It has always motivated me to do whatever I had to do to be successful, including working seven days a week.”
By 1990, Giles Automotive offered Volvo and Subura. That year, Bob purchased the Nissan dealership from Benny Benezech. He recently opened Giles Hyundai in Alexandria, LA.
Bob has enjoyed loyal employees who have stayed with him over the years. “The most important component of any business is the people you have working there. That is more valuable than the product or location. It’s all about the people.”
“I’ve learned over the years that people are the most important thing in business. You cannot pay a valued employee too much; they will bring that value back to you many times over. If I could go back and give myself advice, the # 1 thing you can do for your business is to hire the very best people possible. Make sure they are happy. Happy employees are the only ones that can make your customers happy.”
In 2021, Bob was awarded the Louisiana Automotive Dealers Association (LADA) Dealer of the Year Award and nominated by his Louisiana peers to compete for the national Time Dealer of the Year. Out of a field of 16,000 franchised dealers across the U. S., Bob was named 2022 TIME Dealer of the Year. This award is the highest that a dealer may ever receive and it celebrates franchised new car and truck dealers for exceptional business performance and outstanding community service.
Today’s automotive market has been turned on its head due to COVID and supply chain issues. Bob says he typically used to carry 350 new vehicles at his Nissan dealership; today it averages about 20 new vehicles. With a shortage of used cars on the market as consumers hold on to what they have, preowned vehicles have also gone up in value and are in demand. Consumers with a trade-in are a welcome sight at the dealership!
Bob also frequently makes the news for his generosity. About fifteen years ago, he made a commitment to give back in a meaningful way to the community. “It’s where we live, where we raised our children, where my employees and families live. I’d like to set an example of how to give back. Together we can do so much more than one person can do alone.
Many of Bob’s beloved causes are shown at https://www.gilesgivesback.com/causes. A founder of Hunters for the Hungry, Bob also created Giles Essential Errand Running Service, which offers grocery and essential item deliveries by dealership staff to senior citizens and immunocompromised individuals. He and his wife, Sandy, are active in helping fund Acadiana Animal Aid and they recently provided additional funding to Moncus Park’s new small dog park. Dreams Come True for Louisiana which grants wishes for Louisiana children who have life-threatening conditions is also a dear cause.
We thank Bob Giles for his continued focus on making our community better. Congratulations for 40 years in business!