In 1971, Tammy Dillon’s parents opened M&E Honda in Bedford, Indiana. “To five-year-old Tammy, that felt like hitting the jackpot,” she says. “My dad would bring home all sorts of fun vehicles for my brother, cousins and me to ride. Dirt bikes, three-wheelers, dune bug-gies, Kick ‘N Go’s and the like. You name it, we got to ride it.”
After her father, Dan Evans, passed away in 1982, her mother, Shirley Evans, continued to run the business. Dillon moved out of state and earned her master’s degree in clinical psychology, then managed a unit in a psychiatric hospital in Boulder, Colorado. After eighteen years, she and her husband, Bill Dillon, returned to Bedford and got involved in the dealership.
“It was really my husband that wanted to get involved in the shop. He really wanted to go in that direction,” she says. He came from a large city to the small town of Bedford and started working at the dealership. He loved it. Today, he runs the parts department.
“I had the pleasure of working side by side with my mom for over a decade and learning every role in the shop, except tech, before she retired during COVID,” Dillon says. “I’m so grateful to my parents for how wonderfully they built and nurtured this dealership. It’s very special – like hitting another jackpot.”
Dillon credits the stability of the dealership to her parents, who both had entrepreneurial spirits. She explains that their honest business practices and work ethic are the foundation of the dealership and why it has served its community for 52 years. “It’s a stable, secure, debt-free business. And that gives you a lot of comfort, especially during times like now when there is some economic uncertainty,” she says.
Dillon has recently overseen a major remodeling of the building. Her father built the facility, so keeping its infrastructure was important to her. Almost everything else has been replaced, including flooring, electrical, plumbing, the walls and the parking lot.
M&E has been a Honda exclusive dealer-ship since day one, so she worked with Honda’s Dealer Development department to become a Powerhouse dealership and has remodeled to their requirements. As a Honda Powerhouse, the top of five dealership levels, “it positions you to be an outstanding dealership,” she says.
“It’s a big commitment to the brand and in return, there are many benefits from AHMC. Automatic inventory replenishment (AIR), for example, ensures we always have a wide inventory base in stock,” she continues. “As soon as I register a unit from the AIR pro-gram, a new one is immediately ordered for me. There are also financial rewards, such as higher co-op reimbursement, and business support such as the Powerhouse Business Improvement Group (BIG), a 20−group only for Honda Powerhouse dealers.”
Technicians at M&E Honda complete training continually, according to Dillon, both in person and online. “We currently have three techs and one service advisor, and all have Honda certifications,” she says. “Our model is to do one thing really well. We specialize in one brand and learn all we can about it.”
She is proud of her team and encourages them to have fun both at work and outside of it. She occasionally takes her employees out for a ride and to dinner after work, and once a year the team stays at the Indiana Clifty Falls State Park overnight. She says her team looks forward to the overnight trip. “The rooms have patios, and we just sit around the firepit and have fun together late on a Saturday night,” she says.
“It’s a great team of people. I’m so fortunate to have such good people. I truly enjoy the company of every single one of them and I protect that relationship. And I make sure it’s a team that enjoys one another.”
She currently has a team of 11 employees that work in a playful atmosphere with mini-mal drama. “There’s a lot of playful smack talk that gets thrown around in jest and it makes for a fun atmosphere,” she says. “People don’t mind working hard when they’re laughing. And unnecessary drama is a big waste of energy and potential.”
She explains that during the interview process, she asks interviewees if they are easily offended and if they thrive on drama, and to work at M&E Honda, the answer to both questions must be no. “Those two questions help me build a team of people that get along well together,” she says.
To keep her valued staff that work together so well, she explains that both income and the environment of the dealership play a role. Employees get a raise every time they complete a training level, and benefits like IRAs are offered. “It’s providing an environment that you look forward to coming to. The money is obviously the most important thing, but people aren’t going to stay at a job that isn’t fun,” she adds. “We truly laugh a lot.”
She explains she runs a tight ship at the dealership and that her team works hard. “My understanding from speaking with some of my reps and talking to other dealers is that other shops that sell the volume that we sell, have a lot more employees than we do. We get a lot done with a relatively small team because they work hard.”
“Our store is fast paced, we work hard, are experts in one brand, laugh a lot and we’re always honest,” she continues. “Honesty and doing the right thing are key to staying in business in a small community for over half a century. I look forward to going to work every day. Almost every member of our team rides. The one non-rider is so good at what she does, that we give her a pass.”
The only position that she is currently looking to fill is a sales and F&I person. While she is pleased with the number of employment inquiries she has received, she has struggled to find a qualified and experienced applicant. Because the dealership’s sales-people also cover F&I sales, she explains that it is harder to find someone with all the skills needed. Despite this, she mentions her confidence in the dealership’s sales and F&I process. Instead of turning customers from one employee to the next, she explains there is a sense of assurance that develops when working with only one employee.