Business

Starting out as a salesman, MLB first baseman Dorian Boyland has built a $650 million auto dealership

BY Preta Peace Namasaba June 13, 2024 2:01 PM EDT

Former MLB first baseman Dorian Boylan has always wanted to do the right things. Growing up, he wanted to excel in class, be the fastest in kickball, and make his mother proud. He accepted a sales position at a dealership after retiring from baseball, a move that would prove to be the right one. Boylan quickly rose through the ranks and acquired his first dealership two years later.

Today, his Boyland Auto Group comprises eight auto dealerships and brings in over $650 million in revenue.

“Don’t tell me how many cars you sold last month. I don’t care how many cars you sold — you could have sold 200 cars and lost money on every one. If you sell all those cars and go home with pennies, did it matter? Don’t tell me about your revenue, tell me about your profit. That’s what business is about,” Boyland explained the method behind his budget success.

Before baseball, Boyland’s first love was basketball. He won a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh to play college basketball but an injury changed his priorities. He then turned his focus to baseball. The university had a good baseball team and since Boyland threw the ball competently, he volunteered to pitch. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second round of the 1976 MLB draft. Boyland played 21 games with the Pirates before being traded to the San Francisco Giants.

After retiring from professional baseball in 1982, Boyland decided to utilize his bachelor’s degree in business administration and computer science. He became a salesman at a dealership in Portland and soon climbed up the corporate ladder to sales manager. Within 18 months, the owner of the dealership offered Boyland a partnership. The owner wanted to buy another dealership but Chrysler was only selling to a minority owner. Due to Minority Dealers programs, Boyland gained the opportunity to co-own a pre-existing car dealership.

“Well, me being who I am, I specifically asked, ‘Why do you need me? You haven’t had any partners. You have enough money. You don’t need my money. He was honest to say that Chrysler was exercising first refusal on a dealership that he wanted to buy if it wasn’t a minority owner. In essence, that’s how I got started – because of the Minority Dealers programs. If they were not in place, I would not have been offered that partnership,” Boyland described the encounter that opened the way for his first dealership.

The journey to becoming a multi-million dollar dealership was not without shortcomings. Although Boyland was a fully qualified buyer with a strong track record in finance and operations, he was not considered a serious buyer. As an African-American owner, Boyland could not approach existing dealers to inquire about acquisitions. He had to find someone willing to sell to him and rely on industry networks and associations to bring him deals he would have been excluded from on his own. Fortunately, those days are long gone and nobody questions his finances or ability to manage an operation.

Over the past three decades, Boyland has managed to successfully own and operate 22 dealerships in six states. His business strategy is focused on how much profit each sale generates, not how many vehicles are sold or how much revenue they produce. He uses analytics and data reports to ensure that his dealerships meet the set goal of a minimum net profit of 4% sales annually. This unique strategy saw the company experience a 9% annual revenue growth, from around $599 million in 2017 to nearly $654 million in 2018. A large percentage of the profit comes from the dealership’s service and parts unit.

Boyland considers helping other Black entrepreneurs succeed in the auto industry as one of his greatest accomplishments. He has provided opportunities to 10 minorities to become dealership owners or general managers within his company throughout the years. One of the largest Black-owned car dealerships in the country, Boyland believes it is not enough to only rely on manufacturers to increase diversity in the industry.

“We have to do it ourselves. We’re not doing enough for each other,” Boyland said about paving the way for Black entrepreneurs in the industry.