Steve Landers has sold T-birds to Elvis Presley, rubbed elbows with Sam Walton, and worked for Roger Penske on his way to building the largest chain of dealerships in Arkansas. He has become an automotive legend, selling a dealership for $40 million by the time he was in his early 40s.

When he visited headquarters recently, we were eager to hear his story. So we sat down with Steve to talk about lessons he’s learned on his way to achieving success as an automotive retailer. Throughout our conversation, a portrait emerged of an unassuming man who puts people first and outhustles everyone around him even as he approaches retirement age. We listened carefully and distilled his insights down to eight tips for succeeding in automotive, shared in his words:

1 Put People first

“Automotive is all about people. And people are always looking for that personal connection. I must get 200 people a week who come up to me and ask, ‘Hey Steve how you doing?’ because I sold them a car some time ago. I may not know them all personally, but each one of them helped send my kids to school. They don’t owe me. I owe them. Never forget that you owe your customers everything.”

2 Manage Your Reputation Carefully

“I guarantee my product. I always make good on everything I sell even if it costs me. When you stand behind everything you sell, the customer will come back to me, and I will recoup what you spent to make a customer satisfied. If you upset your customer, you’ve lost them forever, and they’ll tell 20 other people about their experience.”

3 Be Willing to Learn

“I am a low tech guy in a high tech world. But when the internet came along and my son told me we needed to get our dealerships online, I listened. I expected my team to answer internet queries in 15 seconds, and I made sure everyone had Blackberries so that they could be responsive. We were 10 years ahead of anyone else in Arkansas. I have learned to evolve.”

4 Hire Smart

“I hire people who want my job. I don’t want someone who is average. Average takes no effort. I want people who want to swim out to the ship instead of waiting for the ship to meet them.”

5 Use Social Media Wisely

“The top salespeople in our stores use Facebook to post photos of themselves and their customers, and they manage their dealer ratings. But they don’t let social media take the place of being social. Being social is about walking by a customer’s house, and when you see them outside cutting their lawn, you ask, ‘How’s that truck I sold you?’”

 6 Avoid Productivity Killers

“How much of your day is involved in email? In meetings? You can meet yourself out of business. I answer every call. I am accessible to customers. Salespeople sitting at their desks sending emails to corporate and are not in touch with customers.”

7 Work Hard

“I’ve never been around anyone who outworked me. I know I need to be the first one there and the last one out if I want to be the best one there. When I first got into automotive, I wasn’t the best salesperson but I was the best worker. I’ve been partners with people like Roger Penske. They are brilliant guys. None of them outworked me.”

8 Overcome Your Fears

“Don’t be afraid. If you are scared, you better get a dog. Put it on the line and be committed.”

Thank you, Steve, for spending time with!