Learn From Black Enterprise’s Auto Dealer of The Year


By Ryan Velez

In addition to reporting business news from the Black community, Black Enterprise honors and profiles the business people behind the news, not only letting us know that people are hard at work, but providing valuable insight on what other Black people in business can do to improve their station. One such example is the magazine’s 2017 Auto Dealer of the Year, National Automotive Management L.L.C., doing business as Hamilton Honda in Hamilton, New Jersey. It’s not just a matter of being tenacious, innovative, and driven, but business success often means paying attention to those things that extend beyond the bottom line.

Co-owners Jessie Armstead and Mike Saporito offer a combination of high standards and professionalism as well as mutual respect and humor to get their team to move forward. In an interview, Black Enterprise discusses how Armstead’s success was far from inevitable. In college he sustained two “career-ending” injuries that required the reconstruction first of his right knee and later his right shoulder. However, he was able to get to the Super Bowl as a member of the New York Giants, and he brings that same attitude to running his dealership. In the midst of the financial crisis in 2009, Hamilton Honda opened its doors, and became one of the top 10 Honda dealerships in the country within a year.

Saporito mentioned during the interview that “The No.1 thing is the team,” and while it’s easy to assume that means the sales force, he mentioned that this extends to the cleaning crew to sales to service and everyone in between. In fact, there is no single department of a car dealership that is most important, even if we as customers only see a small percentage of them in action when we go to make a purchase. “Auto dealerships are thousands of details that have to work together flawlessly in order to be successful,” Saporito said. A strong chain has no weak links, one could say.

On the topic of customers, Saporito and Armstead credit their success partially to being difficult customers themselves, which serves them well when they try to put themselves in a customer’s perspective. This allows them to provide what makes a customer comfortable rather than trying to use high-pressure tactics to force a sale.