in Barrington guided by the principles set forth by its founder, Larry Marquardt.
In the early 1950’s, Larry had just returned home from serving in the Korean War and began selling cars in Chicago.
“He quickly saw the lack of personal convictions, of honesty and integrity, in the industry and decided he had to be his own boss, where he could operate an honest dealership that truly put the customer first,” said Dan Marquardt, who runs Marquardt Buick GMC alongside his brother Kurt Marquardt, today.
Larry began working as a sales manager for then Schauble Buick in Barrington in 1958, purchased stock in the business, and became co-owner in 1962. He bought out his partner in 1965 and renamed the business.
Dan and Kurt, two of 12 children, began working at 13 and 15 years-of-age (respectively) for their father.
“Kurt and I grew up in the business, we did everything from washing and detailing cars to janitorial duties and ultimately in the administrative end handling everything it takes to run a dealership,” Dan said.
Recalling his first day of work at Marquardt Buick GMC, Dan said he was shown right away he would not receive preferential treatment just because he was the owner’s son. “My father introduced me to the service director and told him if I didn’t do what he told me to do, then I was to be fired!”
Lessons for the Future
That type of treatment is what Dan says instilled an exceptional work ethic in himself and his brother.
Both sons joined their father in the business after graduating from college, and became partners in the business after Larry passed away in 2001.
“Our parents always wanted each of us to pursue our dreams and the career path we desired,” Dan said.
Of the remaining ten Marquardt siblings, two attorneys, one is a pastor, another a police officer, there are multiple school teachers, a restaurant owner and a photographer.
Dan and Kurt were always taught by Larry to have a customer-centric focus, that serving needs and building strong relationships was the key to continued success.
“Our dad always said customers can buy whichever and whatever they prefer, so let’s give them a reason to do business with Marquardt, by treating each customer how we would like to be treated,” Dan said.
Over the years, Marquardt Buick GMC has won many General Motor’s honors, such as the “Leaders of Distinction” award, “Best in Class” and finishing #1 in both sales and service for the Chicagoland Market in 2011.
Dan credits Marquardt's continued success to those core lessons of "doing the right thing" in business.
Standing the Test of Time
Second generations running dealerships don't traditionally have high rates of success, according to Dan, because of the entitlement mindset, and lack of appreciation for the sacrifices required.
“Our father instilled in us not only a dedicated work ethic but an appreciation for work and a respect and empathy for each person that works for us because we know first-hand what their job demands,” Dan said.
In a Chicago Auto Show marketing piece from 1987, Dan pointed out there were 63 Buick dealers listed in Chicagoland and northwest Indiana. Twenty-seven years later, only three of them still remain, and Marquardt is one of them.
“The business philosophy is what we believe has helped our business last,” Dan said. “A company is only as good as it’s people and we have so many gifted and dedicated [people on our] staff.”
The average salesperson has been with the business between 10 and 25 years, and service technicians have averaged more than 20 years with Marquardt.
“We have exceptionally gifted and committed employees that share our vision, our mission to serve our clients and embrace our “Pinnacle Pledge” to our customers,” Dan said.
The Future of Marquardt
When asked about the future of the business, Dan said he and his brother will continue to reinvest in Marquardt, while hiring the most committed people that share the company’s vision.
“Everything we do is intentional and revolves around the benefit of our clients, and we firmly believe everything we have has been entrusted to us by God. We want to be good stewards/managers to the best of our ability,” Dan said.
Between the two, they have ten children, in addition to many other nieces and nephews.
“We want the children to pursue their dreams just like our parents taught us, only time will tell if they too decide to join us,” Dan said.
"My brother and I are lucky to have something our late father never had, and that’s a business partner; we truly do compliment each other and have a great relationship, which is another key to us staying strong for the future,” Dan said.
Editor’s Note: A Driving Legacy is a series showcasing family-owned automotive dealerships with deep roots in their communities. It is part of the Patch mission to celebrate the people, businesses and traditions that are the foundation of our lives. If you would like to be included in this series, please contact Senior Regional Editor Tara Tesimu at email@example.com.