John Nouri isn't much different than your average family man. He takes his kids to school, goes to work and comes home just in time for dinner with his wife and kids. On weekends he spends time with family, doing the occasional online shopping when not running errands.
The only difference?
He drops his kids off at school in his $350,000 Lamborghini LP640. Why the outrageous price tag? Only eighteen of these cars exist with a gated shifter. "The previous owner was a chronic weed smoker so he [had a pot leaf] etched onto the glass" he laughs. The LP640 is his daily driver.
John doesn't punch at your average desk job either. He clocks in at his Clifton, New Jersey brainchild Broadway Supercars. Tucked away into two unassuming warehouses is his small team that oversees John's fleet of NJ exotic rental cars, as well as an exotic car maintenance & repair shop. As you can imagine, John's online purchase history is unique too.
"I remember I was giving milk to my baby the first night home from the hospital. I was online and found this one specific Ferrari with a certain configuration 7516 on eBay. So I clicked Buy It Now, bought it while I was feeding my daughter & ended up doubling my money on it" he said.
It sounds easy. But it hasn't always been.
As a self-employed mechanic, John didn't get into the exotic car business out of passion. He never had posters of Lamborghinis or Ferraris on his bedroom wall growing up. Switching from conventional mechanics to exotics was a matter of survival for him.
"I didn't start with exotics, I started with Japanese cars -- I loved working on them -- but [because the cars were so common] people started to copy what I was doing and undercut me on price. So I said 'let's see you try to copy me with exotics'. Because of the price point and steeper learning curve, the barrier to entry is way higher. Try to just buy insurance for exotic cars."
The transition was a difficult one, but it worked. After scoring a few exotic car repair clients he added on an exotic car rental division. The competition couldn't keep up. ""It took me a year just to find insurance. I made 200 phone calls... easy. I was inches from giving up. I was actually ready to give up if it wasn't for a friend who introduced me to a company that finally could help me out" he said. That was back in 2011.
Since then his fleet has snowballed from just one car to over twenty, & his client list includes everyone from Braun to some of the biggest names in fashion. I asked John to share what key lessons he's learned that he could impart to other aspiring entrepreneurs.
"Develop systems to ensure your business can run without you."
"The mechanics side can run without me. The rental side can run without me. That's because everything they do I've done myself. That helped me become a better teacher and in turn help them become better at running it then me" he said.
He's now considering franchising out, opening up a second location and/or starting a corporate division of the company. No matter which choice he makes, it'll help push the company forward. That wouldn't be possible had he not laid the groundwork for the company to run in his absence.
When I asked John some of the major tipping points were, he said there wasn't any.
"It's been the culmination of little decisions everyday, day in & day out. Making your to-do list for the next day the night before so you're not tripping over yourself [in the morning]. Not screwing people over, knowing your KPI's (key performance indicators) & sticking with them, making sure not to get bogged down with the small details and keeping it profitable."
Trust is just as essential and John says reviews have played a huge part in demonstrating that.
When people's first impression of you is online, John cites reviews as being a critical tool. "Your average person sitting at home who's ready to spend money doesn't know if you're the best thing ever or the devil. Most people are predisposed to the latter so personally ask all your customers to leave reviews about their experience" he said.
"Other customers are going to want to know you're not going to sell their credit card information or anything like that. Trust is everything. A company founded by a good friend of mine out in Las Vegas gets a tremendous amount of business -- over $40 million a year actually -- thanks mostly due to all the reviews they have on TripAdvisor."
When I asked John how many cars he has in his personal collection, he paused quite a bit before answering. Then a slow smile began to stretch across his face before he answered.
"I've lost count!"