Auto group owner Gary Lang talks past, future
MCHENRY — If you ask Gary Lang about his life, he'll tell you this: "I'm the luckiest guy in the world."
Lang owns McHenry-based Gary Lang Auto Group, though he didn't always expect to make a career in the automotive industry. He fell into the car business in 1975 out of necessity and since has moved up the ranks.
Gary Lang Auto Group now conducts about $170 million in sales annually and employs about 160 people on the 22-acre dealership located off Route 31.
Long a McHenry County business leader, Lang this year joined the Corporate Advisory Board of Shaw Media Illinois, a group of professional leaders from around northern Illinois who are helping advise the company as it charts a path to the future.
Lang began his career in sales at a Waukegan dealership in 1975. He had been working in the construction industry, installing underground plumbing for the Six Flags Great America project in Gurnee. A workers strike led to layoffs, and Lang was forced to find another job, he said.
"I took a job selling cars that summer, in my canary yellow leisure suit," Lang said. "I wasn't good [at sales] then, but I got better."
The Waukegan dealership promoted from within, and Lang quickly moved up the ranks until an opportunity to buy into a Chevrolet dealership in downtown McHenry popped up in 1983.
The dealership started with one lift and two bays in the service department. The current Gary Lang Auto Group service department now includes at least 55 lifts with 68 bays, Lang said.
Growth hasn't come easy. When Lang first bought the dealership, he worked long hours seven days a week.
"My family would pick me up go to dinner and then drop me back off," Lang said. "But you have to enjoy it. If you enjoy it and have a passion for it, it's not a job."
The auto group expanded to its current Route 31 location in 1995.
The dealership at any given time has between 1,500 to 2,000 cars of various makes and models on the lots. The auto group carries vehicles from Kia, Subaru, Mitsubishi Motors, Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC.
But growth and success should be measured by one aspect of the business above all else: the people, Lang said.
"Our growth has been in our organization," he said. "Not the brick and mortar. Not the highway frontage. Not the amount of cars. As people develop and we get better at what we do and as we have more people that are trained in the business, then we can expand."
Lang said that he also thought it was important to give back to the community. The auto group donates cars and sponsors and participates in many community events such as McHenry's Fiesta Days, the McHenry Rotary event Brews, Blues and BBQs and the city's St. Patrick's Day celebration.
The McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce presented Lang with the Frank E. Low Award last year. The annual award goes to outstanding business members of the community.
"The community has been very good to us," Lang said. "We have been very fortunate. It's a dream come true."