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Steve Zabawa Explains the Art of the Deal

Steve Zabawa speaks with a College of Business studentSteve Zabawa, auto dealer and entrepreneur, explained the art of the deal to the Marketing and Entrepreneurship class on March 29th. Steve graduated with a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 1979. During his university career he majored in corporate finance, marketing and sales management, and public relations. He was the President of Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity Delta Chi Chapter and the Director of the Student Programming Board at UNO. He spent his first six years in business developing, managing, and selling vacation timeshare resorts in Texas and Colorado. The next 25 years were spent in the car business, where Steve started at the bottom selling cars at Culiver Nissan/Infiniti in February 1987, and moved up the ladder through all front end dealership positions in Phoenix Arizona until becoming a General Motors Dealer in January 1994 at Rimrock Pontiac Cadillac GMC in Billings Montana. Beginning with 30 employees and one store, Steve and his partner John Soares built the business through quality intense selling techniques, effective and creative advertising, great customer service, technology, and  awesome team building (300 employees in 2007). The business has experienced as much as $175 million in annual revenue and 5000 retail units. The partners currently own four dealerships at eight locations, including the new Mercedes-Benz AutoHaus Dealership and a new VW White Frame Store.

Steve also presented the class with a detailed business plan of an amazing software product he has developed for automobile dealerships. More information about Steve’s story can be found at:

Steve Zabawa chats with KOA President Patric HittmeierSteve Zabawa provided the class with the following advice:

  • Your partners are really important.
  • Venture capital firms are looking at the talent at the top.
  • Always tweek your business plan as you go forward.
  • Look at the economic and business cycles you are implementing your business plan.
  • Do your research.
  • Think outside the box; there is no easy deal.
  • Executive team, executive team, executive team …
  • Be persistent; work all the angles, never give up.
  • Be nimble.
  • The #1 rule in life is forgive and forget.
  • In the business world bad things happen; you have to move on.
  • Never stop asking; you never know; always ask.
  • Pencil out every deal
  • Be persistent and determined
  • Have a passion for your product.
  • When closing the deal get the money, get the money, get the money …
  • You don’t have anything if you don’t get the money and you can’t pay anyone without the money!!!
  • Make sure no one is stealing.
  • How you collect receivables is important.
  • Always have two check signers.
  • Drug test.
  • You want the least amount of risk that you can operate with.
  • Hire people that, when they drink, they drink water.
  • Balance your life.
  • Take care of your health.
  • Work out three or five times a week.
  • Replace stupid coping activities with something that is smart.
  • Get away from habits of the world.
  • Continually feed your mind.
  • Study your industry. 
  • Put time and effort into your spirituality.
  • God, family, and then everything else.
  • Spouse must buy-in to what you are doing.
  • Type out goals for the year.
  • Define your goals in detail.
  • Life goes up and down.
  • Be goal driven, fearless, competitive, disciplined, focused, energetic, and persistent.

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