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Lasting Impression For Steve Giesbrecht, Senior Sales Manager at Brian Jessel Pre-Owned, success starts with sweating the small stuff and thinking different

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Story by Andrew McCredie

For someone who enjoys the intricate mechanics of a larger whole, Steve Giesbrecht has the perfect office. As he sits chatting shop and his 17 years with Brian Jessel, the gleaming Brian Jessel Pre-Owned showroom beyond his glass walled office buzzes with sales staff and customers in the rays of a rare sunny Vancouver March day. The senior sales manager of Brian Jessel BMW’s pre-owned dealership has, since 1995, married his skill of sales and his love of cars to forge a successful career with the luxury brand.

“I’ve been into cars since I was a little kid,” the Richmond native says. “And I was always taking stuff apart. I used to drive my dad crazy. I remember when I got a brand new BMX bike, and he came home and it was in pieces.” His father, a realtor and developer, had a big influence on his life in many ways, including setting his early career path. “I went to UBC and when I got out I went to work in real estate with my dad,” Giesbrecht says. “He was very successful—always No. 1 in Canada for his company, that sort of thing— so it was really difficult for me to break out of his shadow,” he says. “And ultimately I didn’t really enjoy it.”

So how did he find himself in the car business? “We did some spec house-building on the side, and one of the homes we built was for a guy who owned a high-end used car dealership. After we completed the house, he said, ‘You should come work for me.’” Giesbrecht was flattered but said he didn’t think he’d make enough money selling cars. A year later their paths crossed again, the same offer was made and Giesbrecht

“Once someone trusts buying cars from you, they won’t go anywhere else”

requested a look at the dealership’s books. Right then and there, at 29, Giesbrecht was into cars for good. “I worked for him for a couple of years, and I’ve been with BMW since then,” he says.

He began selling new cars, but after a year or so found himself gravitating to the used car market with the German automaker. He’s been a self-described “used-car guy” ever since.

He joined the Jessel group in 2005, initially selling new cars before establishing himself in the dealership’s used-car department as the manager of The Brian Jessel Autohaus, a Jesselowned off-make and older BMW lot just a couple of blocks north of the Boundary Road flagship.

In late 2014 the Brian Jessel Autohaus was transformed into the Brian Jessel BMW Pre-Owned dealership, taking over the resale certified vehicle business from the main dealership. Giesbrecht was an integral part of launching this standalone endeavour, a brainchild of Jessel managing partner Jim Murray that opened in January 2015.

“If you’re trying to do both (new and pre-owned sales) under one roof, you’re really master of nothing,” Jim Murray says of his vision for the pre-owned centre.

“If you want to be the best, you need a separate dealership for each one.” “[Jim and I] worked on it together right from the beginning, from the initial planning through to the construction meetings through to the opening,” says Giesbrecht. “I’d already been here [with Autohaus] so I had lots of input into the design of the new place. And it’s turned out fantastic.”

And successful. Its 1,621 vehicles sold in 2015 is nearly double that of the next closest pre-owned dealership—in the entire country. “We sell everything here, from a $6,000 Honda Civic to a $200,000 Bentley,” notes Giesbrecht.

steve Giesbrecht

BORN 1967 IN
Richmond, B.C.


He is
Married, with two teenaged daughters

“I don’t have to fight to do it. I love interacting with customers and find that totally natural. My job is a perfect fit with my personality.”

“It’s the car business! Hero to zero in a week. With this place in particular, the big challenge is the pace.”

“Pricing vehicles. With the Internet playing such a big role in the pre-owned business today, if you’re not priced sharp, people won’t come in.”

“A mechanical engineer. I like to see how things work, and I like designing and building things.”
1969 Chevelle

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“Our customers run the range from the super rich guy who has millions of dollars invested in cars, to a parent looking to buy a car for their kid.” There are essentially three levels of vehicles the dealership sells under the ‘ certified’ banner.

The first are those vehicles that the dealership conducts safety inspections on. “We let the customer know what it needs,” says Giesbrecht.

“It might need brakes in a year. It might have a little oil leak. That kind of thing.” Then there are the BMW-certified cars, inspected to BMW standards (see sidebar) and, upon passing, issued a BMW warranty.

“The expectation with those vehicles is a longer period of trouble-free driving,” says Giesbrecht, adding that they also qualify for low-rate financing. The final category is so-called ‘near-new’ vehicles still under factory warranties. “We  still safety-inspect them to provide customers with a checklist of all aspects of the car.” Given the Pre-Owned shop’s attention to detail, it’s not surprising that the on-site, dedicated mechanics are all BMW-certified and have the identical training and expectations as their counterparts at the new vehicle dealership.

That all-in investment, Giesbrecht says, has paid off and fueled a rapid scaling up of talent. “We started with eight salesmen,” Giesbrecht says. The business now has 60 employees and “on a good week, we sell 50, 60 cars—that’s something like 25 per cent of the [BMW] used-car business west of Winnipeg.” The quick growth isn’t sating anyone. Especially not bossman Brian Jessel. “Second-best isn’t good enough,” he says. “If we do 40 per cent of the local market in a week, that’s a failure.” Despite the demands, Giesbrecht says that the resulting success is rewarded.

“[The senior executive] don’t get in my way and they don’t micro-manage.” He also likes the way Brian Jessel—whom he describes as “a super-smart car guy who is always thinking ahead”—is more than open to trying things outside the traditional box. Like hiring complete rookies. “We’re not hiring experienced sales people,” Giesbrecht says. “I have two sales managers who have good experience and the other guys are newbies.” With little to no previous experience, he says, they can be taught to sell in the Giesbrecht tried-and-true pre-owned marketplace way.

He adds that this philosophy of hiring those with limited experience works thanks to how he and his team price the vehicles on the lots. “We price them fair and square out of the gate so there isn’t a whole lot of backand-forth negotiating, which often makes customers uncomfortable,” he says. “Once someone trusts buying cars from you, they won’t go anywhere else.” Except maybe to the new-car dealership just up the road when it’s time to buy up. 

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The 360-Degree

Vehicle Inspection Checklist

BMW’s Certified Series is an exclusive selection of pre-owned vehicles—available at Brian Jessel Pre-Owned— that have passed the same rigorous inspections and quality controls of new BMWs go through. This includes:

1. Exterior appearance and condition 

  • fit and alignment of all body panels
  • paint or body damage, dents amd scratches
  • all window glass for damage

2. Under-vehicle inspection

  • check for damage caused by impact
  • all tires, including spare, and all wheels
  • inspect brakes/ABS system, front and rear suspension, steering systems for normal operating conditions
  • inspect all fluid levels

3. Under hood

  • full inspection of engine bay compartment, fan clutch, all belts, hoses and tensioners, cooling systems and inspect battery

4. Exterior lighting

  • physical condition of headlamps, fog lights, parking lights, side marker lights, brake lights, turn signals, backup lights and license plate lights

5. Inspect all general equipment, including

  • door handles, hinges and locks; all locking systems; power windows and sunroof; windshield wipers and blades; power seats and seat heaters; sound system; parking brake; all instrumentation lighting, gauges and warning lights; NAV and iDrive systems; delete stored profiles; all interior lighting; AC and heating system; horn and charging sockets; rear window defogger; all mirrors; and alarm system.

6. Documentation and keys

  • confirm vehicle has all keys, owner’s manual and service/ warranty manuals; confirm all vehicle identification number tags are present and matching

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