Doug Kego celebrates silver anniversary in business

by Gregg Chamberlain - EAP
Doug Kego celebrates silver anniversary in business
After 25 years as the face and name behind Nissan Hawkesbury, Doug Kego still loves the best part of his job, which is meeting and talking with people. (Photo : Gregg Chamberlain)

For the past 25 years Doug Kego has been the face and name behind Nissan Hawkesbury and he does not expect that to change.

“I’m never retiring,” he says, with a grin, during an interview in his cluttered upstairs office at the local Nissan dealership. “I’ve been grateful to make a good living just talking to people.”

Twenty-five years ago, Kego brought his Nissan dealership to Hawkesbury. It wasn’t his first business venture and it was not his original goal to own a car dealership. It just seemed to follow as a natural result of what he likes to do, which is meet and talk with people about what they like, what they want, and what they dream about.

Kego was born in Toronto but never knew his birth parents. He was adopted 11 days after he was born by Bob and Anne Kego, who raised and loved him all through the years. He smiles when he recalls his childhood.

“We had nothing much, but I thought we were rich,” he said. “We had a roof over our heads and food on the table.”

He graduated from Hawkesbury District High School, the local bilingual high school at the time. Sports, rather than academics, was more his interest. He went to Algonquin College for a welding trades course and got his certification, though in the end he didn’t do too much actual welding when he entered the job market.

He worked at the PPG plant in Hawkesbury then later with Canox, a welding supplies company. That is when he was introduced to sales.

At that time, Kego was a young man on the go, but also a young man who did not have his own car, though he knew how to drive. That didn’t deter him from answering a newspaper ad for a car salesman position at Hawkesbury Chrysler. Hughie Brown, the sales manager at the time, was impressed with the young man without his own car and decided to give him a chance.

“An absolutely outstanding man,” said Kego. “He took me under his wing.”

After a week at the Chrysler dealership, young Kego finally got his first sale. Brown congratulated him and also said he was glad that Kego had to work to get that first sale. If Kego had gotten his first sale within his first couple of days on the job, Brown explained, he might have gotten the wrong idea that sales was an easy thing to do.

Kego spent a year at the Chrysler dealership, learning that sales was all about meeting people, learning and understanding what they needed, and trying to figure out how to provide that very thing.

“I worked lots of hours, but that didn’t bother me,” he said. “I loved dealing with people, and I was making good money compared to when I was at Canox.”

His time at Hawkesbury Chrysler proved to be a key point in Kego’s business future. Through his sales dealings he got to know three fellows who were putting together a proposal to open a Mazda dealership. They offered Kego a chance to buy into the project with a 10-per-cent share and the promise that he could increase his partnership share in the future. He decided to go for it.

“I learned a lot about business in general that way,” he said, adding that he stayed on as a partner in the Mazda dealership for eight years before deciding to let his partners buy him out. He had something else in mind. One of his former partners helped him put together a proposal for a Nissan dealership.

The one hitch to his plan was that Nissan Canada already had a nearby dealership across the Ottawa River in Lachute and wanted to avoid market conflict. So instead, Kego was offered the chance to buy the Lachute Nissan dealership. He thought about it, said yes, and took over the Lachute franchise in June 1998. Based on his performance and convincing arguments, Nissan Canada later allowed him to relocate the franchise to Hawkesbury in September of that year.

Kego broke ground on his new location that autumn, starting with a 6000-square-foot building and a staff of 11, including himself. Over the years both the site and the staff have grown, but what he is proud of most are the people he has had working for him during those 25 years.

“All of the people who’ve been with me deserve a ton of thanks,” he said.

Kego has watched all of the changes, up and downs, that have shaped the automotive industry over the past 25 years. While car styles have come and gone, and new technology offers customers more energy-efficient vehicles, and cars and trucks that come with standard features like GPS, that were unheard of a quarter-century ago, one thing has never changed as far as Kego is concerned.

“People are pretty much the same,” he said. “In a small town, if you give good service, then there’s no problem. But if you give bad service, then everybody knows.”

It is part of the message that Kego emphasizes when dealing with new customer service staff. Anyone in business, he observed, needs to make themselves familiar to people and “to make sure the clients know they will get a fair shake.”

That rule sums up how Kego views life in general.

“Follow your heart,” he said. “Be passionate about what you do Whatever you’re going to do, be honest about it. Be the best you can be. If you get to do something you truly love to do, then you’re fortunate. And just treat people right. It’s as easy to smile at someone, as it is to frown.”

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