One can only hope to cross paths with a person that is full of energy, enthusiasm, and passion about their career. I am lucky enough to have met and hired Emily Jensen, who exhibits these qualities every day. Emily is fearless and driven to defeat the stereotypes of being in car sales. She faces these challenges head on and succeeds every time. I am very grateful her flame is so bright and Morrie's is lucky to have her.
— Ryan Riste, General Manager
GW: Alright Emily, to start off – what is your job title?
Emily Jensen: I'm a sales consultant here, but what I'm more passionate about is, I am an up-and-coming Audi brand specialist – or an ABS.
How old are you?
I just turned 20 this July.
How old were you when you started working for Morrie's?
I was 19.
What would you consider your hometown to be?
I really call two places home. I grew up in a small town, just west of Albert Lea, MN called Alden. It's a town of about 600 people. Then I moved to Lakeville, one of the suburbs of the Twin Cities and finished out my high school career there. I really call those two very different places home.
How did you come to be in La Crosse?
It's an interesting question. I came to La Crosse for this unique opportunity. I was able to do a lot of my college classes while I was in high school, and I didn't know what on earth I wanted to do – but I knew I was extremely passionate about cars. I grew up around motorcycles, cars, ATVs – everything like that. Since I turned 12-ish, I gravitated more towards both Volkswagen and Audi, and learned more about Audi's history. Then fell in love with everything they stand for, the history behind them. So, I thought, I can talk to people – why don't I go sell cars? I knew a bunch of different people who worked at Audi dealerships in the Twin Cities, and I had heard a lot of things – not necessarily a lot of things that I loved – and I wanted to work somewhere different. I was totally open for a change.
I knew a Morrie's employee who had actually purchased my first car from my family. It was a 1970 VW Baja Beetle – red, manual, anyway – he said that Morrie's is a really great organization to work for – almost like a family. I took him out to lunch, picked his brain a little bit, and then I was like; that's cool. I knew they only had one Audi/VW dealership. I was curious if they had those brands anywhere else and he said, "Nope, just La Crosse, but it's up and coming. They're still building their people behind it". I was like, "Why not? It's going to be an adventure". I applied the next day, got a call, drove down, interviewed, and then got the call the next day that I got the job. I was like, "Well, I need to find a house now". That was it!
Morrie's is a really great organization to work for – almost like a family.
Was that Baja Beetle what sparked your love for the brand or was there something prior to that?
It was something prior to that. I had a couple of childhood friends who were also into cars, and they started with diesel Jettas. That was before Dieselgate. I just thought they were so cool, and I loved the way they drove. You feel like you grew a car out of your arms and legs, not that you're driving the car or it's driving you – it's like you're one with the car. It responds the way you think it should respond.
My mom had a 2015 Volkswagen GTI, Autobahn, DSG automatic. I was the first one that got to drive it home from the dealership. We picked it up in the Twin Cities and, oh my gosh, I completely fell in love with it there. Then it was always, "Mom, what can I do to go drive your car? Can I go put gas in that? Can I go get groceries?" I fell in love with it, did more research that way. Then once we moved to the Cities, I met a lot more people in the Audi world, and that passion grew from there – finding out more details, all the little different quirks down to the way that the Audi and Volkswagen heated seats function. They're so effective because of the way the electrodes pulse. They aren't just getting up to temp, then dropping down to a certain temp – it's a constant pulse which keeps that high temperature.
It seems like you have an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the brand – would you say that's accurate?
Yes, I would say that's accurate. I would say that I am still learning every single day, and if I don't know something…
You're going to go find it.
...I'm going to go find it, and I'll let you know that – all right – I might not know, but I'll go ask!
Let's shift gears here a little bit, so to speak. What's an average day at work look like for you?
I usually get here a half an hour to an hour early every day so that I can get a head start on everything that I've got going either left over from the night before, or just to make sure I have a good start for the day. Then it's about following up with all of my customers, making sure that they've all been taken care of, both cars that have been sold and then any prospects I might have.
From there, it's about fueling the passion...everyone jokes because they can ask me about what's in the pipeline – what color, what trim level, what features – because that's something that I go in and check every day. I can see what's in transit to dealer, what's at port, and that's something that I have passion about. I'm like, "When are our cars getting here?!" When the new Q8s dropped I was literally counting down the days, tracking where they were until they arrived at the dealership.
It's really, really cool being here with Morrie's because there's a lot of different conversations that go all day and it's not very segregated by department or anything like that – the managers will talk to us, service will talk to us, and we're all one big family.
That's awesome! Obviously, you're passionate about the brand, but you seem very, very mature for a 20-year-old. Would you say that helps you here?
Yeah, I would say that helps me. A lot of that maturity came from growing up in a high-functioning family. My father is Navy and I grew up with that influence – learning how to stand, how to speak, things like that. When I was four or five, my annunciation usually scared people, because they didn't expect it out of someone that young. I've learned how to speak in this industry too – especially with Audi customers – watching Julie Ramos, one of the other Audi brand specialists here. I'm totally in awe of her and all that she knows, and all of her experience, and just getting to watch and see how she talks to these customers. I've grown leaps and bounds in just the eight months that I've been here from that alone.
You said that you're kind of in awe of Julie's breadth of knowledge when it comes to Audi – but I heard you're being sent to Audi training?
Can you tell me a little bit about how that came to be, and your reaction when you found out you were going?
When I got the job here, management was very up-front with me and said, "We're not going to send you to training right away. We've got to understand if you're going to be able to be that passionate all the way around." There are two Audi brand specialists here currently, Dan Zielke and Julie Ramos. I look up to both of them because both of them have been to training. Julie's been doing this for, gosh, I don't even know how long. Her wealth of knowledge, all the little things she knows – if I have a question, I can usually go ask her, and she pretty much always knows.
The training consists of both web-based training, and then instructor-led training that you go to a camp to do, whether it's in Chicago or at Audi support in Texas. That's something that I've always been working up to and I'd always ask, "What do I need to do to get to that point?" And the answer was always, "Put your head down, sell some cars, show you're passionate, and work hard." Actually, the day it happened, I was just talking with Ryan (General Manager) and he just casually says, "We need to talk to Mel about getting you sent down to Audi training." I just started smiling from ear to ear, and tears started running down my face because it's like, "This is what I've been waiting for." To be able to go to training and learn even more and meet all these different people that are going be connections for the rest of my life – it's an incredible feeling.
I just started smiling from ear to ear, and tears started running down my face because it's like, "This is what I've been waiting for."
This is my job, yes. But it's also my hobby. I joke around with everyone else here because I go home, and I totally watch videos on these cars. My goal is to give my customers even half, or a fourth of my passion in their day-to-day driving. If I can make them love their vehicles like I do, we're creating new Audi fans. That's a big thing with Audi – what they're trying to do is try to recreate the Audi brand experience. I want to create fans. I want to help people get just as excited about their vehicles, so that every time they come in for service, or car washes through Morrie's, they'll be like, "Emily, look what I learned today," or, "What's this do?"
That transfer of passion is what fills me up. It's never a day at 'work' because I'm making connections with people that I can talk to all the time and learn all their stories. I've already met so many cool people, whether it's making connections up in the city still, or down in this area. This area has a wealth of really interesting people and I wish that more Audi Club North America events would happen down here. I'm trying to be an advocate for that because another thing that drew me into both Audi and Volkswagen is the people. The people that own them – they're very genuine and they love to share. They love to say, "Look at this. Experience this with me. Let me show you this". Not just saying, "Oh look at me. Look what I have. Look at my label". Audi is very elegant in that way and not so outspoken, and very refined. It's a really unique thing to be a part of.
I'm a little in awe of you now, honestly. What were you doing prior to getting into automotive?
Well actually I graduated high school in June of 2018, and then I was doing just a bunch of odd jobs in the cities. I had dabbled a little bit in medicine. Medicine is another one of my passions – I'm fascinated by how the human body works. That's something I've been passionate about probably as long as cars. I was doing a little bit of work there and I found that I didn't love it as much as I thought I would. It's still a hobby and a curiosity of mine. It just wasn't it. But then, like I said, I had an idea, and went for it and it's been a whirlwind. It's been a crazy adventure!
If you hadn't got the call to come here, do you think you would've ended up going to college?
That's a really hard question because I graduated high school with my generals done, and so I was in a good spot – I don't need to go to college to do generals and then figure out what I wanted to do from there. I really don't think I would have; I think it would have worked doing a few more odd jobs, just figuring myself out, dabbling in a lot of different things. I really, truly don't know where I would've ended up.
What attracted you to Morrie's, that you haven't already discussed? What's kept you here?
What attracted me to Morrie's is that it's something different. It is a corporate facility, but it's not. Each store is very family-oriented. The fact that I walked in the door and was greeted and was taken very seriously – most of the other dealerships that I've been to, being very passionate about the cars, I just want to look at them. I don't even want to touch them, but I've had sales consultants get in between me and the car and just say, "Okay, go along." They don't understand. I'm not trying to drive it. I'm not even trying to touch it. I just want to be in its presence, and understand the craftsmanship – the time and effort, the quality, and everything else that goes into it.
It must have been frustrating in those situations knowing that you probably know more about the car than the person that's gatekeeping you from it?
Yeah. But then I just understood, I'm like, well then – move on to something else.
Could you tell me your favorite workplace story?
Well, there's a couple of them. One that stands out in my mind is the first time that I met Dan Zielke, our other Audi brand specialist. It was my first day here – I think it was January 7th and we were out pulling handles because everything was glazed over in ice. I was pulling a handle and Dan comes around one of the cars and goes, "Oh, hi there." I pulled the handle too hard, and slipped and fell underneath the Q7, slid completely underneath the SUV. So obviously, they've got good ground clearance – everyone's like, "Oh, are they gonna have good- "Yeah, you can fit a whole person under there. You're fine. Anyway, I stuck my head and said, "Oh, hi there." That was a funny interaction.
The other one that really sticks out in my mind is, I think it was in April – a customer had come from I think Alaska with her daughter. Her name was Emily, her daughter's named Josephine. It was Friday, so it was jeans day – and here at Morrie's Audi Volkswagen of La Crosse we wear jeans and donate $2 to a local charity on Fridays. We were wearing jeans and this little girl was wearing jeans too, and a black shirt, and she just wanted to run. At that time, we didn't have anything on the show floor, so we just did laps back and forth for like three hours until I actually got tired. Me and Josephine were just sitting in the Volkswagen Thing and then she was fell asleep, and I'm just sitting there. That was a pretty cool experience.
My goal is to give my customers even half, or a fourth of my passion in their day-to-day driving.
Outside of your obvious incredible passion for Audi, what do you love most about your job?
I really like the fact that I can give a little bit of my passion. That still ties to Audi, but that really is my favorite part of my job – giving some of my passion. Because when I get in these cars to go get gas, or move them around the lot, I'll take a minute and I take in everything, all the technology, all the time, all of the craftsmanship and all the design process, and everything that Audi thought out, down to the placement of the buttons, to the color of the stitching versus the color, just everything about it.
I love to just show some of those customers that so that when they get in their cars every day they can think, "Wow, what am I driving around? I'm not just driving a label. This car is going to treat me well." They know that they have someone, if they have questions, concerns, comments, they can go to. Our Service Department is amazing because we will tie one service writer to that customer. If that customer ever has any concerns, they call. Then they're tied to me, so it's this big perfect circle if they ever need anything from us.
It's a lot more like building a personal relationship than feeling like you're getting shunted around from person to person?
Very much so, yep.
Obviously, being a salesperson is a great way to spread that passion. Do you see yourself maybe in like 5-10 years ending up as like an Audi brand ambassador or something on more of a corporate level? Is that the goal?
That would be my dream. I've talked about and dabbled with a lot of different things because I really never thought I'd end up here. It would be a dream come true to be an ambassador or someone who works on more of the corporate level. I want to work for the company and understand more of the company. I want to create more Audi fans! I don't know if that's exactly what the future holds– I really don't know. But I do know that I'm in a really good place here and I feel really comfortable, and I love, love coming to work every day. I have never dreaded coming to work. I trust every one of the people that I work with – I couldn't be in a better spot.
Shifting gears again – three things that you cannot live without. Go.
First thing would be a camera because photography is another one of my passions. Another thing would be something to explore, something new. The third would probably be my hammock, because before I really settled down at a job, I traveled like crazy. My mom's a flight attendant. My Dad's in the Navy, so I did grow up traveling, but when I graduated high school, one of my close friends and I just traveled all around. We went to Glacier National Park, Montana, which is my favorite place ever, so I'll totally be going back. Stayed in my hammock and I have like a sleeping bag that goes in that, and a rain fly and a bug net. Then went to Colorado, Texas and a couple of other places. That was a lot of fun. But I would definitely have to have my camera, something to explore, and my hammock.
Your dream car is…
It would be a 2019 glacier white metallic Audi RS3, black optics, RS designed select interior with red stitching. It's got to have the technology package, which gives you the digital cockpit. It's got to have the dynamic package. It's got to have ... I'm trying to remember what else I'm forgetting. Carbon Fiber inlays. I think that was it.
The glacier white metallic one that we have in stock, which is my exact configuration down to the MSRP, that car was allocated us, so completely by chance. I went into the system and saw it had an original ETA of my birthday. I was like, no way, this is incredible.
You think that's maybe a sign from the universe that you're exactly where you're supposed to be?
I think it is, honestly. I have a lot of friends who are like, "Oh, it's your birthday car, you should buy it." But I can take a step back – and this goes to my maturity too – as much as I'd love having that car, I'm not going to put myself in that situation. I have a Jetta, and I absolutely love my Jetta. I never thought I would love it as much as I do. It's not stupid fast and it's not everything else, but it's exactly everything it's supposed to be, and I love it.
Let's get into the age bias a little bit – is it tough having customers come in and maybe not take you quite as seriously as they should because of you age?
Yes. The first interaction is – to be honest – I've had a lot of customers say, "Oh, you're so nice. You're the receptionist. Oh, this is so awesome." Then they go, "Oh I want to look at this." "Okay, great. I can help you out with that." "Oh no, are you sure? I think we should talk..." Then it's the time where you smile and, in your head, you have to go, "Alright, showtime, let's show them what you're really about."
I've taken customers that have gone home that I've talked to probably once every month with new questions about their car. They are so passionate, and they are so excited. They go home as a new Audi fan. It's not all about showing them that I know everything – that isn't it at all. It's about knowing when to listen, because Audi means "listen" in Latin, the word actually means "listen".
It's about listening to the customer and making them feel comfortable that I'm not going to push them into something they don't need.
That's a big thing – to stand back, to listen to what they're telling you, whether they're telling you what they want in a car, what they have currently, what they're looking for, or what their hopes are. You stand back and you listen, and they'll pretty much tell you everything they're looking for. Then you can go from there and you can gently advise. You can get a sense of what they're looking for. I've had customers that really, they don't even ask me until after they bought the car go, "How old are you?" I go, "19." They go, "Wow, you're going to do really well here."
You said the word Audi means 'listen' in Latin. That's super interesting to me because I think that philosophy really aligns well with what Morrie's is all about. It's finding the right car for your customer, and their situation.
With Morrie's, a big thing about being noncommissioned based – I'll use the example of when I'm talking to customers looking at a used car or Volkswagen – I'm not going to try and push you into a new Audi because I'm going to understand maybe you want one, maybe that's your dream, but maybe not today. Maybe not where you're at right now. I'm going to be able to find you the perfect vehicle for you, whether it's in my inventory or any of my 16 stores. It's about breaking it down for the customer. Just like I said with the Audi, you step back and you listen, listen to what the customer's telling you because they, without really knowing it, they're going to tell you exactly what they're looking for. Most of the time I don't have to ask a lot of the questions on my sheets that I need to go over for putting the deal together because they've already told me. I don't ask a lot of a lot of questions because usually with what I'm telling them, they'll tell me. It's about listening to the customer, listening to what they need and not pushing them, and making them feel comfortable that I'm not going to try and push them into something they don't need.
I just had a customer Monday night that was here and we were looking at a used GTA. She fell in love with and everything else and she's trying to stay payment conscious, so I didn't even look at the new one. After doing a little more research with it and then she was looking at a little bit, she goes, "Well what about this one? Why are you showing me this one?" I said, "Because I didn't want to push you into one vehicle over the other". She goes, "Wow, I didn't even realize it until now and it's really starting to sink. That's incredible". She was even more happy about it and she's come back for her daughter and her son's car. It's twofold, it turns around, and it spreads a good word.
Here in La Crosse, a lot of the dealerships still have that old dealership stigma. We're still the new guys and we are still scaring everyone with how well we're doing. We are number 1 Volkswagen in our area and we are top 10 Audi stores in the nation by percentag, per capita.
Final question – words to live by?
I like this one – "Don't let others dictate your happiness." The day the RS3 got here, I was so excited, and I could see how it could seem annoying, because by the end of the day everyone's like, "Oh yeah, it's just the RS3, who cares? It's just a car. Emily, why do you care so much? What is your deal?"
Don't get beaten down by that customer that comes in and doesn't understand your passion, that decides to work with someone else. Just realize that they're not going to have that experience. Save your time and effort for someone who cares enough. Don't let others dictate your happiness. That goes in work and in life. That is something that my dad has been telling me, and I didn't really realize it until I got this job. Don't let others dictate your happiness.