The road to Halladay Motors was rocky for current company Board Chairman Tim Joannides.
In chasing his dream of owning a car dealership, Joannides traveled across the country before finding the perfect fit and building a successful, fulfilling career in Cheyenne.
Because of his ability to persevere through adversity and his positive impact on the local business community, Joannides was inducted Tuesday into the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce’s Circle of Champions.
“I’m very humbled,” Joannides said. “I looked at the people who have received this honor in the past, and I’m not sure I believe I should be in their company.”
To that, event emcee and Laramie County Community College President Joe Schaffer said, “It’s comments like that that make me feel even more sure that you are exactly the type of person that should be joining the Circle of Champions.”
Since moving to Cheyenne with his wife, Kathy, in 1983 and starting at Halladay Motors in ‘87, Joannides has spent decades building a people-first culture within his business, for both employees and customers. Even through the Great Recession of 2008 and this year’s COVID-19 pandemic, Halladay Motors kept its entire staff on with full pay. During the recession, Joannides and his successor, Jim Casey, were the only two to take a pay cut.
But getting to where he is today came with many obstacles to overcome. Joannides started his career selling insurance with his dad, who built himself up from nothing after immigrating from the island of Cyprus in 1930.
“I came to realize it really wasn’t my passion, and I still wanted to do something with cars,” Joannides said.
His brother-in-law was making good money as a salesman at a car dealership at the time, and set Joannides up with an interview. However, he was turned away from the first dealership and two more after that, saying the interviewers didn’t think he had what it takes.
Instead, he got a gig on a used car lot, where he quickly became the best salesman in the business. He got in touch with dealerships and expanded his business circle, which ultimately led him to own his first dealership in Galesburg, Illinois, where Joannides encountered shady partners that would lead to problems farther down the line.
While at the dealership, he said interest rates skyrocketed under President Jimmy Carter, which made carrying on difficult for the company. He opened up a used car center, going back to his roots, but it wasn’t enough to keep the doors open.
“Everything that I’ve worked so hard for my whole life – my dreams, my goals, everything – I had to walk away from it,” Joannides said.
He followed a new job that took him to Tucson, Arizona, but the problems with his bankers from Galesburg came along, too. He said before closing, he and the bank agreed that the dealership’s assets would be enough to cover any money owed. But the bankers instead sold off the cars to friends for less than a dollar, leaving $75,000 for Joannides to pay.
His lawyer told him to file for bankruptcy, but that wasn’t in the cards for Joannides, since he had given creditors his word that he’d pay them back.
“They put faith in me for parts and all the different suppliers that we did business with, and I felt a strong obligation to pay them back. It took me 10 years, but I did pay everybody back; I did not file for bankruptcy,” he said.
As a piece of advice, Joannides told the Chamber members to make sure they have everything in writing, and to hire lawyers and CPAs who share the same values.
“That was a tough experience, but I learned a lot, and that’s what helped me get through this past recession 12 years ago,” he said.
Although his skills and history of hard work suited him well, earning him his dream position at Halladay Motors, he still encountered problems as the head of the dealership. He said he brought in a general manager who “unwound” the “beautiful culture” they had developed in their business.
That person, along with the company’s chief financial officer, ended up embezzling $500,000 from Halladay Motors, an amount that they never got back.
But instead of being burned by the people who did him wrong along the way, Joannides focused on the good that his employees brought to the table. He said the people he encountered were both the most challenging and most fulfilling aspect of the job.
“It’s just so rewarding to watch how they evolved with the opportunities that they had to make more money to take care of their families, and some of the biggest disappointments I’ve had are people, as well. … But that’s just part of business and part of life,” Joannides said.
He said his experiences in Galesburg set him up well for surviving the embezzlement case, which happened right before the recession, and the struggles they faced led them to an even bright future. Through the years, Halladay Motors has become an integral business in Cheyenne, sponsoring nonprofits like Meals on Wheels and the Boys and Girls Club and events like the Cheyenne Symphony Orchestra.
“The moral here is that something good comes out of everything. And even when you’re in your worst moments or your worst hours … there’s always a reason,” Joannides said.