Evan Berney wants his used-car dealership to be a taste of Silicon Valley on Reisterstown Road.
The 34-year-old third-generation CEO of Carbiz said he spent $500,000 this year to redesign the company's website and renovate its Northwest Baltimore showroom. Customers can now play foosball, pingpong and arcade games in the sleek new space while they ponder their purchases. He also hired a chief innovation officer — a job title not typically seen at a car dealership.
"We look at ourselves as a technology company that sells cars," Berney said. "We do things a little bit different, and we want customers to see that when they come in the door."
Carbiz's "one-price model" — intended to cut out the price haggling for which used-car dealerships are notorious — shows customers they're getting a transparent deal, Berney said. But he had an even bigger idea: allowing customers to buy online and have their car delivered to their homes for free, anywhere within 100 miles.
If customers don't like the car they've purchased, they have five days to return it for a full refund. Berney thinks those concepts have the potential to launch his company to a national level.
"We want to give customers the experience they prefer," he said.
Berney changed the employee roles at Carbiz, too. He did away with the typical long hours and commission-based pay for car salesmen and redesigned the business so that the same salespeople — or "experience specialists," as he calls them — handle transactions from start to finish.
"A customer will go into a car dealership and talk to as many as three to four people," he said. "That alone can be a very high-pressure, uncomfortable situation."
The changes to his company weren't only about the customers, though. Berney himself prefers the new-age, startup-style environment he's created to working in a traditional car dealership setting. He admires tech startups such as Airbnb for creating what he called a "winning culture."
"The car business to a degree, to me, without technology, is boring," Berney said. "I look at it as a challenge to push myself and innovate."
He lives in Ruxton with his wife, Ali, and their two children. They enjoy going out to eat, especially to La Food Marketa, a South American restaurant near Quarry Lake in Baltimore County.
Berney gets his exercise playing squash ("It's high-energy") because he doesn't like working out.
He prides himself on the culture he's created, a major twist on the family business he inherited, but one that he said his father and the rest of his family approve of.
"One thing I am very fortunate to have is most of the family in the business," he said. "The whole thing is such a cool concept; the facilities, everything has changed in such a positive way. It just has this feeling and this aura and culture, something the family can be proud of."
Position: CEO, Carbiz
Born: Lewistown, Pa.
Education: Pennsylvania State University
Family: Wife, Ali; daughter, Caroline, 6; son Carter, 2
Hobbies: Travel, squash, golf, spending time with family