Bill Lilley bids farewell

AFTER 36 years in the car sales business, Bill Lilley will shut up shop for the last time next Thursday, April 30.

The familiar car yard, known as Bill Lilley's Automotive on Crawford Street has been sold to the Woolworths Group and will soon be transformed into a Dan Murphy's liquor store.

The John McGrath Auto Group on Yass Road has acquired the dealership's three brands and staff.

Mr Lilley, 67, told the Queanbeyan Age that he was still in a state of denial about the big change.

But this optimist said it wasn't a time to feel sad, but instead look back at some of the fond memories of his long career.

"It's been a great ride. I've enjoyed most of it," he said.

"Some days, like any job, you come to work and things go wrong. You end up thinking 'I don't want to do this anymore'.

"That's never really happened to me. I can still turn up here and enjoy the majority of the days that I've been here."

Mr Lilley was first introduced to the business by his father. Together they ran a service station and repair shop in Canberra.

Later he decided to open a dealership in Queanbeyan, originally known as Bill Lilley Chrysler and later Bill Lilley Mitsubishi.

Mr Lilley said selling cars was a natural extension from servicing and repairing them. He said a good salesman can help a customer pick out the right car, but a great car salesman will cultivate the relationship.

"In current times, it's become quite fashionable to counsel rather than pressure selling. You talk to your customer, you find out what their needs are and you try to match a vehicle that does the job," he said.

"A lot of people think you're in the car game but you're not. You're in the people game. A car will just sit there. It's a person that will buy it, a person that will drive it.

"It's a people business first and car business second."

Mr Lilley and his wife Janice are swapping cars for cows, with their focus now on breeding wagyu beef cows at their Urila property.

The couple has been farming since 1982, and although very different to the car sales game, they find it equally as satisfying.

"I love it - love working on the land. It was something I've always wanted to do," Mr Lilley said.

"You come to work and everything happens within [9am to 5pm] hours. You go into a farming enterprise and I think the smallest denominator of time is a day.

"You think 'That's a day's work, five days' work, that's not happening until next spring'. The difference between two is quite sobering."

Mr Lilley said it's been wonderful to be part of the Queanbeyan community and thanked all his customers.

"The level of commitment to running a small business is all encompassing. I've enjoyed it but the sacrifices time-wise are fairly major," he said.

"There's no avoiding it: to stay in business you've got to commit and just do it.

"That's a strength, but after 36 years you think 'wow, a rest would be good'."

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