If you live on the Sunshine Coast you'll be sure to recognise the name Ken Mills Toyota. From the brand's early conception in Kingaroy in 1993, to it's prominence on the Sunshine Coast today, the family business has evolved with the times yet manages to stay true to it's core family values.
At the heart of the Ken Mills Toyota ideology sits Ken Mills himself, he's a Toyota visionary, a true propagandist, and brand advocate. Ken is retiring from the Kingaroy business, stepping down as Dealer Principal after nearly 30 years.
So did you know that the Sunshine Coast dealerships (Nambour and Maroochydore) are owned by Brett Mills (and wife Caroline), who purchased the "busted and broken" dealerships in 2002, and transformed them into the progressive, innovative businesses they are today. The dealerships (Kingaroy and Sunshine Coast) are independently operated are separate companies, that share a trading name and a transparent set of family values.
The Ken Mills Toyota philosophy. Invest in good people, create a trustworthy culture, offer exceptional guest experience, embrace product innovation and support the local community.
BRETT'S TOYOTA STORY - TOYOTA IS IN HIS BLOOD
Brett attributes not only his life long Toyota obsession, but his robust personal, business and community values to his parents, Ken and Sheryl, who instilled a strong work ethic in him early on.
Brett, and his sister Tanya, grew up on their parents 10 acre property near Gympie. The hard-working family looked after the hobby farm as well as running the local Toyota dealership. Brett spent his formative years enjoying the Australian farm life and its on the farm where his love of Toyota and his entrepreneurial streak blossomed.
Brett tells childhood stories of making money "up selling" calves to neighbours and outdoor adventuring with the "big green esky" to Fraser Island after collecting blocks of ice, that would last for weeks, from the Gympie Butter Factory. Brett said, “We would travel to Fraser in a short 40, my sister and I sitting in the back, on roles of foam which would later become our beds. We be up there for weeks at a time”. Ken got innovative and still holds a pattern for converting Landcruiser tray backs into Grand Tourer bus’s which were used by tour operators on the Island and also in places like the Northern Territory (Ken loved to transform and modify). Brett remembers getting his hands dirty building a Toyota Celica with his dad for his sister (building runs in the family) and learning to drive in a Toyota FJ45 Landcruiser.
BRETT'S TOYOTA JOURNEY
Brett worked in the Kingaroy dealership alongside his father from 1996 - 1999, learning his way around and absorbing everything Toyota. In fact Brett's spent most of his working life with Toyota. A side from a a brief stint as an accountant in 1996, and an extended working holiday to London in 1999, Brett has always worked for the brand he loves.
After learning the business alongside Ken in Kingaroy, Brett landed his dream job as National Dealer Planning Manager in Sydney in 2000. Brett may have missed out on the Sydney 2000 games, but he won gold when he met his future wife and business partner Caroline whilst working at the Sydney head office. Brett used his time with Toyota to grasp a clear understanding of how the dealer network operates, he fostered life long relationships and learned how the manufacturing, supply side of the global business works.
This additional knowledge and experience, coupled with years of Toyota exposure and guidance from one of Australia's most credible Toyota sources (his dad Ken), resulted in Brett taking the huge step in 2002 of becoming Australia's youngest Toyota dealer, at the age of 27.
KEN MILLS TOYOTA SUNSHINE COAST
When Brett took over the reigns at the Sunshine Coast dealerships in 2002 there were only 40 staff (10 at Maroochydore and 30 Nambour). The sites were a mess and Brett recalls the team putting on their work clothes and cleaning the sites up. Brett found the start challenging and thanks his dad expertise and guidance for helping steer the business in its formative years. Brett knew the importance of having 'good people' in the business and recruited fresh blood, some of whom are still working alongside Brett today.
CHALLENGES + TRANSFORMATIONS
Then in 2008 the new Maroochydore site was being built at the same time the Global Financial Crisis occurred. This was a stagnated time for the business as the Sunshine Coast struggled with the world wide catastrophe. However, by 2010 the Coast returned to a growth stage and Mark Pagett was employed as General Manager. Brett and Mark have worked together to build the business and its reputation since then. The historic Nambour site had a major facelift and renovation in 2015 and Maroochydore is currently undergoing modernization, opening up the showroom and creating additional work pods to accommodate it's people and the expanding business.
Brett's focus (as does his dad's) has remained remained consistent throughout - Invest in good people, create a trustworthy culture, offer exceptional guest experience, embrace product innovation and support the local community.
As Ken Mills retires from the Kingaroy dealership his outstanding efforts in the local community have been acknowledged as he was recently awarded the 2022 South Burnett Citizen of the year. He is passing the reigns to equity partner David Musch and Brett will take a more active role in the Kingaroy space.
There's another Mills milestone event on the horizon too; December will see Brett and Caroline celebrate 20 years of ownership of the Sunshine Coast dealerships. Ask Brett if he'd do it again?
Beyond 2022, watch as Brett continues to drive Ken Mills Toyota into the future, think the dominance of the hybrids and maximizing growth opportunities on the Sunshine Coast. Plus stay tuned as our state of art, innovative new dealership at Maroochydore comes to life.