By Victor Skinner – Contributing Reporter
NORTON SHORES – Idris Golden has a very important message for the area’s underprivileged youth. “If you work hard, and do the right thing, people will give you a chance,” he said. “You can’t stop, you can’t give up, and you can’t quit. “That’s what it takes to be successful.”
It’s a lesson Golden learned the hard way growing up in Muskegon’s rough neighborhoods inthe 1980s an experience that led him down the wrong path but led to a new perspective on life. Golden’s athletic ability as a teen earned him a spot on the Big Reds’ 1989-90 state championship football team, but despite playing in the Silverdome he had few plans in life.
“I was a kid growing up in the neighborhood, in a single parent home. I was the oldest of five children. I was out in the street and pretty much followed the norm of the neighborhood,” Golden said. “I made some poor decisions and was held accountable.” “It was one of those things where I wanted to own up for my own actions,” he said.
Golden, now 42, decided to turn his life around in 2003 and help others do the same. Around the same time he met his wife and shortly after started a family. Initially, Golden worked a variety of jobs. He started a lawn mowing business with a friend, and then went into music production and event promotion before enrolling at Muskegon Community College in his 30’s. Classes were hard, he said, but Golden persisted and graduated in 2008 with a 3.67 GPA. “I went back to college and gave it my all,” he said. “I did really well and I enrolled to Grand Valley State University” for nonprofit management. Despite the tough class load, Golden maintained a 3.5 GPA and graduated from GVSU with honors in 2012.
His education led him to an internship at Muskegon’s Mediation and Restorative Services helping felons get back on track after life in prison. “I was working with men and women after incarceration, working to get them jobs and back together with their families,” Golden said. “It was ideal because I was able to share my experience with other people, to help them. “They gave me an internship job for about a year, and then they offered me a full time job, and I did that for about another year.”
The work was fulfilling, but his modest income made it difficult to survive and provide for his growing family. Idris and his wife are raising four children – 6, 9, 13 and 17. “I still had to find things to supplement my income,” Golden said. “I was trying to find something I was good at, but at the same time make enough to provide for my family.” That’s when Golden gave in to his entrepreneurial spirit and decided to pursue a career in car sales, an uncommon profession for an African American in West Michigan, he said.
With no experience in car sales, dealerships were hesitant to allow him on the sales floor, and many rejected his applications. Not a single car dealership in Muskegon would have him. He kept applying anyway. Eventually, he secured a sales position at J.D. Byrider on 28th Street in Grand Rapids last May.
By the next month, he was the dealership’s top salesman and by September he was the franchise’s top seller for the region. In October 2014, Golden approached Jim Ferenz, general manager for Preferred Chrysler in Muskegon, about taking his skills to the next level. “He gave me a shot, and I haven’t let him down,” Golden said. “I go hard from open until close.”
Ferenz said Golden has led the Henry Street dealership in sales since the day he stepped in the door, and for good reason.
“He was the leader three months in a row. He outsold everybody for December, January and February,” Ferenz said. “He’s doing phenomenal.” Last month, Golden sold twice as many vehicles as his closest competition – 22 cars, or nearly one per day. “He’s one of the hardest working employees I have had in 22 years,” Ferenz said. “We’ve never come across someone who cares as much as he does and works as hard as he does. “It’s rare to have both of those qualities.”
And while Golden is always the first to arrive and last to leave the sales floor for the day, it’s his connection with his clients that’s likely fueling his immense success, Ferenz said. “He can have a couple or three customers going at the same time and treats them all like they’re the only ones there,” Ferenz said. “He gets a lot of referral or repeat customers, even within the same week.”
“I see him advancing, for sure. We have seven dealerships.” Golden said it was the hard lessons he learned during his past ordeals, coupled with his education and experience working with a wide variety of folks through Mediation and Restorative Services that made his success possible. “It’s a great feeling, being able to provide for my family the way I should. Words can’t explain how good it feels,” he said. “Of all of the things I’ve done in my life, I love this. I love going to work and being a professional.”
Golden said he hopes his new reality will inspire more of the city’s underprivileged youth to pursue their dreams. His message is simple. “It’s possible, no matter what you’re doing,” Golden said. “There are legitimate careers that can support a family without putting your life in jeopardy. “I’ve made a lot of bad decisions, but the thing is to learn from them.” Golden said he now hopes to guide others on a more direct route to success than he took. “I believe in other people, and I want them to succeed,” Golden said, “because I’ve had people in my life who were there for me.”
To contact Idris Golden call (231)955-0704 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org OR email@example.com