If you’ve shopped for a new or used vehicle in the greater Geneva Lakes area, chances are you may have visited the Kunes Country Auto Group’s dealerships in Delavan or Elkhorn. Owner Gregg Kunes gives us his thoughts on running his successful business, being a partner in the Lake Lawn Resort ownership group and why he is often the go-to person when charitable organizations are in need.
MOST OF OUR READERS KNOW YOUR NAME BUT THEY DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT YOU. CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF?
I was born in Oak Lawn, Illinois and raised in Palos Heights, Illinois. I’m from a large family — nine sisters and one brother. We didn’t have a lot of money, but growing up we didn’t know that. My mom made meals stretch. If she made hamburgers one night, the leftovers would be combined with Spanish rice and we’d have stuffed peppers the next night. Mom never let anything go to waste. My first job in the mid-1960s was at my dad’s Jeep store in Oak Lawn, where I washed cars and kept the place clean. I eventually came to the conclusion that someday I would want my own business. I would run it as God instructed me. I would operate it differently than my Dad’s business — not right or wrong, just differently.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE KEY TO YOUR SUCCESS AS A BUSINESS PERSON?
Building people’s lives. It’s not about chasing money. My biggest reward [as a business person] is having an influence on making people proud of what they do. I try to help them be the best that they can be.
DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST CAR THAT YOU SOLD?
Absolutely! My first customers were an older couple. I was so passionate about wanting to be their car salesman. It had nothing to do with selling the car or making money; it was more important to earn their trust. I remember driving the car to their home just to make sure that it would fit in their garage, and they invited me in for something to eat. They bought the car from me because they knew I really wanted to be their car salesman. It was all about earning their trust and ensuring they knew I would lead them in the right way.
WHY IS PHILANTHROPY IMPORTANT TO YOU?
We are only on this earth for a short time. It is truly not about how successful we are financially, but about what we give back. So we give to others and encourage others. We help others accomplish what they need, so they can help those less fortunate in our local communities. God called upon us to be “givers.” And if we’re faithful in what we give, he’ll reward us. We don’t give because of that, we just do it because that’s the “heart” that God has provided each of us.
WHAT ARE YOUR LONG RANGE PLANS FOR LAKE LAWN RESORT?
It’s important to keep improving Lake Lawn so it continues to thrive. Our legacy is not about chasing money, but the ongoing care of the resort so it stays in business for another 138 years! We want to ensure that it is not only a place that provides good jobs for our county, but a place where people come to build lasting family memories. Our goal is to have people involved that will ensure the resort is passed from one generation to the next. My involvement has never had anything to do with money. Never. It’s been more about what it has done for our community. Local merchants have told me that when Lake Lawn is busy, they see an incremental rise in their businesses as well. Lake Lawn’s enduring growth and success is critical to many other local businesses’ growth and success.
AS A RESIDENT OF THE GENEVA LAKES AREA, WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE THINGS TO DO?
I guess boating is my favorite thing to do, although I used to like to golf, until I didn’t have time for it anymore. I would probably also say work is one of my favorite things to do. My passion is to develop relationships with others — to build up their lives to be better. It’s especially rewarding to find out what others are good at and put them in the right positions to succeed. Of course my grandkids are now also a big priority in my life.
KUNES AUTO GROUP SELLS MANY MAKES AND MODELS OF CARS AND TRUCKS. DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE VEHICLE TO DRIVE?
Yes! It would be my white Ford F-150 pickup truck. I learned a long time ago that if I drove vehicles that were better (or worse) than what most of my customers drove that it had an effect on them. So I simply choose to be “vanilla” in what I drive. An F-150 is a great everyday vehicle that gives me room and comfort that I haven’t found in other trucks.