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Stephen Houston: Eyes on the horizon; foot on the gas

Photo courtesy of Stephen Houston.

Photo courtesy of Stephen Houston.

Richard A. Lloreda, Staff Writer

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Stephen J. Houston is the quietest, most driven person I have ever met.

Just one day after creating his home studio, Houston is perched at the end of his office chair, furiously multitasking; paying bills, cashing checks and answering a tidal wave of email correspondences.

The creator of his three-man operation, Tradewinds Remarketing, Houston directs everything from keeping vendors updated to double checking automobile inventories that make his remarketing business one of the most successful new ventures in Southern California.

So what does Tradewinds Remarketing do?  

We represent our clients at dealer auctions — on the auction block — and manage the auction process for them end to end.” 

Manheim Auction in Riverside, Calif. Photo courtesy of Stephen Houston.

Manheim Auction in Riverside, Calif. Photo courtesy of Stephen Houston.

Houston, alumnus of the University of Washington, grew up in the automobile world: His family owned dealerships in Seattle for more than 20 years. Before that, his father worked for the Ford Motor Company for more than two decades before opening up his first dealership in 1977.

The family dealership was sold in 1993 and Houston left Washington State for southern California to run several established automobile dealerships — among them, the Paulson Automotive Groups in Beverly Hills.

Houston also served as president of the International Automotive Remarketers Alliance (IARA) for three years (from ’03 to ’06). He followed as chairman and director and remains on the board of directors today. Under his bold leadership, the alliance energetically fostered active relationships with the National Auto Auction Association (NAAA) and auctions and Houston was successful in single-handedly raising revenues and growing membership during his dynamic presidency.

Houston was also named the 2007 Consignor of the Year by the Conference of Automotive Remarketing. The following year, Houston was inducted into the NAAA Hall of Fame during the association’s 60th annual convention.

He made is entrepreneurial debut in 2011 by founding Tradewinds Remarketing.

He has been described by former NAAA President Jim DesRochers as a “low-key and well-respected leader (who) has left the retail side of the business in 1999 to pursue the best part of the industry — used cars, the auctions and remarketing — and worked for WFS/Wachovia starting in January 2001.”

DesRochers added that Houston has “also served the industry well, working on a number of NAAA committees, helping found IARA and serving as its president.”

Houston has even served as a judge for the World Automobile Auctioneers Championship three times.

Houston’s stride toward independence is as quirky as his Lake Elsinore, Calif. office, which is a mixture of trophies, taxidermy mounts, mid-century modern and mission furnishings and large, framed photos of airplane control boards mounted on the wall alongside vintage family and business photographs and baseball memorabilia.

I established credibility as Wells Fargo Dealer Services National Vice President of Remarketing; the people in my business knew me and my reputation for honesty and follow through, so a trust was always there,” Houston said. “Discipline, perseverance, integrity and really paying attention to detail are the keys to, not just mine, but anyone else’s success. I am glad my partners and I live by this code because it certainly makes our jobs a whole lot easier, and we love what we do.”

Mr. Houston has always loved automobiles, especially early 1970s Boss Mustangs and 1960s Cobras. His favorite film is Steve McQueen’s 1968 action thriller “Bullet”.  

Today he is content with restoring a classic 1968 Buick Electra 225 four-door sedan and a 1962 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk two-door roadster.

“By understanding our customers, especially the little guys, we focus on providing excellent personal service. One thing, if you lack integrity in this and really in anything you do not only does word travel fast but you will lose your credibility.”

“Lack of integrity in this business will kill you quicker than anything else,” he explained. “To help minimize risks we work at getting complete and accurate information.”

With all of the apps and websites available to his clients, Houston said transparency is an essential element in maintaining customer trust and remarketing integrity. Southern California is one of the nations — if not the world’s — largest and most lucrative market, he added, and customers here are armed and ready to get the best possible quality automobile that they can find.

For Houston and his team, helping the buyers purchase reliable cars from the onset is top priority number one.

“Being an entrepreneur was at first a bit of a gamble but I couldn’t live the way I do now if I stayed where I had been. So take a leaf out of Don Draper’s book fromthe A&E series ‘Madmen:’ ‘Bone up, strap on your guns and take no prisoners.'”

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Stephen Houston: Eyes on the horizon; foot on the gas