Even when he unwittingly sent an escaped prisoner off for a test drive, customer satisfaction was foremost in Richard Murrell's mind. "I checked it had a full tank of gas - unfortunately he never brought it back."
It was a precarious start to a career which now spans over two decades - but was meant to features cows, not cars. It's a safe bet that Richard's the only car salesman with a Diploma in Dairy Technology from Massey University. "It was supposed to be a fill in job - I was going to run a milk factory."
The extensive range on offer at Southland Vehicle Sales today is a far cry from the humble 18 vehicles gracing the lot when Richard embarked on a business endeavour with Garry Tippett in 1993. But then Richard's a quintessential Southlander - innovative, hard-working and genuinely proud of the province he calls home.
It's an attitude which has evolved SVS into one of Southland's leading dealerships with its unrivalled Buy Safe, Buy Sure guarantee program and unbeatable reputation for service. Richard's enthusiasm for the motor industry is infectious and, as past president of the MTA, he remains actively involved and passionate about its future.
"As a leader in the MTA, you need to set the standard in your own business as well, so SVS incorporates many of the same values."
Listening, not talking, is a key component of Richard's sales technique, resulting in a vehicle that melds seamlessly with a client's needs.
"Standing still is not an option - if you're standing still, you're about to go backwards."
A proud father of three, Richard's energetic approach also extends to a raft of leisure pursuits - swimming, cycling, the gym, golden oldies rugby, indoor netball and diving, where delectable hauls from the ocean have inspired him to expand his culinary skills.
And when the cause is worthy, he'll put he's donned boxing gloves for SVS in the Fight for Kids and cycled from Milford Sound to Invercargill through snow and sleet all in the name of charity