How Howard Stillman took a convoluted journey to reach Level 6 Corp. Featured

8:00pm EDT June 30, 2013
Howard Stillman, president and CEO, Level 6 Corp. Howard Stillman, president and CEO, Level 6 Corp.

Consumer Products and Services

FINALIST

Howard Stillman has had one of the most roundabout journeys to successful entrepreneurship you can imagine.

The president and CEO of Level 6 Corp., dba Car Outlet, Stillman barely graduated from high school. Through a national exchange program, he was able to attend the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, and earned a dual degree in finance and real estate. Stillman went on to receive a master’s degree in international business from the University of San Diego.

He decided to pursue employment in Singapore, going from job to job. Next was a stay in Moscow to find a better job. When that didn’t work out, Stillman returned to Chicago and worked at an options exchange trading company, and then landed a position in a small consumer finance company.

At the finance company, many of his customers only spoke Spanish. Despite his inability to speak the language, Stillman had to teach himself key collection terms and find ways to meet his goals. However, the experiences led him to create a company that integrated finance companies and dealerships that would focus on customer service and generate long-term relationships with consumers — a used car lot.

He maxed out his credit cards, mortgaged his house, took a 70 percent pay cut, and risked financial security for his wife and special needs daughter. It took three to four years before the business could obtain its first line of credit.

Once the company, which gears itself to the Hispanic population, was on its feet, Stillman and his partners continued to grow the business to include insurance and auto financing.

It has since grown to 11 dealerships, and each year the company has continued to grow and become more profitable.

The majority of the company’s employees are Hispanic. But employee turnover is minimal as the company has embraced the Hispanic culture and utilized employee feedback to provide better customer service and a better work environment.

How to reach: Level 6 Corp., www.caroutlet.com