One year ago, on March 1, 2021, Michael Cummings fulfilled a lifelong ambition by becoming one of the youngest General Managers of a Toyota Dealership in the country at the age of 28. To say the former prep, college, and international hockey player was born for the job would be no understatement.
“There are people at the dealership in San Bernardino who still come up to me and tell stories about me running around the dealership as a child,” Michael said. “One of the more infamous legends is that I started throwing rocks at brand new cars on the lot one day. I think they got me out of there early that day.”
Since he was sixteen years old, he has been employed in some manner or another at Toyota of San Bernardino, but the time was restricted to when he was not actively engaged in the other great passion in his life, hockey.
“My dad, Cliff is a big hockey fan and was a near-professional level golfer, and my mother, Bobbi, was in a recreational roller hockey league when I was a toddler, and I grew to love the game. By the time I was four or five years old, the roller rinks near me were closed, so I transitioned to the ice and started to play in Lake Arrowhead,” he said.
Cummings’ hockey career would take him around the country and the world before coming back to Toyota of San Bernardino full-time. He played for several years in junior hockey leagues in places such as Montana and Alaska. He then moved on to the college ranks, where he won a championship his freshman year at Arizona State University in the ACHA. Two years later, he was still playing at A.S.U., when they made the leap to NCAA Division one and started playing against the powerhouse teams in collegiate hockey.
“That was quite a transition from one league to the other. We were consistently one of the best teams in the ACHA, and then we were just another team in Division One, and the training and competition and travel schedule just got even more intense,” he said. His senior year, he played for Team U.S.A. in the World University Games in Kazakhstan and faced international hockey powerhouses such as Canada, Sweden, and Russia. “We did not medal but held our own, and we were happy with our performance against what are essentially professional players from those other countries. We were just a bunch of college kids from the U.S.A., and I was proud to put on the uniform.”
After graduation, Michael immediately began working at Toyota of San Bernardino in various capacities and helped open the Nissan store at the San Bernardino Auto mall before eventually making the move to I-10 Toyota. However, he maintains the lessons learned on the ice still play an essential role in his role as G.M. of a Toyota Store.
Teamwork and understanding the players on your team and their roles are essential aspects of running a business. I look at the dealership as one big team and a team that wants to win – we want to do better than other dealerships in the key metrics such as sales, service, traffic count. These are all tangible numbers that we can see and use as our scoreboard that tells us how we are doing,” he said.
Cummings explained that hockey also taught him to stay focused on the fundamentals and always keep working on them.
“You have to learn how to coach people up and assess how they need to be coached to get the maximum performance out of them,” he said.
As for any future goals, Cummings said the supply chain disruptions would make it hard to forecast but that the important thing was just to keep getting better every day and savor the wins when they come.
“The great thing is I have always wanted to be in this business with my family for as long as I can remember – that was the plan, and I am getting to live it.”