Eric Jenkins never planned to work in the auto industry. But when he grew frustrated with waiting tables, he unexpectedly found a job at ADESA Dallas two weeks later.

The rest is history. Jenkins has steadily risen through the ranks and is now general manager at ADESA Birmingham. His hard work and reputation as a strong leader haven’t gone unnoticed, as Eric was recently honored as one of Auto Remarketing’s 40 Under 40 recipients.

We recently talked with Eric, 35, about his career, his customers and the industry.

Does this line of work run in your family?

No, not really. Most of my family is in the insurance industry—my dad, stepmom and grandfather. Honestly, I got in the business by accident. Two of my buddies started working at ADESA Dallas, and one of them told me I should come and work there. They were condition report writers. I was ready for something different. Like my friends, I started out as a condition report writer.

You’ve made stops at four ADESA locations in a 12-year span—Dallas, Austin, Atlanta and now Birmingham. What’s that like?

No matter where I’ve been, I’ve been impressed by how great the employees and customers are at each location. I’ve learned something from everyone I’ve met, which has helped me at my next stop. Everyone at the auction has been fantastic. We love Birmingham and have built a life here.

If you hadn’t found a job in this industry, what would you be doing now?

I went to school for finance. I thought I’d be a financial advisor. When graduation day came, I started applying for jobs, and I couldn’t get one. It was 2007, and we were heading into the financial crisis. Thank goodness it worked out how it did. If not, I might be at J.P. Morgan as a financial advisor.

What does success mean to you?

My team and I get to measure our success at the end of each sale, and I love being able to witness what our team can accomplish when we’re working together.

Did we provide value to our customers by helping them sell and buy the cars they needed?

Did we effectively execute our operational plan?

Did we do everything we could to show our customers that we truly appreciate their business and earn the opportunity to do it again the next sale?

I love working with the members of our team. It’s remarkable what we can accomplish together. I’ve found that most of the time, the folks who are right in the middle of the process day-in and day-out are the ones who have the best ideas.

ADESA Birmingham held a fundraiser for Make-A-Wish. Can you share a little more about this?

It’s my favorite day of the year. I loved what we did, and everyone came together to support this cause. It was truly amazing. That’s what it’s all about, after all—helping people. The folks in our business are fantastic and so generous and eager to support causes. I’m already excited to do it again next year.

Eric Jenkins, General Manager at ADESA Birmingham