Recognizing our Best: Sam Chaple

05/14/2021

On the night of March 3, 2020, Manheim Nashville’s general manager, Sam Chaple, watched the news in disbelief as a twister with winds in excess of 150 mph barreled down on the business he spent two decades building.  

It would take more than a year to fully pick up the pieces from that devastating day. But Sam’s calmness – literally in the eye of a storm – helped the auction, its clients and its employees emerge even stronger. He demonstrated what it means to lead by example and bring out the best in others, earning him the highest honor for a Cox Enterprises employee, the Governor James M. Cox Award.  

A Force of Nature 

Five of the seven buildings on the property were demolished or heavily damaged when the tornado ripped through the auction. More than three-quarters of the roughly 15,000 cars on the lot were also banged up.  

Still, he didn’t have to look hard to see the bright side. None of Manheim Nashville’s 618 team members had been harmed. The only employees on the property that night — three security guards — had crouched safely in an interior bathroom.  

If the tornado had touched down during day, “it would have been major loss of life,” Sam said. In the surrounding community, the same storm system killed 25 people and injured dozens more.  

Brave and Bold 

Many employees were without power in their homes. They needed generators, bottled water and other basic supplies. 

Sam, a 26-year veteran of Manheim, kept calm and kept everyone on track as they coordinated relief to employees while simultaneously assessing the damage and mapping a way forward. 

“The support Cox Enterprises gave us as leaders to make decisions and to be brave and bold was everything,” Sam said. “It gave me confidence knowing that sometime in 2021, we're going to be selling cars again with our lights on and smiles on our faces.” 

A Cheerleader-in-Chief 

Sam stayed in close contact with auction clients and customers, giving updates on the damage, helping with insurance claims and keeping them apprised of the auction’s progress toward reopening.   

He credits his team for rallying quickly to resume operations.  

“I was just the orchestrator and kind of a cheerleader to keep everybody going in the right direction,” he said. 

Call it a Comeback 

Manheim Nashville made a remarkable comeback, thanks to Sam’s leadership and an enormous outpouring of support from team members, clients and the metro Nashville community.  

All this, despite the fact that the business was soon in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic as well.  

The first post-tornado sale took place digitally via Simulcast March 19.  

The auction allowed dealers back on the property again to bid during digital sales on Sept. 14. And in September, Manheim Nashville became one of the first locations to resume driving cars through the lanes for dealers to view in-person. The final piece of the puzzle fell into place in February, when the last of the damaged buildings was rebuilt. 

“Sam will get out there and wash a car, scrape snow off a car, pick up trash off the fence,” said Assistant General Manager Christina Flatt. “To me, that shows great leadership. We can and will do the same job even as the janitor — whatever it takes to keep on functioning. And that's due to Sam’s leadership style. He is very deserving of this award.” 

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