The 100 Year Old Company. How Liza Borches Leads for the Future.Ramon Ray
Liza Borches is president of Carter Myers Auto Group, based in Virginia. As the leader of a successful automotive company that was established 97 years ago, Borches knows moving into the future requires careful planning, learning and vision.
Entrepreneur and keynote speaker, Ramon Ray, founder of SmartHsutle.com, recently interviewed Borches to tap into her extensive advice and expertise as a leader in her industry.
Listen to the podcast here.
Watch the interview here.
A Brief History of Carter Myers Auto Group
Carter Myers Automotive (CMA) was first opened in 1924 and Liza Borges is a fourth-generation president and CEO of the company from her family.
Begun as a single Ford dealership, CMA now boasts 16 dealerships and 17 service centers. It also has about 700 associates across Virginia, employing almost 1,000 people. Needless to say, the company is quite successful.
Borches joined the company in 2003 and has been leading CMA since 2011.
The Business is Owned by the Dealership’s Employees
Borches states that CMA’s mission is to move the lives of its associates forward, followed by those of its customers, and finally the community. Uniquely, this is one of only five dealership groups in the entire US that is owned by the employees.
CMA’s employees, or associates, own 26% of the company. They do this by holding shares in CMA that can be bought back by CMA if and when the employee ceases working with the company or the company is sold off.
How Employee Ownership Works
Every employee working for CMA gets stock through the company’s stock ownership plan. This happens as each year, CMA contributes a portion of its profits into the employee stock ownership plan. Essentially, the money earned in profits gets spread across all of CMA’s associates.
How much someone gets is calculated by taking into account the length of time they have been employed with the company and their percentage of the payroll.
This system can result in some impressive anomalies. Borches says among the top three shareholders in the company is someone who started out as a technician with CMA when he was just 17 years old. He’s now the service director of one of the company’s Honda stores. Everyone shares in CMA’s success.
“The harder that they (the associates) work and the more they perform, the better our results are, the more money we contribute each year. And it’s a double win because then our stock price goes up,” said Borches.
“The longer you’re with us, obviously the larger that egg grows in that stock,” she added.
When an employee leaves the establishment, their stock is bought back. If someone has been with the company for a very long time, CMA may buy back their stock over several years and if the company ever did decide to sell, every associate would have their stock portion paid out.
This past year has gone particularly well, Borches said. The result is that some people will be getting a larger increase in their stock that, in some cases, is a 75,000 increase over what they make in a year.
“It’s a big deal. It’s a win for all of us,” she admitted.
Borches says the company has an independent stock evaluator who looks at all public automotive companies to evaluate the firm’s stock annually. As it stands, Borches said the system can end up being a great retirement vehicle.
How CMA Finds Great Employees
Like all organizations, CMA finds that landing great employees takes time and some luck. And it doesn’t always work. Borches says that most breakdowns occur because of one reason.
“When I see that we have a cancer in the organization, or we have a team that obviously is not living by our mission, it’s usually because we hired out of desperation. We didn’t follow the process. We didn’t follow our gut. We didn’t ask those right questions,” she said.
The number one breakdown happens when the hiring group is not extremely stringent and strict about the hiring process.
“You have to find questions that aren’t answers that people can make up,” Borches said. “And you’ve got to read into their answer a little deeper.”
One tactic she believes in involves asking vendors that a potential hire works with how the person treats them when they come in. Borches is looking for whether that person treats others with kindness and respect, among other things. This is their “different reference check”.
The final interview also holds considerable weight. This interview is focused around culture fit questions. With shared ownership, it takes the sort of person who wants responsibility and CMA looks for people who want to move their life forward and help others do the same.
Advice for Smaller Business Owners
What advice does Liza Borches have for small business owners, even as a leader of a large business? Her top three recommendations involve big ideas.
1) Adopt a Risk-Taking Mindset
If you want to grow and make more than you are, you’ve got to say “I’m all in,” Borches said. You have to be ready to go all in knowing that it may fail. You have to take the risk to get over that hump so that maybe at some point you’ll have 10, 20, 25, 50 associates.
2) Find the Right Way to Grow
All this being said, however, you also need to take risks that make sense. The key is finding where cautious, stable growth sits for your business.
3) Find the Right Focus and a Differentiating Factor
It’s easy to get lost in the details and to try to tackle so many things throughout the year that none of it gets truly finished. Focus on the most essential. What is one essential thing that has to get done this quarter?
Finally, Borches added that, even if your business has been around for a while, it’s important to keep pivoting back to your differentiating factor. Know what it is. What makes you different from the competition? This never ceases to be important to good business.
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