How my mom transformed from housewife to the owner of a multi-million dollar empire

“My mother Irma Elder, who was born in Mexico, was the first woman to run a Ford dealership in the United States.”

The opinions expressed by employees are personal.

Sometimes you have to be willing to get your hands dirty a little. That is one of the first lessons I learned in life.

How my mom transformed from housewife to the owner of a multi-million dollar empire
How my mom transformed from housewife to the owner of a multi-million dollar empire

When I was 12, I worked as a car wash at my dad's car shop. My brothers also worked there, helping out in whatever they could to keep the family business afloat. In 1983 the United States auto industry was suffering its worst recession in decades. These were difficult times and our family struggled to bring food to the table. Then my father died unexpectedly and my mother, who until then was a housewife, had to go to the front.

She became the first woman to run a Ford dealership in Detroit. The day she started working she went from being a single mother to mentoring her children. The following days were not simple. She spent her days in the store and at night she studied everything she could about Ford's business at the hands of the brand's executives. After a while, she became the owner of one of the largest women-led companies in the country and forged the foundations so that my brothers and I could build our own businesses.

In the early days, my brothers and I learned the greatest lesson of our lives and the secrets to keep a business afloat when the general circumstances are adverse. Today we drive the, which manages seven dealerships in Michigan and Florida and generate about US $ 350 million a year by selling some of the most sought-after cars on the market. We are also one of the few companies that are members of the insurance giant.

Despite the difficult economic storms that have hit us over the years, we have overcome the obstacles that all entrepreneurs face and our family business has passed the test of time. I leave some of our secrets to keep a business afloat in the midst of crises.

1. Have a “yes you can” attitude

My mother was born in Mexico so she always had very clear the importance of having a “Yes you can” attitude. After seeing how my mother managed to build her “American dream” after becoming a widow, I live my life according to these words.

2. Identify strengths and weaknesses

Ask yourself what you do really well and what are the biggest obstacles you face. It is essential that any company manager knows what is left over and what is missing, as well as what are the strengths and areas of opportunity of his team. Once you've analyzed the talent you already have in your business, you can focus on hiring people who bring needed skills.

3. Weigh new opportunities and offer unique products

In a market that is constantly changing, businesses must be able to adjust to be successful. In the automotive industry, the internet has been a very important factor for years. You must adapt and offer users the service they expect.

4. Set aside differences

My brothers and I have run the family business for 20 years. We have very different personalities and sometimes, we have been forced to put our differences aside to get the business going. It is that yin and yang that makes a company so big. The business must embrace the skills and differences that each member can contribute. Only then can you aspire to be really successful.

5. Commit to the community

We are proud of the charity work we do in our community. Every month we choose a local initiative to support. We have also participated with Replay Tampa Bay, an organization that collects and rehabilitates sports equipment to take to poorer schools. Nationally we are also part of the campaigns implemented by Ford and Allstate.

6. Be true to your brand, your employees and your family

When our mother had to take over the dealership in 1983 she was the only woman to have this type of agreement with Ford. Although I was sure I could run the business, nobody wanted to work for a woman (and born in Mexico, too). More than half of the 92 employees quit. The remaining 41 were faithful to our family and reminded us that the client and employee satisfaction must be the heart of every business.

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