Millionaire Businessman Talks Making the Jump from Employee to Entrepreneur

Leaving security of full-time job, Oscar Horton took a chance with a truck dealership

Revised the pricing structure.  The business was only marginally profitable, says Horton. “We would look, for example, at parts margins, which might have been 20% and the best [competitor] in the marketplace getting 30. So why can’t we get the 10?”

Replaced 90% of the workforce. According to Horton, many of the personnel at the time “had gotten used to just sort of getting by, and that didn’t work,” he asserts. “Probably should have moved faster on that. But I wasn’t sure where I was going to go get the talent I was looking for so I was willing to take the time to try to work with that group.” Younger employees with the right education were hired and carefully trained as they gained experience.

Accounting lessons were given to all employees. To better understand profit margins and operating costs management, employees were taught how to read income statements, balance sheets and cash flow statements. “Banks had to know that [understanding finances] was important so we could go out in the marketplace and get traditional capital to keep growing the business.”

Identified new revenue streams. When the company was acquired in 1999, the business had six revenue streams, 43% of which came from new truck sales. By 2012, four more revenue streams were identified, reducing dependency on new truck sales to 15% of total revenues.

Sun State sells all makes and models of new and used trucks and tractors, offers parts and servicing, rentals, leasing and provides contract maintenance, financing, insurance and aftermarket services. It’s grown to include five locations, employing 180 workers in West Central Florida. The 60-year-old Horton has no plans to retire any time soon, but plans to groom daughters, Kelli and AlIsan, as they enter the business.

“I would very much like to see this be more than a one generation family business,” he says. “And that’s the reason I’ve worked and spent time trying to develop the girls.”

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