To make matters worse, the same consultant began to drive wedges and breed distrust within the family, daughter Faye says. “The consultant didn’t tell us things and would tell one person one thing and not tell everyone else, or tell the other person a different thing. So no one was on the same page,” she recalls.
On a day Corley says he doesn’t want to remember, he and all his children went to the Ford headquarters to hammer out an action plan — together. They also fired the first consultant and hired a second person to help clean up their books. “The first thing we did in the meeting was pray,” Corley says. “Then everybody went around the table and gave a reason why they were not putting all of their efforts into the business. In the end, we all made commitments to each other that we would take this and we would fix it together and go forward.”
As a result, Corley Automotive Group recapitalized a large portion of its Ford dealership stock with the Ford Dealership Development program, keeping only a 12% interest in it. Unloading the dealership helped the family get back on track financially, and the cash infusion helped them pay their bills and shore up operations. They now own about 23% stock in their original Ford location.
Something else that came out of the gathering was a company-wide meeting every three months so that family and employees can discuss how the dealerships are being managed, talk about successes and failures, set goals, and offer incentives for innovative ideas that can help boost sales.
The Ford store is also back in a profitable position, Corley says. His daughter Florence recently took over the finance department there and has been working to find new ways to deal with lending restrictions customers are facing with the banks. “It is definitely harder to get things rolling, but we’ve been creative with the kinds of deals and incentives we offer potential buyers,” she says. Some of those incentives include free car wash service for the life of the vehicle at all locations.
Despite a turbulent automotive market and past hardships, Corley Automotive Group was able to recover after 2000. Itgained an increase in sales because of the strategies put in place that helped increase new and used car and light duty truck sales. Purchasing three additional dealerships between 2006 and 2007 decreased their profits by about 15%, but the family hopes that recent executive promotions and other goals they’ve established will help them recover their profits and continue to grow sales.