All in the Family

The Corleys turn small-town savvy into big business

Corley appointed his eldest son, Eddie Jr., to be CEO of Corley Automotive Group in June 2007, as part of his succession plan. “On the job, Eddie Jr. has done very well, and it seems like my other children will all accept his lead. He’s real smart, so he will make a good CEO,” Corley says.

In March, Debora, who is the general manager of the Nissan store, was made general sales manager of all three Gallup dealerships. “She is the strongest in our Group in finance, so she’ll oversee all the sales managers and finance managers. She is making sure that they maintain our gross profit,” Eddie Jr. explains. He also asked Kaul, the general manager of the Dodge dealership, to manage used car sales and inventory at the three Gallup stores: to be responsible for putting the numbers on all of the trade-in units and to keep inventory turn under 60 days. Stacey will fill the same role for the Grants Ford, Chevy, and Chrysler dealerships.

Other goals the Corleys have set in place are to increase the number of technicians they have in all the stores. To do this, they’ve made a commitment to help train some of the local community members at the General Motors technical school in Farmington, New Mexico. “I’m looking for kids out of high school that we can sponsor at the college. We’ll invest in this man if when he finishes his training he’ll come work for us,” explains Debora, who aspires to create a pipeline of skilled professionals for all the dealerships.

Eddie Jr. also hopes that moving his Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, and Volvo dealership from a leased lot to a newly purchased, state-of-the-art dealership will attract new buyers and people who had been traveling out of the area for service. “We are relocating to another part of Albuquerque, and it is going to increase our business because we’re going to be strategically located in the center of town, where all the growth opportunities are,” Eddie Jr. says. The project, which will cost between $5 million and $7 million to complete, will increase the number of service bays from 18 to 23 and will create the capacity to hold 250 to 300 vehicles in inventory. “The new location is going to be in plain sight off of the interstate, so we’ll get a lot of visibility. In addition to that, all of my competitors are on the same interstate: Lexis, BMW, Cadillac, Mercedes, Porsche, and Audi. So we’ll have a real chance to compete.”

Jim Mitchell, president and owner of the Jim Mitchell Auto Group in Winchester, Virginia, has known the Corleys for nearly two decades. He said of his friend Eddie Sr., “I think what he’s managed to do is very unique, especially for an African American. To start from scratch — because it wasn’t passed down from his grandfather or anything like that — and build a successful business is hard to do. I really don’t think you’ll find any other example of an African American who has built such a successful business and has brought in his family to run it.”

And that was Corley’s vision all along — to run a successful business with his family. “It’s mighty funny that doors open to those who work real hard. But I think you also have to have trust and faith that it can happen because I always wanted to have a dealership for each one of my children. It’s a very risky business, handling so many dollars. But now all my children own percentages of their own dealerships, and they’re happy. I’m very pleased and my wife is also,” he says.

Corley adds that he always looked to surround himself with good people that he felt could be trusted as well as perform in the workplace. “I’m proud of who I am and what I have been blessed with. You have to be blessed with the family. They don’t have any choice who their people are — I wasn’t able to choose my parents and they weren’t either — but since I’ve been blessed with them, I try to live to be the kind of father and businessman and person who they can always respect. And that’s my life.”

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