Going Against the Grain

Newcomers to the B.E.100s prove it's not where you start but where you end up that matters

participate in every aspect of the company. “We were really serious about this being a family business,” he says. “We gave up our professions and committed ourselves to this. Once you stick together, you can really accomplish your goals.” 

Go West, Young Man
In business, so the saying goes, there are three important elements that make for success: location, location, and location. That has proven true for Ed Corley Automotive Group (No. 28 on the BE AUTO DEALER 100 list with $90 million in revenues) in Grants, New Mexico. Texas native Ed Corley Sr. had no intention of getting into automotive sales, but a golden location took him from a service station owner and operator to CEO of a firm with five dealerships.

It all started one day in 1982, when Corley, a father of eight (five girls, three boys), looked across the street from his Exxon service station. When he saw the remnant of an auto dealership that had been closed for two years, it dawned on Corley that it made sense to make a change. His timing couldn’t have been better.

The years following the 1979 gas crisis had been tough ones marked by long lines, gas rationing, and skyrocketing prices and tempers. “The service station business was changing because of the gas allocations and it was a very difficult time,” says Corley, 68. “I looked across the street and thought it made good business sense [to switch].” Fortune smiled on him. Because of Corley’s success as a service station owner — he had five by that time — when Ford Motor Company went looking for businesspeople to participate in its dealer developer program, Corley’s name was at the top of the list.

Since then he has grown the business from one dealership to five, with locations in Gallup, Albuquerque, and Grants. In 1995 alone Corley managed to add a Dodge dealership (in Gallup), a Lincoln-Mercury dealership, and a Volvo dealership (both in Albuquerque) to his roster. Over the years his eight children have all joined the business as well.

That Corley has managed to post $90 million in revenues in a town where residents number only about 12,000 is a testament to his business acumen — and the strength of location. Grants is literally at the midpoint of the state, and that central location has been critical to Corley’s success.

But Corley also credits the fact that his dealerships are a family business. “I think customers look at that and it helps add honesty and sincerity to the business,” he says. “People who enter the store feel they’ll be treated like family. You just wouldn’t mistreat your family.”

Cracking the top 100
The freshman class of 2002 had a rough year. Faced with an economic recession, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and the war that followed, these companies had a tremendous challenge to overcome. But they persevered. And as a result, the people behind these companies are being recognized by BE. This year’s class boasts 16 new entrants on the BE INDUSTRIAL/ SERVICE 100 list, including Dimensions

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