Margate, Florida (PressExposure) December 18, 2009 -- Steward Holman was a hands-on kind of auto dealer.
A pioneer in the auto retail business, who opened his first Ford dealership back in 1924 in the days soon after the Model A and the Model T made their debut, Holman was known to work day and night. The story goes that he only left his Rice and Holman Ford showroom in Merchantville, New Jersey to rush home for a dinner so quick that he was able to be back at the dealership before anyone even knew he was gone.
"He was really a one-man band," says his grand daughter, Mindy Holman.
As Holman's business began to grow, however, it became apparent to many that he couldn't do it all by himself. About that time a good friend gave him advice that would prove to be the foundation of a company that today has grown to be one of the most well-respected auto dealership groups in the country.
"His friend told him to associate with only the very best people," says Mindy Holman, now President and CEO of the Holman Automotive Group, which operates dealerships in 21 locations in Florida and southern New Jersey.
Decades later, that philosophy of hiring and - more importantly retaining - only the best people is the keystone of a dealership group known throughout the industry as one of the best to work for and with.
"My passion is about people," says Mindy Holman, who, although based in New Jersey, makes frequent visits to South Florida. Earlier this month she was in town for the grand opening of the company's newly remodeled Margate Lincoln Mercury Volvo dealership.
"There is no greater joy for me than to see people rise up through the company."
At Holman, it's not unusual to find employees who have been with the company for a quarter of century, some for almost half a century. And there are others who have been with the company since the Holmans opened their first Florida dealership in the 1949.
"The reason we have such longevity is that people feel like they're part of the family when they work for us," says Glenn Gardner, Vice President of southern operations for Holman Automotive Group. "They take more pride in their work and that makes it easier for them to treat our customers like members of the family."
Talk with Mindy Holman for a minute and you realize that the values developed by her grandfather - and her father Joe who is now chairman of the company - are still very much alive in the way she runs the business. She still believes firmly in having only exceptional people on the team, in making sure that customer loyalty is earned every day and in making every effort to ensure that expectations are always exceeded.
She also shares her grandfather's passion for making Holman dealerships an important part of the communities that they're in. The nearly $10 million the group invested into the renovations of the dealership in Margate, at the corner of Copans Road and US Highway 441, illustrates the point.
"This is an investment in our customers and in our community," Holman said. "This is also an investment in our people and an investment in Lincoln, Mercury and Volvo."
For customers, the remodeled 55,000 square foot dealership offers a spacious environment where they can relax while looking for a new or pre-owned vehicle.
Located on 13 and a half acres, the dealership that was once home to a lumberyard and home improvement store, provides customers looking for a luxury automobile with a vast selection and a multitude of choices.
Uniquely designed with the Lincoln Mercury showroom on one side and a completely separate Volvo showroom on the other, the renovated dealership offers an expanded state-of-the-art service area and two distinct service drives, one for Lincoln Mercury and the other for Volvo.
"This is a comfortable, customer-centric environment," Mindy Holman says. "It's the kind of place I'd want to come to buy a car."
During the grand opening ceremonies last week, the Holman group drew accolades from city officials - including Mayor Pam Donovan - and even from the President of Volvo of North America Doug Speck, who flew in from California for the vent.
Mindy Holman also received a Golden Shovel award from the regional manager for Ford and Lincoln Mercury, Kevin Giacomini, in recognition of the renovations, which took more than two years and required plenty of patience on the part of the customers and employees.
But true to form, it was the people of the Holman Automotive Group and the local customers who drew accolades from Mindy Holman.
"Our customers and our employees deserve an environment like this," she said.
Somewhere, Steward Holman is smiling.