How a Focus on Values and Relationships Took the Dallas Dealer to #1

On February 18, Sam Pack began his 39th year as a Ford dealer serving Dallas. In that time, he and his team have grown to be one of the biggest, most successful auto groups in the nation.

Last year, the six dealerships that make up Sam Pack Auto Group, home to 891 “Five Star Ford Ambassadors,” sold 27,959 new and used units, generating over a billion dollars in revenue.

Pack attributes his success to a solid focus on the customer from day one, with the “Voice of the Customer” influencing every decision he’s made. While being a leader in customer satisfaction has always been his goal, he recognizes that his people are his greatest asset. One way he and his team have put the customer first is by adopting a strong company mission, vision, and set of core values:

“We respect and honor the customer. We do business their way; that’s the way it should be.” – Sam Pack

How It All Began

A native Texan, Pack was born and raised in Stephenville, Texas, and now lives with his wife, Carol, in Dallas. They have two sons: Todd resides in Shreveport, La., and attends Holy Angels, a residential school for individuals with special needs. Tony is Vice President of Pack Automotive Group, and lives with his wife, Louisa, and their two daughters, Carly and Macy, in the DFW area.

A phone call in September 1979 changed everything for Pack and his family. It was from Lee Jarmon, a longtime Ford dealer and the owner of Lee Jarmon Ford in Carrollton, Texas. Jarmon had decided it was time to retire and wanted Pack to be his successor. Enjoying a long and distinguished career with Ford Motor Credit Company, Pack was surprised, but open to discussing the proposal.

After several months of negotiations, on Dec. 12, 1979, the two entered into an agreement for Pack to become Jarmon’s partner and buy him out.

The early ’80s were very difficult years economically for America, and the automotive industry was in the grips of the most challenging times it had seen since the Great Depression. Pack would be taking a risk giving up a stable corporate job, but after much discussion with his wife, family members, and their confidants, he made the decision to become a Ford dealer.

“No doubt, this was the biggest business decision of my life,” Pack said.

It proved to be a good one. On Feb. 18, 1980, the deal was finalized; Pack became a Ford dealer. Jarmon called the employees together and introduced Pack as his new partner, then said, “If you need me, I’ll be at the golf course.”

“I’ll never forget that,” says Pack, smiling.

The total acquisition was completed in 1986 and today is known as Sam Pack’s Five Star Ford of Carrollton, the number-one volume Ford dealership in Dallas.

Growth and Recognition

Pack was destined to grow. Today he owns six metropolitan dealerships in the Dallas-Fort Worth market: Sam Pack’s Five Star Ford of Carrollton (1980), Five Star Ford North Richland Hills (1991), Five Star Ford Lewisville (2001), and Five Star Ford Plano (2009). Recently acquired are Five Star Chevrolet (2014) and Five Star Subaru (2016).

Last year, the four DFW Five Star Ford dealerships made up 27 percent of the New Retail Market, 87 percent of the Fleet Market, and 51 percent of the DFW Wholesale Parts Business. Fixed Operations remained strong at $120 million.

Last year, Five Star Ford North Richland Hills was number one in the state for Retail and Commercial Sales and ranked number seven of the Top 100 Retail Sales. Sam Pack’s Five Star Ford of Carrollton was number one in the Dallas Metro area and ranked 23 of the Top 100 in the nation, and Five Star Ford Lewisville was ranked 97 of the Top 100. The Carrollton, North Richland Hills, and Lewisville dealerships all received the President’s Award. Carrollton and North Richland Hills were both Triple Crown Award Winners, and Five Star Ford North Richland Hills was recognized as DealerRater’s #1 Dealer in the Nation – for all makes. Five Star Ford Lewisville was named 2016 Dealer of the Year by F&I and Showroom Magazine.

These are just the awards from last year. One impressive feat that stands out in Pack’s success is that Five Star Ford North Richland Hills is the only dealership in the nation to have won the Triple Crown Award every year since the program’s inception in 2001.

“We are proud of these accomplishments because they speak volumes about our people, our very special people,” Pack says. “They are professionals – the best in the industry – and they are responsible for our incredible accomplishments.”

Pack also co-owns six dealerships in Tulsa, Okla., with longtime friend Don Thornton. The franchises represented are Lexus, Audi, Cadillac, Jaguar, Land Rover, and Volkswagen. He also co-owns Tiger Honda in Gonzales, La., (May 2016) with partner José Pozos. 

Pack has served the industry in an executive and leadership position at local, state, and national levels for 38 years. Texas Automobile Dealers Association recognized him as an industry “Legend” in 2005. He was the second person in the 93-year history of the association to receive this award.
 
Pack is also a 2003 recipient of Ford Motor Company’s “Salute to Dealers” Award, presented by Edsel Ford II. It honors dealers for their outstanding contribution of time, services, and resources to improve the lives of individuals and their communities. 

During the 2017 Top Volume Leadership Summit, Pack was one of five dealers inducted into the inaugural class of the “Top Volume Ford Dealers Hall of Fame,” in recognition of a lifetime of outstanding achievement and inspirational leadership.

“As a talk show host, my credibility is all I have. Mr. Pack’s dealerships never let me down. I have full trust that this dealership group will take amazing care of my listeners, and they do it 100 percent of the time.” – Jerry Reynolds, President, Car Pro Radio Network, Owner, KPIR 1420 AM

In addition to his business awards, Pack is the recipient of many community service merits, including Metrocrest’s “Citizen of the Year,” Metrocrest’s “Business of the Year,” and Rotary’s “Man of the Year.” The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International named Pack a “Paul Harris Fellow.” He has also received numerous accolades from the surrounding dealership communities: City of Carrollton’s “Entrepreneur of the Year,” Northwood University’s “Educator of the Year,” Lewisville Area Chamber of Commerce’s “Business of the Year,” N.E. Tarrant County Chamber of Commerce’s “Retailer of the Year,” City of North Richland Hill’s “Outstanding Large Retailer of the Year,” Coppell Chamber of Commerce’s “Corporate Business of the Year,” and was a finalist for Ernst & Young’s “Entrepreneur of the Year.”

He currently serves on several industry and community boards and committees and spends a lot of time in Detroit meeting with leaders in the industry.

“Sam realized that the dealership’s relationship with the community, and the dealership’s relationship with its employees were important building blocks for a road map of success,” says Trey Russell, General Sales Manager at Sam Pack’s Five Star Ford. “His emphasis has always been to give back to our communities.”

Pack is widely known for his charitable contributions, especially those involving children. He established a charitable arm at the Auto Group with an aim to support those in need. In the last three years, the program provided millions in financial support to 277 charities, service organizations, and community events.

In addition to his generosity, and his dealership success, Pack is also well known for his eclectic antique car collection. His purchase of a 1939 Ford convertible 15 years ago sparked a passion that soon grew to almost 500 vintage automobiles.

Although he downsized the collection a few years ago to a more manageable size, Pack still has an impressive 358 “antique, restorable, vintage, classic, racing, one-off, and celebrity-associated cars and trucks” in the Pack Automotive Museum – one of the largest of such collections in the nation.

The collection can be viewed online for free at www.packautomotivemuseum.com.

A Customer-Experience Approach Rooted in Culture

It’s imperative for Pack and his team that every customer comes away with a memorable, truly exceptional experience. Having confident, empowered employees is one way Pack ensures that, which is why he provides daily in-house training across all departments.

“When customer concerns arise, we take an aggressive customer-first approach and focus our energy on how to quickly satisfy the customer by doing what is right,” Pack says. “Problems will occur, but the true measurement of a company is how problems are resolved. Our team members are empowered to make immediate decisions to address the problem.”

Kerry Cardwell, general manager of Five Star Ford of Lewisville, says customer-centric training keeps him focused on the dealership’s goals. Part of that training involves a focus on service after the sale, as well as keeping associates involved in the entire sales process in order to build strong relationships with customers.

“We maintain a quest to be the best of the best,” Cardwell says. “In today’s market, you cannot rely on customer satisfaction. You must be in the ‘customer delight’ business.”

Cardwell and his team have a manager complete the delivery process on every car sold, do a walk-around, and thank the customer because “it doesn’t take a fancy or elaborate process to show someone you care.” Responding to every customer concern, no matter how seemingly small, with a sense of urgency, is also important.

In addition to the comprehensive training, employees are backed by a positive company culture. Pack has long believed that happy employees lead to happy customers.

His son Tony, Vice President of Pack Automotive Group, agrees: “Our customers have great experiences because we focus first on making sure our employees love their jobs. When employees love their jobs, customers love their experience.”

Team member of 30-plus years Brian Huth says it’s the dealership’s culture that inspires employees to offer the outstanding, award-winning service that separates Sam Pack Auto Group from the competition.

“When a culture is left to chance, it can never create employees who truly love their jobs and customers who love our employees,” Huth says. “Culture is just as measurable as performance. The measurables are employee satisfaction, low employee turnover, customer satisfaction, owner loyalty, and profitability. We are proud to say we are a leader in all of these areas.”

Joshua Fichter, General Manager of Five Star Ford North Richland Hills, says that each of the company’s core values help guide his team: “When our customers see our core value of Caring at work, for example, they know that we are working with them to find a solution.”

Relationships First. And Last. And in Between.

It’s clear how important the customer relationship is to the Sam Pack Auto Group team. But when talking to Pack, it’s also evident that to him, building and growing relationships includes everyone – family, employees, community – and of course, the customer.

“It’s important that employees are considered and treated as partners,” Pack says. “Every employee is important, and working together as a team for the good of the customer is our greatest asset.”

The team is more like a family than a business. In an industry where a turnover rate of 80 percent year-to-year is standard, the group’s average salesperson tenure of 9.1 years speaks volumes. Most new employees come through referrals, and two-thirds of the group’s general managers were promoted from within.

“Take care of your employees and customers, and they will take care of you,” he says. “Be an inspired leader in your personal and professional life. Live by the golden rule – always do what is right.”

Success Going Forward

There’s no magic bullet for the kind of success seen at Sam Pack Auto Group. The strong focus on relationships and values creates a culture where people want to see themselves and others succeed. Including “fun” in the group’s core values certainly doesn’t hurt.

“Who wants to wake up early and drive to a place that drags you down?” says Marcus Porter, service director at Five Star Subaru. “As a manager, it’s important for me to keep an upbeat attitude and create an environment where my employees can have fun while at work.”

Pack knows that technology, and the internet, have led to evolving customer needs and desires. He sees big changes coming for the industry, but he’s confident that the adoption of new technology and increased partnering with third-party vendors, combined with a focus on values and relationships, will keep dealerships viable and strong. Pack named AutoAlert as a vendor that gives his team a clear strategic advantage.

“Technology has changed our business model and the world we live in today. AutoAlert has proven to be a powerful data-mining tool for us, making us more efficient and effective in our advertising and marketing. It’s a tool our management loves and our sales associates use daily to enhance our business by focusing on owner loyalty and trade-cycle management.” – Sam Pack