Feature: Melissa Smith

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Ford of Boerne

DEDICATED TO SERVICE & COMMUNITY

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Melissa and Roland Smith, owners of Ford of Boerne, are no strangers to simply identifying a goal and working feverishly to reach that goal. From roots deep in the Rio Grande Valley, to ultimately owning and operating several auto dealerships throughout our area, the couple have created new roots here in Kendall County, and work together seamlessly to lead their teams and create success for them as well.

Melissa, originally from McAllen, had entrepreneurial roots: “My father wore many hats – he was a rancher, he was a pharmacist and a banker. My mom was primarily a Homemaker. We had to work the ranches on the weekends and I grew up learning the cattle business, riding horses, hunting…my dad and I were best friends. I was on shift with my dad when he passed. It was 5 years ago now and was injury related. My mom’s mom – Argentina Ortega from Reynosa, Mexico – she was a self-made woman – liberated before the term even existed. She was strong as an ox, hardworking, had one child (my mother) and she loved us more than anything on earth. She also ran a multi-million dollar business after she was widowed at age 36. She was in the restaurant / catering business and she did this in a man’s world in a country where women were not leaders of their cities or business or really in any capacity. She was a badass, man. Her best quality was that she was extremely generous to her community and family and anyone she could help. That’s where I learned that that would be my role as an adult.”


In high school, Melissa had already begun dating Roland, she was “waiting for every Friday night to just have fun and really all I thought about was becoming a teacher and living my life with Roland.” From high school, the duo entered college with Melissa at A&M and Roland playing football at Rice. “It was hard but we made it work”.

The couple ultimately transferred to Trinity University for Roland to pursue business, and for Melissa to continue her education degree. Upon graduation in 1986, the couple was married two weeks later. The couple immediately moved back home for Melissa to begin her teaching career and Roland began working with his father at the small family auto dealership, Frank Smith Toyota. “He didn’t enjoy sales a lot which is what he started doing– Roland is a pretty introverted guy but he likes a business challenge so he slowly moved up the ranks. He went from sales to finance to management of departments and ultimately to management the store. In ’90 the two of us started to buy his father out. By that time, they had Toyota and Hyundai.”

Roland, perhaps a bit reluctant to follow in Dad’s footsteps, found himself really excelling in the business operation, and began to map out the future for his family business. She continues, “He didn’t want to necessarily follow dad’s vision for the dealership. He wanted his MBA, got it, and he started to really enjoy things when he got into growing the business and less of the sales end. His father was very content with a small mom and pop store, and Roland wasn’t. Roland moved it to a different location and brought on Hyundai. I’m still teaching school at this time. In 2006, we have 4 kids, he wants to move again to the freeway, and he said ‘I need your help’. That’s when we teamed up.”

Melissa’s role quickly became one of Public Relations. She continues, “I was part of the face of the dealership during the ‘90s. We’re a big part of the community. We were heavily involved in supporting the causes in our community, particularly with education, children, and athletics. If there was a check to present, a commercial to be made, a hand to be shaken, that fell to me. Roland wasn’t into that, so I enjoyed that.”

As business grew, so did the plans that the couple began to put into action. Ultimately fully buying Roland’s father out of the business, and deciding that they had outgrown their 2nd location, the couple decided to build two Toyota/Hyundai dealerships outside of McAllen, which caused Melissa to enter the family business full time at this point in 2006. “I was super excited. Dealing with the people was so much fun and I loved the fact that I had the chance to build a state of the art facility – nobody had a dealership like ours. My favorite was Landers Toyota in Arkansas – I took a lot of decorative ideas from them – we had a huge beautiful facility with a playground, a restaurant, a glass a/c delivery section for customers to have their cars delivered…but mainly, the fact that it was OURS was my favorite part.”


Upon opening, the Recession of 2008 was in full swing and it was a scary time. However, business slowly leveled off, and the couple was able to right the ship and were in full swing. “In 2013 we were approached by Roger Penske from Penske Automotive and he wants to buy us out. It was a huge deal for us and we closed soon after. By this time we’re known and respected nationwide and repeat winners of every Toyota award of excellence you can get, and I credit all of that to Roland and the wonderful employees we’ve brought with us up here to Boerne.”

Successfully selling the dealership brought financial successes, but overall, Melissa found herself unhappy. She continues, “I was so bored post sale. We’re on the verge of killing each other. Roland has always dabbled with real estate on the side, but he’s working from home, I was not busy…kids are in college…and it just wasn’t working. Roland decides we’re getting back in the car business and he flies to North Texas, rents a car and drives from small towns to small towns looking for Ford dealerships to buy, because he’s always wanted to be a Ford dealer. He always thought there was potential with Ford.

He had a very specific plan in mind and that was to look for opportunities in Ford dealerships.” And with that, the couple purchased Jennings Anderson Ford in 2018 and rebranded to Ford of Boerne thereafter.

“We loved the location. It was FORD, and that was important. It’s such a beautiful city here. Beautiful location with the trees and the layout. I have a lot of family in San Antonio. It’s centrally located to all of our kids. At this point in time, Michael (one of their children) is in the automotive industry and not working for us. He did a couple years with Sewell Auto Group, and when we were looking at this location, he was in auto advertising. So, we know we’ve got one of our children interested in working in the industry!”

New residents of Kendall County, Melissa and Roland couldn’t be happier. “I was so excited being here. I’m a big outdoor girl, and I love the hill country – being close to my sisters – I love the fact that I was one less flight leg to McAllen. The convenience. At this point in time, I was very afraid …I had all my childhood friends in McAllen and I was afraid I would lose all my friends down there but at the same time I was excited to start anew. Boerne embraced us with a big ol’ bear hug and it was great and it still is.”

And as soon as the team got the keys to the dealership, things have gone great. She continues “Our transition was that the people that worked for the previous owner here at Ford were simply phenomenal. So, our role was to expand on the capability of the existing staff. They could have quit. They didn’t. The techs we have all been here forever. They thought we were with some huge auto group, but we explained that we were just a small organization and they embraced it. Such amazing people work here and they’re like family to us. Things were fantastic from the start. Year 1 we broke all sorts of sales records and kept going up from there and we have won the Ford President’s Award in 20, 21 and the Ford One Elite ’20-’21, and are on track to do the same for ’22.”


Continuing to grow and evolve, the couple bought Fredericksburg Chevy/Buick/GMC in 2020 and Three Rivers Ford and Pleasanton Ford in 2021.

As for all the dealerships, they remain consistent with their values. She explains, “We focused on our customer. I think that Martin Dinh (GM – Ford of Boerne) really focused on the culture of our team that we brought up from the Valley and we made it clear what our values were and what our mission was. We knew that if they embraced our values that they in turn would do very well for themselves. So, Martin, our board, they set their expectations very high and they expected a lot of our team and people jumped on board. And our success speaks to the leadership that we’ve put in place in the dealerships.”
Firmly entrenched locally at this point, Roland and Melissa now try to manage their schedules accordingly across the dealerships, but Melissa admits that she has some new distractions. She continues, “I’m trying to grandma as much as I can – 3 of ‘em now – and we’re actually expecting our 4th grandbaby today! It’s very cyclical for me nowadays. The good part of what I do is that I know which meetings I need to attend, every single event I have to be involved….one day I’m walking the facility to just identifying things to clean up, another one I’m in executive meetings for new employees, another one I’m on an event planning, and another one I’m working with the school district. I’m really enjoying my time with my grandsons, and they’re all local, and that’s huge for me! Michael and my daughter’s husband, Wes, all work here and I just absolutely love that.”

Melissa credits much of their local success with the community and the way that it embraced the family. She continues, “We moved here, and there’s a big mixture of anxiety and excitement, but I decided to do exactly what we did in the RGV by the way of letting the community know we were here for them. We have always been very supportive of the ISD, and the outreach via the Chamber here locally was amazing, and we asked them how we could connect locally. And in 5 seconds I was out there publicly and it worked. Kim Blohm (CEO of Boerne Chamber) helped with the introductions to Dr. Price (BISD Superintendent) and explained how involved I was with previous schools, and my background in teaching, and I wanted to do the same here. I particularly always wanted to make sure I could help underprivileged teens who thought they couldn’t further their educations, and I knew that education was the way to their success as long as they were on track.”

As to the next steps for the couple, they’re certainly not slowing down. “We’re looking to expand to more dealerships. We’ve never had a partner before, and we do now with Martin and a couple of his kids that might want to be in the auto business, so the buy/sell process is fun. Growing a business is fun. The auto business, as stressful as it is, there’s so many short-term goals…so it’s always exciting. We’re always looking at quick goals and there’s a lot of movement and I enjoy that. I bore easily and so I enjoy that part. It’s exciting. The people are exciting in this business and despite what anyone might think, the other dealerships are some of our best friends. It allows us to help others grow and as we purchase more dealerships, we can in turn provide ownership opportunities for others. That’s my biggest motivating factors.”

But no matter what business opportunities might arise, the family isn’t leaving this area. “It’s such a very kind and welcoming community – the people here are simply nice. I don’t even know how else to explain it. Welcoming. They get excited when I tell them that I bought the Ford dealership here and people get so excited and want to know everything about me. I’m always used to being the only woman in the room in my past jobs, and that hasn’t always been the same here. It’s so diverse and compelling.”


Successful business owner. Wife. Mother. And now Grandmother. Melissa is having the time of her life and has no interest in backing away from her day-to-day responsibilities any time soon. She concludes, “I’m not ready to slow down. I don’t have time to slow down. I don’t know how many years I have left, and I want to enjoy what I can while I can.”

 

 

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