Top-performing dealers usually share a common denominator, says Tony Pack, dealer principal at Five Star Ford of North Richland Hills, TX.

“They take care of business and have a real passion to do what’s right for customers and employees,” he says. “They try to lead by example.”

That’s the kind of leadership style Pack learned from his father, Sam Pack, who acquired his first Ford store in Carrolton, TX, in 1980 when he bought and renamed Lee Jarmon Ford. Pack became the No.1-selling Ford dealer in Texas.

In adding franchises, the Five Star group has retained that sales title in Texas and ranks No.5 for Ford nationwide.

Pack owns four Ford stores in the sprawling Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Those are in Carrollton, North Richland Hills, Plano and Lewisville.

“He’s got a passion, a love for the business,” Tony Pack, vice president of the dealership group, says of his father. “He came up as an employee of Ford Credit in Detroit. He looks at this business as a hobby, not work. He’s touched a lot of lives.”

Several Pack stores are on the WardsAuto Dealer 500. The North Richland Hills dealership is the group’s highest-ranking on the list, at No.13 with 2012 sales of 4,500 new and 2,560 used units and total revenues of $235.2 million.

The group, employing nearly 700 people, sold 14,125 new and 9,433 used units last year.  “Our total revenue exceeded $690 million for 2012,” Tony Pack says.

Sam Pack sees a better year ahead for industry sales. “We expect continued growth here,” he says.

The Packs also partner with Oklahoma’s Don Thornton group to operate upscale outlets in Tulsa, beginning 12 years ago with Lexus and Land Rover brands. Since then they’ve added Cadillac, Audi, Volkswagen and Jaguar in that state. 

Tony Pack hints at getting a VW franchise in Texas. His father indicates an auto maker franchise deal is in the works.   

Sam Pack joined Ford Credit in 1962, working his way up to branch manager before becoming a dealer 33 years ago.

In 1988, he won the Time magazine Quality Dealer of the Year Award. Now sponsored by Ally Financial, the award is given at the annual National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention.

He’s also one of the few Ford dealers nationwide to repeatedly win Ford’s Triple Crown Award. It honors superlative sales, service and parts performers. The North Richland Hills store won it 12 years in a row. The Carrollton store won eight times.

Sam Pack has a clear vision of success.

“Begin every day with the goal of achieving best-in-class experiences when interacting with others,” he says.

Bill Wolters, president of the 1,247-member Texas Automobile Dealers Assn., has known Sam Pack for 40 years, since his days as a Ford Credit branch manager, a job in which he established strong relations with dealers.

Wolters praises Pack as an agent of change. “He is one of the reasons that this area has grown and prospered.  He’s shared his success with thousands and taken the dealer organization further and faster than any dealer I know.”

Wolters marvels at Pack’s energy and commitment, noting he still serves on TADA boards and committees, and formerly on NADA’s board. “We all look to him for leadership. No one (among dealers) has made a greater commitment to (Texas) than Sam Pack.”

Challenges facing dealers today revolve around technology, Sam Pack says. “Technology affects everything we do. It’s touched our lives in so many ways.”

Work and personal habits, from banking to social media, all have dramatically changed, Sam Pack notes, who believes in embracing future technology and connectivity, and structure business operations accordingly. “Some dealers embrace it; others resist it. We can’t be afraid of change, we have to embrace it.”

But high-tech tools only do so much. Other elements play big roles, he says. “It takes two things to be successful: talented people and chemistry. You can’t achieve true success unless both are there. You can hire the right people, train, mentor and engage your teams in the process, but it also comes down to chemistry.”

For instance, an employee might possess talent and intelligence, yet not succeed because of an inability to work with customers or in a team-centered work environment, Sam Pack says. “If the chemistry isn’t there, they won’t be successful.”

After working for the family business part-time while in college, Tony Pack came aboard full-time in 1985 after graduating from Texas Technical University. He became customer relations manager at Pack-Carrollton and learned lessons near and dear to his father’s heart.

In 1995, he attended NADA’s dealer academy, then rotated through sales, parts, service and body-shop management jobs before becoming a dealer principal.

Although majoring in political science, Pack learned the fundamental tools of business management from his father. 

“His approach is simple. It’s, ‘Do what’s right for the consumer,’” Tony Pack says.  “He demands the very best when it comes to customer and employee satisfaction. His work ethic is matched by nobody that I know. He works seven days a week and his knowledge is unsurpassed by very few when it comes to the business.”

The younger Pack says he has learned much from Ford, praising the auto maker for its management team headed by CEO Alan Mulally and its dedication to building top-quality vehicles that are safe, technologically advanced and environmentally friendly. “All of this is tied to having higher consumer loyalty.”

He admires Ford for declining federal bailout funds in 2009 when the domestic auto industry was on the ropes.

“It took a lot of grit and risk for the Ford family to do that,” Tony Pack says.

The Packs weathered the hard times, he says. “We were affected in sales like everybody else in the state and nation. We had a reduction of units in operations in sales.

“However, we managed our way through by making adjustments to the market and making prudent decisions to reduce the cost of doing business.”

Ford’s struggling Lincoln brand is starting to come around too, fueled by the new midsize MKZ, Tony Pack says. “Lincoln will survive, as long they remain laser-focused on quality and products that are appealing to the consumer.”

Company Profile: Sam Pack’s Five Star Ford group 

Corporate office: Farmers Branch, TX (near Dallas)

President/CEO: Sam Pack

VP, secretary and dealer principal: Tony Pack

Locations: 4 in Dallas-Fort Worth’s metroplex: North Richland Hills, Carrollton, Plano and Lewisville

General managers: Terry Rich, Trey Russell, Brian Huth, Asim Ali

Sponsored by Ally