Q&A SPOTLIGHT: FEATURING G. MARSHALL BUTLER, FOUNDER OF BUTLER AUTOMOTIVE GROUP
How did the Butler Automotive Group get its start?
My dad who was born in 1904 and had a seventh grade education, got a job with Chevrolet motor division in Jacksonville, Florida, in the late 1920’s. He called on Chevrolet dealers in North Florida and South Georgia. In 1933, during the Great Depression, he bought half interest in the Chevrolet dealership in Alma, Georgia, for $300. He had $100, sold his car for $100, and borrowed $100 from his older brother. The next year, he bought the other half, probably for the same amount. Dad was a self-taught, smart businessman and became a successful small town dealer. During the war years, to supplement the dealership business, he opened an auto parts store in Macon, Georgia. On the last day of 1966, we sold the Chevrolet dealership because GM, Ford, and Chrysler dealers had to live in the county where the franchise was. There were no franchises involved with or in the auto parts business at that time, so our ability to grow was in the parts business, not the car business. In Macon, my brother ran Parts Central, our parts warehouse, and I ran the Butler Supply parts stores. We were doing business with the gentleman who owned the Toyota store in Macon, and through that relationship, we bought the Toyota store in May 1970. We had no idea that Toyota would become the largest car manufacturer in the world and that Lexus would be born from Toyota. With the Toyota purchase in 1970, the family was back in the automobile business.
The Butler Family is heavily involved with the business. What benefits does this have for customers?
It’s a part of who we are and so we want to ensure that we deliver the best customer experience each and every time we come in contact with a customer. When customer concerns arise, we work quickly to solve them. We also have a slogan, which we try to live by, that once we have a customer, we want that customer to be our customer for life.
As a family owned and operated group, it must come with it’s ups and downs. What are some of the challenges that you’ve run into?
Running a family business can often come with the challenge of communication and decision making. Fortunately for us, our family works very well together maintaining open lines of communication which helps facilitate informed decision making.
BAG has 14 dealerships and 10 different brands. How do you prioritize your work-life balance?
I am blessed to be mostly retired. I still have my office, and I’m still on the payroll. Life doesn’t get much better than that! I’ve always loved the automobile business, and I’m always interested in keeping up with what’s going on in our company. The boys, thankfully, do all the heavy lifting.
How do you define success?
We are a Christian family, and we work hard to make sure that our company is run on Christian values. It gives my wife, Jane, and I much happiness and peace of mind that our children also love the automobile business and are doing a great job. We define success through the success and happiness of our associates.
They say highly effective people have routines that they stick to, what are some of yours that have helped you in business?
I get up early. Work hard. Get to know our associates and their families. Focus on daily activities that drive our business. I’m always concerned with how we can better serve our customers and work better as a team to make sure that we are performing at a high level.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Surround yourself with talented people with integrity and give them the tools to reach their full potential.
What make BAG different from other automotive groups?
We understand that we are in the people business. We greatly appreciate and value our associates and their families. We strive for 100% satisfaction with both customers and associates, making sure they are appreciated and rewarded for good results. We strive to create relationships with our customers that are for life.