POSITION: General manager, AutoNation Ford Gulf Freeway, Houston
ACHIEVEMENT: First-generation immigrant delivered 49% profit growth in 2013
In 1998, Tania Eubanks was a young mother and recent immigrant from Ecuador when she spotted a newspaper ad by an agency that trains people to sell cars.
Eubanks, then 22, had been living in El Paso, Texas, since moving to the United States four years earlier. She knew little English and was going through a divorce.
She completed the weeklong training, and the agency eventually placed her at a Ford dealership in El Paso after another store said it didn't want to hire a woman.
Once at the store, Eubanks found that her people skills made her a natural fit for the job. She fell in love with the business when she saw she could make a nice living by working hard.
Eubanks' lack of English skills posed little problem in El Paso where, she says, 80 percent of the population speaks Spanish. She learned English while attending El Paso Community College.
"This country is full of opportunities. You control your own destiny," says Eubanks, now 38. "Over here, a dream is not a dream anymore. A dream is a goal. Over there, a dream is just a dream."
Eubanks, in search of better prospects, toiled at several Houston dealerships starting in 2000 before landing at an AutoNation Inc. Chevrolet store in 2008.
Eubanks worked her way up to finance manager, then used-car manager and finally general sales manager -- one of the only women in the region to hold that title.
AutoNation sent her to its General Manager University, where she excelled. In 2012, the company named her general manager of AutoNation Ford Gulf Freeway in Houston.
In 2013, Eubanks led the store to a 32 percent gain in new-vehicle sales. Used sales rose 21 percent and the store's overall profit jumped 49 percent. The store earned numerous Ford awards. Eubanks also is on the Ford Marketing Dealer Advisory Board.
She credits the store's sales success to open lines of communication as well as a company culture in which everyone, she says, is a "part owner." At her dealership, employees know that their decisions can make a difference.
"The problem we have as humans is we don't know what we're capable of doing until we're pushed a little bit," she says. "We have to push the right buttons to get the best out of people."
-- Vince Bond Jr.